Do You Believe in Second Chances?

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Maya Angelou

On March 31, 2023, President Joseph R. Biden proclaimed April 2023 as Second Chance Month.

I believe in redemption — but for hundreds of thousands of Americans released from State and Federal prisons each year, or the nearly 80 million who have an arrest or conviction record, it is not always easy to come by. We are not giving people a real second chance.

How to Help an Incarcerated Individual Create Their Own Successful Reentry
Thursday, April 20 | 7 – 8 pm
HCLS Miller Branch

Piles and piles of metallic keys.

Register here.

Imagine if you paid your debt to society and returned home with no place to live, no job, and no money. What would you do to survive? Might you be tempted again to criminal activity?

Vanessa Bright believes that re-entry should begin the day after an individual enters the correctional facility to serve a sentence.

During How to Help an Incarcerated Individual Create Their Own Successful Reentry, Vanessa discusses strategies and resources to help and prepare returning citizens create a path to own their success. “Re-entry” refers to the transition of an incarcerated individual from prison back into the community. Re-entry programs in correctional facilities are not created equal, with some institutions committed to preparing individuals for their return home, while others provide little to no services or programs.

Returning citizens are often confronted with one pressing re-entry challenge after another, everything from finding a place to live and arranging substance abuse treatment to getting a job. They often face the exact same pressures and temptations that landed them in prison in the first place. The state of Maryland releases about 7,400 individuals per year. Finding strategies to create positive outcomes for them is critical for reducing future crimes.

A setback can easily lead to relapse and a return to prison, known as recidivism, measured by looking at the criminal acts that returning citizens commit in the three years after prison release. The latest statistics in Maryland show a 41 percent recidivism rate.

Vanessa Bright’s workbook, entitled Create Your Life Plan Now: Your Road Map to Reentry, focuses on soft skills, which characterize how a person interacts in relationships with others, including communication, time management, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. Soft skills are carried throughout life. The workbook has modules on financial literacy, goal setting, career readiness, entrepreneurship, and character development. Workbooks will be available to purchase and can be delivered to correctional institutions on your behalf.

Vanessa Bright is the director of the MD Reentry Resource Center (https://mdrrc.org/) and a former educator in the Maryland Criminal Justice system, primarily at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women.

HCLS considers supporting justice-involved citizens as a key part of our equity work.

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

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