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New group launched to help ex-offenders reintegrate

Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan announced the launch of a new group to help reintegrate former inmates, Thursday. The McLennan County Reintegration Roundtable held a public meeting at the Waco Multipurpose Center.

More than 50 people filled the hall to hear from board members on way to successfully reintegrate former inmates into the community.

According to the Waco Police Department, there are more than 2,600 people currently incarcerated in McLennan County and nearly 95% of them will be released. Of those newly released, more than 20% will be locked up again within three years.

"It's actually going to save the city and the county money if we can keep people from going back to jail," said Duncan.

The group, made up of community leaders, educators, employers and ex-offenders discussed ways to help former offenders, including encouraging local business owners to employ them, offering them housing, parenting and life-skills classes.

Jason Ramos is a former offender turned local business owner, told his story of transformation to the audience. Ramos is now a board member on the roundtable.

"I think that people are going to come of out and when they see that there's hope, there's opportunities for a new start and that people really do care, it's going to change the hearts of a lot of people. Because you have a lot of people that come out of prison and they're deadest on the going back to the same lifestyle but you have a lot of people that come out of prison and they want to change, they want to live a different life," said Ramos.

Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman said having re-integration strategies just makes sense with being tough on crime.

"If we take an approach where we only consider law enforcement and prosecution and the courts and incarceration as a complete criminal justice system then we're shutting our eyes to another component of that system," Chief Stroman.

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