National Reentry Week 2021: Nonprofit discusses the struggles of reentry for those who formerly were incarcerated

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 11:10 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WHSV) — Each year, the Department of Justice along with the National Reentry Resource Center, celebrate National Reentry Week.

The seven-day celebration highlights the hardships and needs associated with reentering communities following incarceration.

Virginia Cares is a statewide offender reentry program that is dedicated to ensuring that when people are released from incarceration from Virginia correctional facilities, they have access to the tools necessary for a successful reentry.

Members of the organization define reentry as “providing services for ex-offenders that are released from being incarcerated.”

“We provide them with the tools that they need to apply to that everyday life and give them the proper resources that they need to have. As far as substance abuse, mental health whatever it is, we want to direct them to the right resources,” case manager JoAnne Carter said. “Once they are released they go to a halfway house and we deal with the halfway house here and they are recommended by their [parol officers] to enroll in the Virginia Cares program.”

The organization has helped people returning home from incarceration since 1981 with more than 70,000 participants served.

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Carter listed access to identification records, continuing drug addiction and mental health as some of the main barriers ex-offenders face upon their return.

The National Reentry Resource Center found that 72 percent of the state and federal regulations placed upon those who are convicted impact employment opportunities for ex-offenders.

Studies show employment plays a major role in a successful reentry. Participants in the program gain access to peer support services and job readiness.

“It doesn’t matter what the charge may be, we’re not here to judge we are just here to get you back on your feet. The biggest thing is to make sure that they feel comfortable coming back,” Jason Hariston, a case manager for the program, explained. “I know people personally that came home from incarceration and they didn’t have this type of help. The thing about it is, being there to let them know somebody is there to help you.”

Virginia Cares is based out of Roanoke and operates a network of sites across Virginia. When there is not a site in a specific area that someone may need assistance, VA Cares works with existing organizations to expand their reach.

Read more about Virginia Cares by clicking here.

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