Walking out of the doors of prison after being incarcerated can be a very scary time for an ex-prisoner. Thoughts are focused on simple basic survival–where will I live? How will I eat? How will I get a job? Where do I get appropriate clothing and how? For many of these former inmates, it is almost easier to head back into prison than to try and survive post-prison, lacking the education and skills to function in a normal society.
In Yavapai County, Arizona, exists a wonderful organization called, Yavapai Reentry Project, a group of non-profit organizations, government offices and community members that have come together to help recently released prisoners transition into society. The Mission Statement for the Yavapai Reentry Program is: “we are a regional support system which promotes successful reintegration of former inmates in a way that improves community safety by reducing criminal behavior.”
All inmates returning to Yavapai County will have community support, restored families, and hope for their future.
Founded in 2011, the Yavapai Reentry Program works with several local organizations to help ensure their mission statement. Included are Arizona Women’s Education & Employment; Chapter 5 Recovery; Yavapai County Adult Probation Department; ADC-Community Corrections/Prescott; Coalition for Compassion & Justice; U.S. Vets/Prescott; Catholic Charities Commun ity Services, MATForce and the Office of the Public Defender.
There are several programs and ways that the Yavapai Reentry Program helps ex-prisoners. By building a bridge between prisons and communities; by fostering positive relationships with family, friends and community volunteers; by providing referrals for housing, employment,healthcare and substance abuse; by educating the public about barriers that prisoners face when leaving prison and how helping can reduce recidivism and create a safe community.
In addition, the Yavapai Reentry Program offers a Community Coach Mentorship Program. This is a volunteer based program where mentors are trained on mentoring a returning inmate on how to find important referral services, emotional support and resource information.
There are many things that the community can do to help inmates make the transition successfully from prison to the free world. One of the most important ways to help is to mentor a returning prisoner. Returning inmates need relationships with loving, moral people. Inmates need a gentle nudge by caring people that they have come to trust in order to be a responsible member of the community. The more people get involved in mentoring returning prisoners the more they will see we care about their future as well as the future of our communities. Our future depends upon seeing a decline in crime. Mentoring a returning prisoner is a real way to do something about it.