Former inmates create support group for life after prison

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- An event that works to break the stigma that goes along with prison, dozens came out today in support of former inmates, and life after incarceration.

Through that program, two former inmates are now coming together to bring hope to those just released.

It’s called Expo, short for “ex-prisoners organizing.” A statewide program, the Green Bay chapter is just getting started this weekend.

The group held their first open meeting today, trying to spread word of support, for life after prison.

“When you have been in prison, and you get out, you feel almost like separated,” says Cheri Branham, a co-leader of Expo Green Bay. “Like people don’t understand, kind of feeling.”

“Nobody has to be afraid,” says Expo Green Bay lead organizer Christopher Zahn. “We are just human beings, with the same aspirations and the same goals as everybody else. But we just need an opportunity to prove that to them.”

Expo Green Bay works to establish a positive life outside of prison, helping former inmates find housing, jobs and ultimately keep them out of prison.

Branham was inspired to join the team, after giving birth to her daughter while incarcerated.

“I saw so many pregnant women come in and it would just break my heart, because I knew how they felt,” Branham says. “Just that helplessness. And that’s when I was like, ‘I need to do something different. I need to be a mom.’”

Former inmates say meetings like these offer a hand of support, something they don’t always feel after being released.

“That is the whole goal of Expo in Green Bay, to meet the needs of the formerly incarcerated individuals,” Zahn says. “To give them hope again. To give them their aspirations back. And most importantly to give them their lives again. We want to be a part of this community. We don’t want to return to prison. We don’t want to be a burden.”

The group is set to meet monthly for a standard, group meeting, with individual meetings throughout the month.