Letter: Do we want successful outcomes after prison?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In April, I had the honor of participating in a simulated prison reentry experience through the Business Advisory Council at Goodwill Industries in Asheville. Nearly 60 individuals or service providers from the general community of businesses, governmental and nongovernmental agencies took part in this exercise.

Each of us received a packet in which was included the first name of an actual person who had been incarcerated and who returned home at the end of his or her sentence, along with instructions to follow to meet probation requirements during the first 30 days of reentry.

Though each person’s requirements may be somewhat different, without a photo ID, cash, transportation, housing or food, probation was (is) not easy to complete. We learned that it can actually become so stressful, that doing something to be reincarcerated is a possible and likely but unintentional outcome.

Brent Bailey is the program coordinator for the Buncombe County Re-entry Council [avl.mx/dox]. Brent and his team, along with Jody Stevenson, jobs developer/skills training manager, and his team at Goodwill Industries, and Brian Scott, executive director of Our Journey, provided this reentry simulation training opportunity. It was such a moving, heart-wrenching and awakening two hours of life. I am grateful to have completed it — to the extent I was able to do so.

Reentry from prison shouldn’t be this difficult and degrading, defeating and repressive. If we want successful outcomes to occur, then change must happen. Together we really can inform our systems leaders and policymakers with ideas and models of change to become change agents, as Philip Cooper shows us how to do here locally.

For more information and connection to a dynamic presenter to help communities interested in this work, do visit Scott’s website [avl.mx/doy]. Reach out to the folks in county reentry agencies and seek the resources they can provide. Help our friends and loved ones as they depart from prison back into society with us. It will benefit them and the community if we do this together.

— Michael Harney
Community educator


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