A light went off in the head of Melvin Hall three weeks before leaving prison.
Hall, who had been incarcerated in New York, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia prisons, visited an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting just to get away.
“I don’t have to live that lifestyle anymore,” Hall said of his aha moment.
Now, Hall wants to provide a safe space to help others avoid similar recidivism and find support through Jail Anonymous.
The first meeting took place Friday at Avocado’s on the downtown square to let people know about the group. In attendance were representatives from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, the Hall County Public Defender’s Office, Turning Point Recovery Services and others.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he sits in times of comfort and convenience; rather, it’s where he stands in times of challenge and controversy,” Hall said.
Hall and others shared their stories about the efforts to stay clean and not become another prison statistic.
“I can work fine when I’m being told what to do, where to do it, how to do it, when to do it and why I’m doing it,” Hall said of his time locked up.
Hall said he hopes to include mentorship and other training opportunities during the meetings.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office Senior Sgt. Keith Rayner said he believes Hall’s experiences could aid people coming out of the jail.
“It’ll give them somewhere they can go, someone they can turn to that’s been in their shoes,” he said.
Suggestions made to Hall from Hall County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Donald McDuffie included having some sessions held within the jail.
“I think it’d be a great program to bring into our facilities and speak to the inmates prior to going out ... and that would give them something to look forward to,” McDuffie said.
The group meets 5-6 p.m. Thursdays on the top floor of Avocado’s in Gainesville, 109 Bradford St.
For more information, call Hall at 706-621-2839.