Council helps ex-offenders adjust


Staff Writer

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Nash Edgecombe Wilson Reentry Council is a coalition of community stakeholders that provides support services to people with criminal histories who are transitioning back into the community after being incarcerated.

The NEW Reentry Council will sponsor a public meeting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Edgecombe County Administration Building Auditorium in Tarboro for people to learn more about the reentry program. The guest speaker for the event will be Dennis Gaddy, executive director of Community Success Initiative, a nonpofit reentry organization in Raleigh.

Sharon Goodson, executive director of NC Community Action Association, which the NEW Reentry Council falls under, said the purpose of the reentry work is to help people who might have made mistakes become taxpayers.

“Anytime you can help one person out of jail and save taxpayers’ dollars, I believe we have made a tremendous contribution to the economy in our community,” Goodson said.

Carol White, chairwoman of the NEW Reentry Council, said she hopes the program will increase awareness of the stigma and barriers that former offenders face upon release from incarceration. In partnership with various community agencies and local businesses, White said, the council focuses on providing life skills, employment or job readiness, housing and transportation to people that deserve a second chance.

She added the outcomes the NEW Reentry service provides include reducing the rate of recidivism for participants, reducing parole violations while reducing jail populations and lengthy court dockets, increasing the percentage of clients who obtain and maintain employment, increasing the education and skill levels of clients and increasing participation in substance abuse, mental health and anger management counseling.

“Reentry can help them to turn their life around while promoting public safety,” she said. “My opinion is it is not enough to be tough on crime, but we must be smart on crime. Once one has paid their dues through the penal system, my belief is we as a community should embrace them, while restoring family relationships with positive behavior. An active reentry council can help educate businesses regarding providing tax breaks. It will take the community as a whole together to obtain these objectives for the good of family, our community, while lending victims’ support.”

The Reentry Council’s resource fairs scheduled in Rocky Mount today and in Wilson on Wednesday were cancelled because of the inclement weather and will be rescheduled at a later date. Sheneathia Hanson, coordinator for the NEW Reentry Council, said the resource fairs will provide returning citizens the opportunity to receive assistance with employment, housing, transportation, education and other supportive services.

The enrollment process consists of a meeting with a job placement specialist, and eligible participants complete a personal development plan while non-eligible participants receive referral services.

“They enter into a 90- to 180-day program that we help them become self-sufficient,” Hanson said. “We’re usually able to find our clients employment because a lot of the employers are willing to work with reentry to help these clients. In many cases, we have to go through temp agencies because that’s our way of getting them in permanent. The thing employers are big on is attendance.”

According to figures from the NEW Reentry Council, there were 356 people in Nash County, 300 people in Edgecombe County and 246 people in Wilson County that returned to the area from state prisons between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017. Hanson said at least 75 percent of the people they serve hin the renentry program are men, most of whom are black.

Hanson said one of the biggest issues right now is providing available transportation to returning citizens going to work.

“With our citizens being ex-offenders, the jobs that they’re receiving are going to be second and third shifts, so transportation is one of the biggest challenges of getting them back-and-forth to work,” she said. “We’re trying to build relationships with different transportation providers in the area of what they can do to help our clients get back-and-forth to work.”