Dismas Charities targets Laney-Walker neighborhood for prisoners' rehabilitation facility

Facilities offer rehabilitation to ex-prisoners

Executives from a nonprofit company that operates 29 state and federal transitional facilities across the country made their case to the Laney-Walker neighborhood Wednesday for a similar center near downtown Augusta.

Steve Vice, the vice president of business development for Louisville, Ky.-based Dismas Charities Inc., told those who attended the public hearing that the national faith-based organization wants to turn a derelict brick warehouse at 602 Taylor St. into a modern facility that will assist in the rehabilitation of federal prisoners after their release from incarceration.

“We add value to the property and the neighborhoods where we locate,” Vice said.

The organization has submitted a bid to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to open the halfway house on the property that intersects with Sixth Street in the Laney-Walker neighborhood.

A similar request was made earlier this year by Nebraska-based Western Alternative Corrections Inc., which is seeking the same contract with the bureau for a vacant building at Seventh Street and Walton Way, just a block away from the other property. The public hearing for that request was held in early July, and a handful of neighbors voiced concerns.

A zoning meeting with the Augusta Planning Commission must follow within six to nine months of the public hearing.

Dismas representatives said the company would invest about $1 million in the community and could employ 21 people. Dismas has federal transitional centers in Atlanta; Macon, Ga. and Savannah, Ga.

Residents living in the “well-supervised” centers assist in various community service projects, such as cleaning up city streets, renovating abandoned and neglected homes, and maintaining parks, Vice said.

Resident Linda Metoyer said she is for the project if it’s a positive influence on her neighborhood.

“We don’t want to deter other people from being released from prison and getting their new start on life,” she said. “We do want to see some growth in our neighborhood that’s going to benefit us.”

Augusta Commission member Bill Fennoy said at the hearing that he supported the “concept” of a transitional center.

“I have no dog in the fight, but I do believe that this community should be a community of the second chance,” he said.

Laney Walker residents unsure about halfway house in neighborhood

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