Greenville Technical College (GTC) and the Phillis Wheatley Community Center (PWCC) have joined together to open the GTC Returning Citizens Program at the PWCC. The center, housed at PWCC, provides case management activities to remove barriers for citizens who are transitioning from the criminal justice system to productive lives within the community.
The program allows Phillis Wheatley to become a one-stop shop with integrated services providing the tools and resources to help individuals become self-sufficient and achieve upward mobility. The collaborative service delivery model includes partner agencies such as Goodwill, Eckerd Connect, SHARE Head Start, Greenville Area Parkinson's, and Greenville County Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Senator Karl Allen was instrumental in allowing the Returning Citizens Program to open by securing $250,000 in funding from the state budget. Allen, who has served in the South Carolina Senate since 2013 and was a member of the S.C. House of Representatives from 2001 to 2012, is a member of the senate’s Corrections and Penology Committee.
Greenville County is one of the top five counties in the state for inmate incarceration. One fourth of those inmates have diagnosed mental illnesses. The South Carolina Department of Corrections currently releases an average of 705 inmates per month with a recidivism rate of 27.5%.
The GTC Returning Citizens Program at PWCC is staffed by a director of re-entry, Sammie Stroud, who works with other agencies located at PWCC to serve those in transition. The college’s Quick Jobs director, Steve Hand, and Quick Connections director, Stephanie Sherman, join Stroud at the PWCC to assist individuals with education and career planning. Services meet both immediate and longer-term needs. Evaluation and case management services help participants follow the best course of action and determine what is needed to overcome barriers. Re-entry education allows participants to overcome criminal backgrounds, learn skills that can enhance career readiness, gain conflict resolution and anger management knowledge, and prepare to enter Greenville Technical College’s Quick Jobs program, which provides job skills, usually in 90 days or less. Alcohol and substance abuse support groups are available for those requiring this assistance.
Stroud previously served as Greenville County community service coordinator for the Alston Wilkes Society. Prior to that, he worked as a counselor with the South Carolina Deparment of Corrections and as a unit manager with the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis, Tennessee. He has served as an adjunct instructor with Greenville Technical College, teaching financial literacy courses in correctional institutions. In addition, Stroud has served in ministerial capacities since 1993 and is currently pastor of Good Hope Baptist Church in Hodges, South Carolina.
“We are grateful to Senator Karl Allen and to the leadership at the Phillis Wheatley Community Center for coming together to benefit people who are leaving prison behind,” said Dr. Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College. “By giving returning citizens a comprehensive set of tools for success and working with them individually to remove barriers, we can open the door to a better life and benefit the entire community.”
“We are excited about partnering with Greenville Technical College (GTC) on the Returning Citizen Re-entry Program that is located on the campus of Phillis Wheatley Community Center (PWCC),” said Randy Jackson, executive director of PWCC. “PWCC and GTC have been in discussion and planning this partnership for the past year and now it has become a reality. This program will allow us to assist those who are re-entering society and provide services through our other collaborating partners.”