Rowan Inmate Re-entry Council planned
SALISBURY — Typically when prisoners are released, they have few obvious options for employment, transportation and even a place to live. Some rely on family and maybe friends, but in general, there’s not one central place in Rowan County to turn to for help.
The hope is that if state approval is met, the Rowan County Local Re-entry Council can be formed.
If approved, the council would partner with representatives and agencies of the local justice system and beyond that include Piedmont Correctional Institution, the probation and parole office, Workforce Solutions, Rowan Helping Ministries, Rowan County Department of Social Services, Project Safe Neighborhoods and others.
Once approval is met, the council, which is spearheaded by Kathy White, could operate out of the Gateway Freedom Center, a local transitional housing center that assists men who are recovering from substance abuse. The center could be the location for the intake process for the council.
Gateway Executive Director Kathy White said the council will provide an opportunity formerly incarcerated individuals to learn and get connected to existing organizations that are there to help them transition from being incarcerated to becoming productive members of society.
White said the men who join her program usually all have the same questions: How do they find a job or a permanent place to live?
She tells them to not focus on that initially, but instead on what their immediate needs are, including getting an identification card or even clothing. The council will help men like the ones who are already receiving services at Gateway Freedom Center.
Janie Rollins, a regional former offender specialist with Workforce Solutions, which is part of the N.C. Department of Commerce, is also on one of the newly formed council’s committees.
Rollins works in cooperation with the N.C. Works Career Center and the N.C. Department of Public Safety. She helps give the men resources and tools to go to work.
She said those formerly incarcerated who are looking for work get frustrated, and having a place where community partners are lined up to assist them is tremendous.
“It’s key to keep the community safe, to keep the crime rate down and to reduce recidivism,” Rollins said.
Gary Rhodes, a semiretired Salisbury attorney, became involved through the faith-based community to establish a mentoring program. As an attorney, Rhodes had the opportunity to be engaged with people who had committed crimes and saw first-hand the impact it had on their families.
He said he felt there was a need for the re-entry council.
According to Rhodes, data have shown that there are consistently about 400 men and 100 women who come into Rowan County from state prisons.
He said when you look at the difficulties of transitioning, access to jobs, housing and transportation are at the top of the list.
“This would be a professional outlet to look at these needs,” Rhodes said.
Pastor Mike Williams, manager at Gateway Freedom Center, said it’s difficult for many people to understand what these men are going through. They’ve made a mistake and have a hard time navigating the system upon release; he hopes the council will alleviate that concern.
Timothy Morgan coordinates inmates’ release from Piedmont Correctional Institution’s minimum security unit in Salisbury. He said for him, the ultimate goal of the council is that the inmates stay out of prison.
He said some inmates lack structure at home, which can lead to recidivism. He said a lot of men he sees don’t have a support system and if not given the chance to change will go back to a life of crime.
“If we can change their mentality and provide opportunities, then they don’t have to revert back to what they know,” Morgan said.
Next up, White said, will be to establish a complete council as well as an advisory committee and see exactly how the council will be set up.
For more information about the Rowan County Local Re-entry Council, call 704-638-2000.