Pas⁠t⁠or Lee Robb⁠i⁠ns

March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023

“Helping people reintegrate into society after incarceration is my purpose. It’s what I’m called to do. And it is where my passion comes from. I don’t believe in second chances – I believe in better chances. Because some people who have been incarcerated never had a first chance.”

“Reform really takes place while someone is in prison. If we have more volunteers, and more people who go and start programs on the inside, returning citizens can be better prepared when they are back on the outside.”

“Reentry starts at entry. Then reentry, and then reintegration. So, while someone is on the inside they need to get prepared for the outside. Then, once they’re out, they can get prepared for reintegration into mainstream society.”

“Think about when people come out of prison. They were in for 30 years and now only have $25. They go to the ATM and lose $5 in fees, so now they only get $20 to live off of. They’ve probably lost their family and their support system. They want to apply for a job, but it’s hard to get one because they have a record. It’s hard to get housing because they have a record. And even if they could get a job and a place to live, they can’t afford a vehicle or gas and their license is expired so they can’t get there. So, they go back to what they know. They go back to the friends who got them into trouble in the first place. Returning citizens are set up to fail.”

“I started Vital Signs with a desire to see safety and security for returning citizens. If returning citizens have that foundation, you can work on all the other things you need to work with.”

“We provide housing, food and clothing – basic needs. Then, we attach a life coach to each person and get them a job through our own staffing agency. And we have spiritual services for them to come to church. I also started a company called Uplift, a reentry transportation system that uses Uber and Lyft, and people can sponsor rides for returning citizens. It helps them get back to work. ”

“Living at Vital Signs, the returning citizens become like a family. Growing up, their families probably didn’t eat at the same table or have conversations that lead to empowerment in life. They didn’t learn the disciplines of cleaning up, doing their chores and the things most people learn at home that then serve them outside of the home. That environment gives them the sense of responsibility that they missed growing up.” 

“Life coaching is a big part of what we offer at Vital Signs, because a lot of returning citizens don’t know how to think through the process of making a good decision. We have to coach them through the process by not telling them what to do, but asking them. We start by asking them and then helping them to come to a conclusion in their mind about the best thing to do. And then they will own it.”

“That autonomy is important because it can help reduce recidivism. Independence brings about pride and is part of the change that needs to happen. Having to depend upon other people all the time and to look to other people to help you make decisions – that’s not freedom.” 

“People need to understand the barriers to reentry and reintegration and then lead with compassion. If you want to reduce crime, if you want to reduce the number of victims, you’ve got to reduce recidivism. Nationally, about 70% of people who leave incarceration will be incarcerated again. It’s only 1% for people who come through the Vital Signs program. It takes a village to reduce prison recidivism, so we have to be more compassionate.”

Pastor Lee Robbins
Buford, GA

Lee Robbins is the founder of Vital Signs, where returning citizens learn to become leaders of their families, communities and churches once they are released back into the community. He is also the founder of Uplift, a company that helps returning citizens with their transportation needs.