Alderman and Police Chief Frustrated Coastal Transition Center - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Alderman Johnson and Police Chief Frustrated With Coastal Transition Center

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SAVANNAH, GA -

Savannah's police chief and a city alderman reacted Thursday to news that there had been another escape from the Coastal Transitional Center.  Police Chief Willie Lovett has been complaining about the facility for about two years since two men from the facility were arrested for robbing someone on a bus. The men were caught because of a video camera on the bus.  Lovett reacted to the fact there have been three escapes in two months and that two days ago, two men who had "absconded" from the center were arrested for robbing someone at Forsyth Park.

"I'm not a genius, but I figure over two years, there should be some improvements made to the situation," Lovett told us.  "I can't tell the State how to run its facility but I there are more things they could do ensure the community is much safer."

In the park incident, a canine officer was injured by one of the suspects after chasing the men right after the robbery occurred. "You have a (police) dog injured and a robbery."I consider robbery a very violent crime. And I can't judge everyone, but I do wonder how many other people at that halfway house would rob someone if they had the chance," said Lovett.

Tommy Fountain, the transition center director for the Georgia Department of Corrections told us that by and large most men at the facility are following the rules and just trying to re-enter society.  "We've got a chance to give these guys a chance to get back into society with a job and some money put in the bank to get a place to live," he said.

Fountain says statewide, there is a high success rate (around 85%) with those who complete the program, get a job and maintain employment after leaving the facility. "You know we have a high success rate from the guys that do complete and do the right things, but you are always going to have guys who fall off just a little bit and do things that are unpredictable. And we do everything we can to identity those people up front."

Fountain also said their policy is to notify local authorities if someone walks away from the facility.  But Alderman Van Johnson, whose district includes the Coastal Transitional Center says he was not notified by anyone.  He says the community is at risk, especially because of the incident at the park. "Our residents are sick and tired of promises not being kept," he told me. "We met with the State a couple of weeks ago and they say they have new protocols in place, things are going to get better, but the fact is they're not here, they don't live in this community."

Johnson says the city has no control over what the state does.  But he does say he would like to check to see about the lease on the building and when it may come up for renewal.  "I would like to see the facility not get a new lease and move from that location," he told us.  

Fountain told us the facility has a capacity of 262 and that it is full or close to full much of the time.  He told us that out of 260 or so current inmates, that 190 of them have qualified for the work program.  Out of that number, he says 75 percent already have jobs and that the rest are expected to have work within two weeks. "There are many success stories here," he said.

Fountain also said that once someone is sent to the facility, the decision has been made by higher ups that that inmate will be released back into the world - within a year.  He says the center is the opportunity for someone who will become our neighbor to get the support they need to re-enter society the right way.

Chief Lovett told us he supports people getting another chance.  "But we can't forget the people at that facility are criminals and could be in jail," he said. "And don't forget that those who escape go out and commit more crimes and we arrest them all over again."

 

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