“Universally, people are in jail not because they need to be in jail or because they merit that, it’s because they are poor. A society that is compassionate to the poor has to come up with mechanisms, safeguards, safety nets to assist people who are less fortunate. That’s where the impetus of this [program] came from, especially with the necessity of trying to help people who were in jail if for no other reason, of their financial or economic status,” stated Omar Oneal, former mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama.
The criteria to determine eligibility of the program is that you meet the prerequisite for getting to court. “We are going to look at people who first of all, can get to court. We will look at integrity, family support, and things like that. More importantly, we need to ask ourselves why you are in this position. And so, we need to look at programs and other services that can help people who are experiencing challenges that have put them into situations that require them to be in incarcerated.”
The program is designed not only to help people with bail issues, it is about helping people put their lives back together and give them support in staying out of jail. “Addiction, homelessness, unemployment, lack of education and job skills are prerequisites often times that make people vulnerable to incarceration. We are not only going to assist people in getting out of jail, we are going to assist them in human capital development as well,” he said.
The program is in its beginning state. “However, A Board has been formed. We’ve not finished the process but we have commenced it. Obviously, we want to start this program in Pensacola, but it’s not our job to just stay in Pensacola. We want Pensacola to be our pilot program and we want this program to multiply around the country,” stated Oneal.
The Pensacola Neighborhood Justice Board” is applying for their 501©3 and is the first program of its kind. “Escambia County is the first place we will begin.” Oneal stated.
“In terms of our formation, we are right on time. We are also in the process of getting our website so that people can donate online. Every dollar that is donated will go to helping people with their money needed to get out of jail,” he said.
The Pensacola Neighborhood Justice Board has also partnered with a local bonding company, to assist them in getting people out.
If you have any questions, please contact Omar Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let him know you read it in The Gulf Coast Voice
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