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April 16, 2024 3:38 pm

Reentry Council Celebrating Second Chances Month, Holding Resource Fair

WAYNE COUNTY — Getting a fresh start can be hard for former prisoners and others involved in the justice system. Helping them get the basics – housing, food, employment, transportation, clothing and education after incarceration — is the work of the Wayne County Reentry Council.

As it celebrates Second Chances Month and the one-year anniversary of its rebirth, the council is reaching out to the community and to those who need its assistance and advocacy.

The council will hold a Community Resources Day Party from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19. The event will be held in the parking lot of the Day Reporting Center, 714 Simmons Street, behind the Wayne County Department of Social Services offices.

So far, exhibitors committed to the event include Community Supervision Division of the N.C. Department of Adult Correction, Dixon Social Interactive Services Inc., the Day Reporting Center, Eastpointe, Goldsboro Comprehensive Treatment Center, Hope Restorations, Housing Authority of the City of Goldsboro, Integrated Care of Greater Hickory, JMA Placement, Literacy Connections, N.C. WORKS, OIC of Wilson, Rebuilding Broken Places CDC, Vision of David, Wayne Community College, Wayne County Health Department and When People Work.

There will be food and music, too. Organizers are still accepting vendors, support and donations.

Anyone with questions about the event can contact Reentry Coordinator Brandi Matthews at 919-739-6930 or bnmatthews@waynecc.edu.

“The target audience is the individual involved with the justice system, particularly those released from jail or prison, who need help with resources as they navigate their second chance in our community,” said Renita Allen Dawson, the reentry council’s executive director.

Any individual returning to Wayne County from a local jail, state or federal prison or community corrections (probation/parole), no matter how long ago or recently they were released, is eligible for Wayne County Reentry Council services. The program is free.

Reentry Council information can be found at www.waynecc.edu/continuing-ed/programs/hrd. “Anyone in the community can refer someone to the Reentry Council using a form on the website,” Dawson said.

Dawson said between April 2022 and January 2023, the Reentry Council has had 68 intakes. The council is working with the local prison and detention center and is notified three to six months before inmates are released. Facilities outside of Wayne County refer individuals who are coming back to the county and the council works with individuals going to other areas.

The Wayne County Reentry Council can assist with connecting people to housing, food assistance, mental health treatments, substance abuse treatment, job training, employment, family support services, child care and education opportunities such as obtaining a GED or training for certifications.

Partner organizations are the local prison, vocational rehabilitation, division of juvenile justice, housing authority, city and county elected officials, division of workforce solutions, formerly incarcerated individuals, transportation providers and peer supporters. “People have been so willing to support and help,” Dawson said. “We reach out for what we need and we get it.”

Examples of specially requested items that have been provided were steel-toed boots and black pants that individuals needed to be able to take jobs.

The items in the Reentry Kits for new clients — currently including a WCRC brochure, “What’s Next: A Handbook for Re-Entering the Workforce,” “N.C. Department of Commerce’s Reentry Work Search Guide,” socks, protective mask, hand sanitizer, grocery gift card and bus passes — were funded by the Foundation of WCC.

The Reentry Council has found a home at Wayne Community College. Dawson said that there had been a council a few years ago. “In January 2021, Sheriff Larry Pierce convened community organizations to collaborate on its revival,” Dawson said.

Pierce noted that three years ago, his office received a Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Abuse Program grant to help incarcerated individuals suffering from substance misuse to reenter society. “In April 2022, our foundational collaborative team expanded to become the Wayne County Reentry Council,” he said.

“The purpose of the WCRC is to serve currently incarcerated people or anyone who has ever been incarcerated by connecting them with needed resources in order to maintain quality of life which lessens the possibility of recidivism,” Pierce said. “Therefore, the WCRC is offering a level of support that was not otherwise available and individuals within the Detention Center and within the community are independently reaching out in order to receive it.”

“We [the college] agreed to become the intermediary agency for the council and we officially began operation,” Dawson said.

The WCRC also became the administrator for Project HIRES (Helping Individuals Reenter Society) to help jobseekers in the reentry process get training. It is the result of a $200,000 American Rescue Act Grant that the Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board received last November.

“We expect our COSSAP award to end soon, but the WCRC will continue to offer support which benefits the well-being and safety of our community,” Pierce said.

WCRC is one of a network of 23 councils across the state, operating under the auspices of the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice.

— From Wayne Community College Public Information