Jul 4, 2022
This one component of the OurJourney First Aid Reentry Kit may be the most useful
There are five useful items in each First Aid Reentry Kit, OurJourney's newest tool to help returning citizens transition from prison to freedom. One item in this kit, however, may prove more useful than the others.
Here's how it works: as a prisoner in North Carolina nears his release date, his case manager will go to the OurJourney website and enter his information, such as release date and county of destination after release, on a password-protected webpage. OurJourney then prepares a First Aid Reentry Kit tailored just for him and delivers it to the prison, which gives him his kit before he is released.
One item in each kit is a Resource Guide for the returning citizen's county.
Each Resource Guide is filled with listings for county-specific organizations, ministries, agencies and businesses that provide assistance to returning citizens in several categories, including transportation, food, clothing, job training/placement, and medical/dental care.
Other organizations have compiled similar lists for select counties in North Carolina. In fact, the NCDPS website has what it calls "County Reentry Resource Information" with links for all 100 counties in the state. So what makes OurJourney's Resource Guides different?
"There are two things that make our Resource Guides unique," explains OurJourney Executive Director Brian Scott, who was once a prisoner returning to freedom himself. "First, we know from personal experience that you have to strike a balance between too little information in too few categories, and too much information, which can be overwhelming. What we do when developing a Resource Guide is closely examine what's going on in each county, what organizations are doing the best work for the most people in the essential categories. Those are the ones who make our list. Our goal is to give our returning citizens at least three and no more than five organizations in each category that they can turn to for assistance, the best of the best."
But how can OurJourney possibly make these judgements?
"That's the second thing that makes our Resource Guides unique," says Scott. "We have a network all across this state, in dozens of counties, of men who've done time and gotten out. So, for example, if we need to know who's doing the best work in Buncombe County, the first thing we do is call Philip Cooper, a one-man reentry expert for that county who was once incarcerated. Regardless of how we get the initial information, we reach out to every single organization, ministry, agency and business that we list in our Resource Guide to find out what they offer. Oftentimes we actually visit the location and ask questions. We don't just verify things like address, phone numbers or hours of operation, but what exactly they can do for a man returning from prison."
Every entry in every Resource Guide, according to Scott, is vetted thoroughly and then re-vetted every 6 months to ensure that all of the information is still accurate. "There is nothing more discouraging for a man getting out of prison," Scott says, "then to think he has information about a place that can help him, only to find out it doesn't exist anymore or doesn't offer assistance where he lives. I know from personal experience how devastating this can be."
Preparing Resource Guides for all 100 counties in North Carolina using this demanding standard takes a lot of time and a team of researchers. Scott says OurJourney is working hard to compile a Resource Guide for every county and encourages anyone with reentry knowledge in a specific North Carolina county to contact him at email@example.com.
"And if you're part of an organization, ministry, agency or business in this state that is assisting the formerly incarcerated in specific ways, we definitely want to hear from you," he says. "Think about it: men who receive our kits take a Resource Guide out of prison with them, meaning they will literally carry your information, if it makes it into our Resource Guide, home with them."
To learn more about the OurJourney First Aid Reentry Kit program, click here.