Helping ex-offenders helps our community

Ro-Ellen Sinkewich, Vice President of Program Operations, Residential Reeentry Programs, Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio

National Reentry Week spotlights the successful work being done to reintegrate ex-offenders back into society.

For the first time in our nation's history, an entire week has been dedicated to celebrate citizens who are returning to our communities. Recognized by the Attorney General of the United States, National Reentry Week is April 24-30, 2016, and Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio takes pride in this national recognition.

Volunteers of America co-founder, Maud Booth, created the first halfway house in our country. As a national leader and pioneer in the American prison reform movement, she proudly served as an advocate for prisoners before the public. During her time working with prisoners and their families during and after their release, Maud knew what they needed was not scolding or criticism, it was a message of hope and support to help them change their lives for the better. Maud Booth dedicated her life to educating the public on the needs of this vulnerable population – a population she helped welcome back into society and urged others to forgive so they could forgive themselves.

We continue Maud's vision to serve this population that is generally looked-down upon by society. They are often viewed as criminals and outcasts, considered as people who cannot be rehabilitated and can no longer be a contributing member to society. This week is dedicated to raise awareness about the importance of reentry work and its impact on the lives of these offenders and the community as a whole.

We applaud the creation of National Reentry Week and support its goals through our continued work in our residential reentry programs. Every day, we continue to make our Criminal Justice System more effective at reducing the number of offenders going back into the system and helping formerly incarcerated individuals contribute to their communities.

Our programs address the barriers returning offenders face, including lack of work history, lack of social skills, addiction, untreated mental health illnesses, and coping skills. We assist our residents in cognitive-based behavior change, which is proven to reduce the revolving door of returning to prison. Our dedicated staff works with a unique population who not only are trying to readjust back into society, but they are also coping with addictions, mental health issues, and physical ailments. Many of our clients do not have a support system to help them through these difficult times, and some will never again have a relationship with their families.

Each year, more than 600,000 individuals return to our neighborhoods after serving time in federal and state prisons, and another 11.4 million will cycle through local jails. Essential to our mission is to promote public safety by helping individuals return to productive law-abiding lives so we can reduce crime and make our neighborhoods better places to live.

All of this is why we are raising awareness on the importance of reentry work. The legacy of Maud Booth's work lives on in the work we continue to do, and I believe she would be very proud of our efforts and our staff's dedication in helping our residents to become productive and self-sufficient members of society once again.

Learn more about our reentry programs.

Learn more about National Reentry Week on the Department of Justice website.