October 25, 2017 Published in Non-Profits, Public Safety

Welcome Home Re-entry Program For Ex-Offenders

Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington (Courtesy Photo)

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington Prison Ministry has launched a program for men and women returning to their communities after incarceration. It’s called, ‘Welcome Home Re-Entry Program’. Its mission is to reduce recidivism, educate the community and develop strong systems of support by building relationships and matching returning individuals with volunteer mentors. 

According to a report from the Bureau of Justice, 67.8% of ex-convicts re-offend and return to prison within three years of their release. This happens because of their lack of connection with the community. Art Bennett, CEO and President of CCDA says this service helps ex-offenders establish that connection. “We provide mentors and housing that takes them out of the environment which tempted them into prison behavior so they can start a new life with a job, recovery skills, spiritual support and accountable colleagues to help them break the cycle of incarceration,” he says. 

Here’s how the program works: 

  •   Offers initial financial support for ex-offenders needing housing through a partnership with Oxford House 
  •  Prevents returning citizens from falling back to previous mistakes by aiding them to find and follow a path to a new life
  • Helping them find a job, e.g., resumes, job applications, certification courses.
  •  One-on-one mentoring and encouraging them to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, etc.
  •  Assisting with transportation needs – bikes, SmarTrip cards (used to pay Metrorail and local bus system fare)
  • Offering food pantry visits and thrift shop vouchers for clothing needs
  • Spiritual mentorship (if desired)
  •  Offers initial financial support for returning citizens needing housing through a partnership with Oxford House
  •  Up to $600 for move-in fee, and first two weeks of rent 
  • Provides ‘Welcome Home Backpacks’ (see photo of backpack items attached), and reminds them that they have dignity and are cherished as God’s creations
  • Recruits, trains and supports volunteer mentors with community resources and training
  •  Partners the ex-offender with a volunteer mentor for 6 months

 This program also consists of educating the public about the challenges ex-offenders face leaving jail as they endeavor to re-build their lives and re-enter the community. CCDA Prison Ministry does this through an event called, ‘When Prisoners Come Home’ featuring an ex-offender who has lived through this ordeal. These events are held quarterly. The next one is November 15th in Reston (details are forthcoming). 

In a statement, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington said, “I am most grateful to those associated with Catholic Charities for their commitment to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society, showing them God’s mercy first-hand. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the disciples that he is found in the poor, the stranger, the thirsty, the naked, the hungry and the imprisoned. Our desire to help prisoners re-enter society, make amends for their past, and pave a positive and productive future is in response to the call of Jesus upon whose grace we will rely.”

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