So you've done your time and now you're stepping out of those prison gates for the first time as a free American. Congratulations! But you're probably asking yourself -- now what? Georgia is sometimes an unforgiving place, and reintegrating into society after release isn't always easy. Don't worry, we've got your back. Here're some tips to help you get back on your feet and start rebuilding your life on the outside.
First, take a deep breath of that fresh air. Freedom never smelled so sweet. Then start making a plan to start getting your life in order. You need the basics such as food, shelter, income, and transportation. But you're also going to want to reconnect with loved ones, build a support system, continue education, or find job training. It's a long road, but if you stay determined and focused, you could thrive in your new life as a law-abiding member of society. The prison doors may have closed behind you, but there's a bright future ahead.
Understanding Your Rights as a Released Prisoner in Georgia
So now that you're out, it's important to understand your rights and responsibilities. Georgia law prohibits discrimination against ex-offenders or returning citizens in areas like employment or voting.
- You have the right to vote: As long as you've served your sentence, voting rights are automatically restored. Register to vote as soon as you're released.
- You can find housing, though some places could reject you: Private landlords and employers usually can't discriminate based on criminal records alone. However, public housing and some private companies do background checks. Be upfront and show how you're working to rebuild your life.
- You can get a job, but it could take extra effort: While companies can't discriminate based solely on records, your background may still affect hiring decisions. Focus on your skills, education, and work experience. Be prepared to explain your history and steps taken toward rehabilitation. Smaller companies could likely be more flexible in their hiring. Consider job programs for ex-offenders that provide training and placement help.
- Your record could even be expunged: If you meet certain conditions, such as completing your sentence and a waiting period with no offenses, you likely qualify to have your conviction expunged from public records. This opens up more opportunities. Talk to a lawyer to check if you're eligible and start the process.
Applying For Financial Assistance Programs in Georgia
Once released, applying for assistance programs or exploring non-profit organizations should be a priority. Georgia offers community resources to help former inmates get back on their feet. Such as:
Medicaid provides health insurance to low-income individuals. As a newly released prisoner, you would likely qualify. Apply as soon as possible so you have coverage in place.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, helps cover your groceries. Apply for SNAP benefits online, by phone, by mail, at your local or state SNAP office, or at a Georgia Department of Human Services (GDHS). Funds are loaded onto an EBT card to use at stores.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides temporary cash aid and job opportunities. To qualify, you must participate in work activities. TANF helps pay for essentials like rent, transportation, and childcare as you search for work.
Reentry Partnership Housing Program in Georgia
The ex-offender Reentry Partnership Housing (RPH) Program provides temporary transitional housing assistance for formerly incarcerated individuals in Georgia. To qualify, you must:
- Have been released from a Georgia prison within the last 2 years
- Have a stable income to eventually pay full rent
If accepted into the program, you're matched with an affordable apartment and provided rental assistance for up to 2 years. The amount of financial help decreases over time as you assume more responsibility for rent payments. Other resources include Section 8 Housing Vouchers or the covenant house (Georgia). Good luck!
Getting into the Program
- Proof of income (pay stubs, tax returns, etc.)
- Photo ID
- Proof of release from incarceration
- References from parole officers, counselors, employers, etc.
Once approved, you attend an orientation to review the program requirements and search for suitable housing options. The non-profit organization partners could also help connect you with job opportunities, medical care, transportation and more to support your successful reentry into society.
Getting Your Driver's License Back After Prison
Getting your driver's license back after being incarcerated can be challenging, but taking it step by step will make the process easier.
Pay Off Any Outstanding Fines
Pay off any unpaid traffic tickets, fines or fees before starting the process. Check with whichever court that handled your case to know if you have anything unpaid. Cover it promptly to have a clean record.
Enroll in a Driver Safety Course
Some states require taking a driver safety course if your license was suspended or revoked. Contact your local DMV to check if it's needed in your state. Complete the required course to show your commitment to safer driving.
Make sure you have valid government-issued ID like a passport or birth certificate. You're going to need to prove your identity as well as your age when applying for a license.
Some states require retesting for vision, knowledge and driving skills. Study the driver's manual to prepare for the written test. Get help from a driving school instructor if you need to brush up on your skills before the road test.
Apply for a New License
Once you've completed the necessary steps, apply for a driver's license at your local DMV office. Provide the required documentation and fees. If approved, you receive a temporary license to use until your actual license arrives in the mail.
Creating a Budget and Managing Finances After Release
Once released, managing your finances responsibly is critical to successfully rebuilding your life. Some tips to help you create a budget and take control of your money:
A budget helps track your income and expenses so you know how much you're able to spend each month. List your sources of income, like a job or benefits, and fixed expenses such as rent, food, and transportation. Check what’s left for discretionary spending and savings. If your expenses exceed your income, look for ways to earn more or cut costs.
Open a Bank Account
Having a bank account makes it easier to pay bills and manage your money. Look for free or low-cost checking and savings accounts at local banks or credit unions. Make regular deposits from your paycheck or benefits to build up an emergency fund in case unexpected expenses arise.
Pay Off Your Debt
If you have outstanding debt like unpaid fines, child support, or credit cards, make paying it off a priority. Contact creditors to set up payment plans if needed. Pay more than the minimum when possible and avoid incurring more debt. Once paid, direct that money towards savings.
Aim to save at least 10-15% of your income each month for emergencies and long-term goals like a car or home. Have part of your paycheck direct deposited into a savings account. Look for ways to reduce spending by cooking meals at home, using public transit, or finding free hobbies. Small changes can make a significant difference.
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