Arkansas Community Corrections will host a statewide Re-entry Awareness Week next week, giving ex-prisoners an opportunity to learn about resources available to them upon leaving incarceration.
“It’s an ongoing effort for us to help these individuals get back in society, get back to their families and become productive citizens in the communities they go back to,” said Corey Charles, a re-entry officer in Union County.
On April 1, Gov. Asa Hutchinson proclaimed the week of April 22 through April 27 as Re-entry Awareness Week. Events that week will both bring awareness to re-entry barriers former prisoners face as well as resources available that can help someone leaving prison become self-sufficient.
Re-entry can be tough for many people leaving jail or prison; according to ACC, recidivism rates in 2015 in Arkansas were over 50 percent. Currently, there are 2,937 people on probation or parole in ACC Area 13, which includes Union, Calhoun, Columbia, Dallas and Ouachita counties.
Often, when a person is released from prison or a long jail sentence, they do not have the resources necessary to sustain themselves – housing, health insurance, job skills, transportation and education, among others.
Charles said that offering resources that will help former prisoners achieve self-sufficiency helps communities in the long run, because rather than re-offending, the former prisoners become productive and contributing members of society.
Throughout the week, ACC will host different organizations that can help former prisoners in different areas like health, securing employment or education/training and legal aid.
“We encourage everyone to come out that wants to learn more about re-entry and what we’re trying to accomplish statewide, specifically here in south Arkansas,” Charles said.
On Monday, representatives from the Social Security Administration, Veterans Affairs and Arkansas Legal Services will be at the Probation Parole Office, located at 307 American Road, to provide information and assistance with personal documentation.
Additionally, Monday is ACC Amnesty Day. All parole absconders will have the opportunity to report to the Parole Office and continue their supervision without facing jail time. Amnesty Day will take place each day of next week in Camden and Magnolia, but only on Monday in El Dorado.
“We try to do this to encourage these individuals to come back in and pick back up with their parole with no recourse or action,” Charles said. “So they can pick back up with their parole and continue serving it without any adverse action as far as starting their parole over or anything like that.”
On Tuesday, officials from the Department of Workforce Services and Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development (SWAPD) will be at the Parole Office.
SWAPD representatives will talk about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a job-training program; in El Dorado, participants include the Professional Cosmetology Education Center II, Rester’s Part III Barber College, South Arkansas Community College East and West campuses and the South Arkansas Health Institute, according to the SWAPD website.
On Wednesday, Tammy McCall, administrator of the Union County Health Unit, along with representatives from the medical organizations like the Interfaith Clinic and ARCare will be at the Probation Parole Office. Former prisoners will be able to apply for health insurance and receive medical testing.
On April 25, former prisoners will be able to learn about mental health services from Loren Beck, an alcohol and drug abuse counselor at the South Arkansas Regional Health Center.
On April 26, Re-entry Awareness Week will wrap up with a brunch featuring speaker Scott McClean of Pathway to Freedom, a Christian prisoner rehabilitation program in Arkansas. Charles said most of these events would take place from 8 a.m. through noon, so it will be best for people to visit the Probation Parole Office during those hours to receive services.
The brunch will take place at the Wings to Recover Re-Entry Facility, located at 445 Industrial Road. Wings to Recover opened just last week and currently houses five male residents.
In Arkansas, there are only eight re-entry facilities for former prisoners. Re-entry facilities provide housing, education and job training, food, transportation and any other needs former prisoners have while they prepare to rejoin society.
“[Re-entry] is about a group of people who see a problem and want to attack it and help others instead of turning a blind eye to it,” Charles said. “The more people involved, the more people that want to help, the better.”
Wings to Recover is the only re-entry facility in south Arkansas; the next closest ones are in Malvern and Pine Bluff. Charles said the selection process for the prisoners that get to enter a re-entry facility or program are rigorous since there are so few and each facility can only house so many people. Wings to Recover will eventually hold 20 men at a time as each goes through a six-month program before rejoining society.
Local organizations have also started focusing on re-entry. The SHARE Foundation’s Violence Intervention Plan, which was introduced last year, includes re-entry as an area of community involvement that could help reduce crime and violence in the area.
The Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center began offering life skills classes to inmates at the Union County Jail last year and will work with Rex McDaniel, administrator of Wings to Recover, to continue those life skills classes at the re-entry facility.
South Arkansas Community College also recently began offering adult education classes to re-entry students at Wings to Recover. SouthArk already offered classes to incarcerated students and the classes at Wings to Recover will build on that effort.
The SHIFT Ministry at CrossLife church, which includes the intensive SHIFTLife recovery program, will also work with former prisoners at Wings to Recover.
“We’re in the business of helping people and our prisons are overpopulated, it’s a non-stop revolving door,” Charles said. “If we can help them heal and become better citizens, they’re going back to the communities where they can contribute to the community, they can make their families whole again. … With re-entry, we tackle all those areas to kind of fix the entire person – substance abuse, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), mental health – we tackle all these areas that these offenders face daily.”
Re-entry Awareness Week will kick off this Friday at the Little Rock Church at 10701 Baseline Road when ACC will host a re-entry rally from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Charles said communities across the state are expected to participate in Re-Entry Awareness Week.
Arkansas Community Corrections will host guests throughout next week at their Probation Parole Office, located at 307 American Road, as part of Re-entry Awareness Week.
The Social Security Administration will assist with accessing birth certificates, Social Security cards and Supplemental Security Income benefits.
Danny and Sue Harper of Veterans Affairs will assist with VA disability claims and DD214 forms.
Ben Seay of Arkansas Legal Services will assist with civil cases, expungements, petitions to seal records and legal representation.
ACC Amnesty Day will allow parole absconders to report to the Probation Parole Office and continue supervision without facing jail time or other repercussions.
Monica Macon and Darius Richmond of the Department of Workforce Services will host a resume class and discuss services and resources.
Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development will walk through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Tammy McCall, administrator of the Union County Health Unit, will offer carbon monoxide testing, blood pressure checks, education on services, provider referrals and BMI/weight testing.
The El Dorado Medical Center will offer assessments, referrals and information about addiction services.
The Interfaith Clinic will help with setting up health insurance.
Tameron Price, from ARCare, will offer free HIV testing and assist with applying for health insurance.
Loren Beck of the South Arkansas Regional Health Center will offer a mental health presentation from 10-11 a.m.
ACC Re-entry Fellowship Brunch will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. at Wings to Recover Re-Entry Facility.
Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or [email protected]