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Successful Reentry Depends on Courage to Change

Prison is hard, and it takes courage to change so you can have a successful reentry, and become a contributing member of your family and community.

The keys to successful reentry include a support system, resilience, a positive attitude, and the courage to ask for help. Every alumnus of Reaching Out From Within will tell you stories of their challenges to find housing, a job…and sometimes just to eat on the outside.

One of our alums was so hungry for food and a job, he waited half the day for an interview with the manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kansas City. The manager had posted a sign: Help Wanted. When our alum went in, he had no money to eat, but he asked the manager for a job. The manager promised to interview him soon, but then he got busy and forgot. When he came back into the now empty restaurant and saw that our alum had waited patiently (and hungrily) for 5 hours, he hired him on the spot.

Alumni who stay out of prison for 3 years and become part of our positive story of reentry success are those with the courage to change on the outside, and the willingness to remain positive inside themselves. A belief in yourself is one of the ways our learning community reinforces each other behind the walls.

Weekly, our prison members must summon the courage to change and thus to be vulnerable, if they want to be fully prepared for reentry success. On the outside, no one dictates your schedule, and you are on your own in so many ways. By staying connected to Alumni Groups in Wichita and Kansas City, a network of support is created. It’s fine to be vulnerable in that place, because whatever situation you are dealing with and find so frustrating has been dealt with before by someone in the group.

Recently, President Obama visited a successful reentry program in New Jersey. Here’s what he said after hearing stories from returning citizens:

“There are so many Americans who want a second chance,” Obama continued. “We want more success stories like these. It’s good for everyone.”

The president urged Congress to pass more comprehensive criminal-justice reforms to reduce the number of citizens who are locked up and to improve the chances for those in jail for leading a productive life after their release. America’s prison population is now 2.2 million — costing taxpayers some $8 billion a year — and the vast majority of these inmates will eventually be released, most with no formal oversight.

In the interim, Obama pledged to use his executive powers to provide $8 million over three years to help create high-quality education and training programs for former prisoners; another program targets technology training to ex-offenders in 30 communities, including Newark. The president also promised to revise federal housing guidelines to clarify the rules relating to arrests and potential eviction.

We are working with members to prepare for successful entry on the inside, and will stay connected to alumni as they demonstrate the courage to change on a daily basis. The Department of Justice is supporting more reentry efforts at http://www.justice.gov/archive/fbci/progmenu_reentry.html

Please see our Alumni page for information on our groups and how to stay connected to us and to each other.

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It takes courage to change.