Tom Trueb of Snellville Church of Christ delivers tissue to Step by Step Recovery in Lawrenceville. Contributed by the Greater Gwinnett Reentry Alliance
“When someone returns to the community from jail or prison, they are expected to start paying probation fees and restitution rather quickly,” he says. “Purchasing basic hygiene items is the last thing on a returning citizen’s mind, yet these items are essential to their success.”
Alvarado says one of the biggest issues coming out of jail was finding work, as employers often require extensive background checks and stigmatize against people like him. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the odds of finding work are even lower and having smaller resources, like toilet paper, help make the day a little easier.
“Someone recently released from jail or prison doesn’t have the benefit of the work history that would give them the unemployment benefit,” Spaar says. “The main resources that we find that people need are housing, employment, transportation and health services. Right now, with the pandemic, those resources are scarce.”
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According to the most recent study conducted by the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, recidivism in Gwinnett County was at 62% in 2016. They saw a decrease in the recidivism rate among those receiving reentry services.
“GGRA and NSPIRE are one cause: To help take the stigma away from addiction and homelessness,” says Alvarado, who now works as a case manager at NSPIRE. “To humanize humans instead of stereotyping or judging us for what we’ve done, allowing us to figure out what life’s about. ”
Alvarado is one of eight siblings — he has five brothers and three sisters — and the first of his family to be born in America. His mother, who was born in Mexico, moved to California when he was a child.
“In my younger years, like my older brothers, I became heavily invested in gangs,” Alvarado says, interviewed over the phone from his home in Lawrenceville. “I chose to walk in their steps, which led me to prison. The choices I continued to make led me to an addiction of methamphetamine and heroin, and selling drugs — I was my best customer.”
All five of his brothers have passed away, resulting from an overdose or lifelong battle with drugs. “From my understanding, four out of 10 Georgians have some kind of felony on their record,” he says. “You might get arrested for a felony and not be convicted, but it’ll be on your record.”
Alvarado is now studying to become a certified counselor in addiction through Additional Counselor USA, which offers online counseling courses. On May 15, Alvarado celebrated one year of being sober. Nowadays, he finds escape in God, playing guitar, exercise and helping others, and the pandemic has only magnified his desire to help.
Alex Alvarado, a former inmate and case manager at Nspire Outreach, Inc., looks to help inmates re-enter society during the pandemic. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners has declared July Reentry Awareness Month. This hits home for Sparr, a returning citizen himself, as he has seen firsthand the barriers of re-entry into the community.
“We found that the men and women weren’t being served, and they were going right back into prison or jail because they didn’t have the resources they needed to be successful,” Spaar says. “I am using my second chance to remove those barriers so that everyone impacted by the criminal justice system will have a better chance to be successful.”
HOW TO DONATE
Greater Gwinnett Reentry Alliance