A former first lady of Prince George’s County who knows about second chances is helping others find theirs.
Former Prince George's County first lady and Council member Leslie Johnson has a new job with the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office.
“Helping to give these people a second chance like the state's attorney has given me,” she said.
Johnson, the wife of former County Executive Jack Johnson, was arrested alongside her husband in 2010 after their home was raided by the FBI. A month later, she was sworn in as a county council member. Both pleaded guilty to federal charges connected to a pay-to-play scheme with developers.
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Leslie Johnson served nine months of a yearlong sentence and was released early for good behavior. While in prison, she mentored other women – the same work she did in the county's jail as first lady well before her conviction.
“I bring to the table many, many years of working in the re-entry space,” she said.
Now she's using those skills to help returning citizens with job training and placement and providing resources to keep them from going back to prison.
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“I have to lead by example,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said.
Braveboy said she's hired a few returning citizens, including a man who was released after he was sentenced to life for murder as a juvenile.
“We are asking people to give returning citizens a second chance, and I can't ask for something that I'm not willing to give,” Braveboy said.
Anthony Young served 20 years, and now a county program is helping him get his commercial driver’s license. He said letters from a program Johnson helped start got him through his incarceration. He still carries them with him.
“It seemed like no matter what I was going through, it was like they were there because through their letters were the answers to my situation,” he said.
“I say that everybody deserves a second chance,” Johnson said.
Braveboy said that through various programs in the state’s attorney’s office, they have helped more than 100 Prince Georgians who are returning citizens, people who are transitioning out of prison and a diversion program that's helping to keep people from being incarcerated in the first place.
All branches of the Prince George‘s County government are committed to assisting residents after they are released from prison. The county council has passed legislation to provide incentives for employers who hire former prisoners, and the county executive‘s office has opened an office for returning citizens.