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Dallas Names "Czar" to Help Ex-offenders Come Home

Charles Terrell (far right) new Dallas Re-entry Czar.
Charles Terrell (far right) new Dallas Re-entry Czar.

By BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Dallas has a new Re-Entry Czar - in charge of a new program to help ex-offenders find jobs, housing, education, and a new life when they return from prison. KERA's BJ Austin says a well-know crime fighter has been named to lead the new program.

Charles Terrell doesn't wear a badge, but he has been involved in criminal justice for the past 40 years. He served as Chairman of the Texas Department of Corrections and Texas Criminal Justice System, was founder of Safer Dallas/Better Dallas, and is now the city's Re-Entry Czar. He will lead the new DOORS program: Dallas One-stop Optimized Re-entry System. Terrell says 4-600 people get out of prison and return to Dallas County every MONTH. And he says they all need jobs.

Terrell: This is not going to be easy, particularly in today's economy. But we must all remember, that a man without a job or a place to live soon runs out of options. And that is not good.

Mayor Tom Leppert says two of every three ex offenders who return to Dallas end up back in jail. He believes this program can change that.

Leppert: We want to have it be known throughout this country as the best re-entry program anyplace. We want it to be the model.

Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia says this program will weave together existing non-profit groups to prove provides much needed, comprehensive, coordinated services for ex-offenders.

Garcia: When they leave the prison system, what happens? They have trouble finding a job. They have trouble finding a place to live.

Garcia says the program will start with job training and education even BEFORE the individual leaves prison - then help them build new lives in Dallas neighborhoods.

Grants from the federal government and the Communities Foundation of Texas are jumpstarting the program with funding for the first three years.

Email BJ Austin