The ‘down and dirty work’ of helping people adjust to life after incarceration is real.
As we celebrate three years of the Reintegration Initiative for Safety and Empowerment program, there is much to say about how fantastic Cedar Rapids is and isn’t.
First, RISE is working because Fresh Start Ministries provides a Chaplain and management guidance. Second, cooperation with probation officers and Sixth Judicial staff is outstanding.
We work closely with the sheriff’s office and administrators at the Linn County Jail. Inmates at the jail can request an application and participate in regular meetings while still serving time. They can communicate with families for help and forgiveness, ask employers if they can come back to work and seek help with housing.
Upon fulfilling jail requirements, former inmates can come for help at the RISE site, within Mission of Hope. The Mission provides a welcoming and hospitable place.
The RISE program has 14 navigators to assist with agency referrals (ASAC and Abbe Center), clothing (community donated), shelter (Waypoint) and food (HACAP). There are defense attorneys who care and ask about participants. Dialogue without judgment takes place daily, and often includes problem-solving of every day issues. Our mentoring program expands into the community through individuals and Circles of Support.
Our goal is to assist returning citizens to assimilate back into the community. This is where Cedar Rapids is not always fantastic.
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Many families and every community in the area has people previously incarcerated, and there are obstacles to re-entry. Still, it takes just a minute to be understanding to the child with a parent who has been incarcerated. It takes just a minute to offer a helping hand when difficult bus schedules hinder someone’s ability to get to work. It takes just a minute to offer a second chance for a job or a place to live. The rewards, personally and to the community, are worth the effort.
It’s all connected to a larger discussion about the issues of poverty, mental health and addiction. Complications related to these three issues make our challenges even greater, so we must keep talking.
• Maridee Duggar coordinates the RISE program through Fresh Start Ministries