This man’s story about going from imprisonment to college graduation
Joshua Brown will tell you without much prompting that he served three years in prison for aggravated assault.
He’s not proud of it. But he owns it. The Vidalia native, who lives in Perry, said his jail sentence was the result of a series of bad decisions.
Brown, 26, also is eager to talk about his other life decisions — ones made while serving time.
“I decided then and there, I really needed to make a change,” Brown said. “(I thought) I can’t be the type of person that goes in and out of jail.”
And he’s stuck to that decision. In early May, Brown joined other Central Georgia Technical College students walking across the stage at the Macon Coliseum for the school’s commencement ceremony. He had started studying at two other colleges before going to jail.
Brown said hard work, a supportive family and some lucky breaks helped him earn his associate’s degree. As a formerly incarcerated person, Brown faces long odds on a continued road to success.
Two-thirds of those released from prison in Georgia will likely be rearrested within three years of their release, according to the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative.
The program works to reduce recidivism, including trying to remove barriers that make it difficult for men and women to transition back into life after prison.
Brown said he knows education and employment are important in helping him stick to his goal of staying out of jail.
However, when he moved to Houston County to live with his father after he first got out of prison, finding a job was a challenge.
“I spent about eight hours every day looking for a job. I ran into a lot of people who ... after I told them about my felony, they didn’t have much to say,” he said.
He eventually found one person willing to give him a chance. That first job led to other opportunities.
As he worked, Brown also began attending CGTC to earn an associate’s degree in networking. When he heard about a scholarship for formerly incarcerated students offered by the college, he decided to apply.
Brown became the second student at CGTC to earn the Re-Entry Scholarship for Educational Transition scholarship. It’s one way CGTC helps those who are formerly incarcerated, said Brittany Lucas, executive director of the college’s Office of Re-Entry Services.
“We thought, what is a way that we can serve these citizens when they transition out (of prison) and when they come back to college?” Lucas said. “These are our brothers, our fathers, our mothers, our sisters, our aunts and our uncles and they will become our neighbors. We want to make sure that they have the resources available for success.”
Brown said the scholarship, which was developed in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Corrections, made him realize that others could have his best interest in mind.
“What the scholarship did for me, more than the money, was that it showed that there were people out there who really did care about my success and people like me. You don’t see that a lot,” he said.
Next, Brown wants to move to Atlanta where he hopes to find a job allowing him to use his newly earned degree and eventually, he wants to work toward a bachelor’s degree in a related technical field.
And, oh yeah, he’s planning to marry his fiance in October.