A recent post in Southern Maryland Online featured a Baltimore reentry program that offers a variety of services for men with a criminal conviction, particularly men who were recently released from prison. click here to go to website
Intrigued by the services offered by the Jericho Reentry Program (JRP), Reentry Central interviewed the program’s Deputy Director, Gregg Zaire. Run by the Episcopal Community Services of Maryland (ECSM), the organization received funding from the Open Society Institute, which allows it to reach returning citizens in “Empowerment Zones.” Empowerment Zones, according to Zaire “represent concentrated pockets within the city, and feature over high rates of poverty and unemployment as well as higher incarceration and recidivism rates, which indicate magnified urgency.” By reaching out to formerly incarcerated individuals in these zones, JRP is able to provide information on available services designed to reduce the recidivism rate among this group.
Although the program does not provide services for females, it does help approximately 300 men with criminal histories. One of the ways it does so is by utilizing the "rapid-attachment-to-work” model. “Our Rapid-Attachment-to-Work model,” says Zaire, “attempts to reattach our clients to the workforce as quickly as possible. We offer both soft- and hard-skills training, including certification opportunities which upon completion increase the probability that program participants can compete for entry level jobs in a number of fields.
When asked about the program’s effort to improve “pro-social” skills, Zaire told Reentry Central, “A portion of our population may never have had a job, and as a consequence are unfamiliar with the appropriate workplace behavior, or the pro-social skills needed to seek (interview) and advance in the workplace. In order for our clients to be successful, we identify and train program participants on what makes for appropriate workplace behavior.”
Beside employment training and referrals, the Jericho Reentry Program offers a holistic approach to successful reentry by providing participants with referrals to health care providers, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and also offers housing placement. Veterans with a criminal history are also guided to services that address their particular needs.
Additionally, the Jericho Reentry Program is a staunch advocate for hiring those with a criminal history. Reentry Central asked Zaire if employers were receptive when approached by JRP with a request to hire qualified individuals with a criminal conviction. We also asked Zaire what, in his opinion, was the plus side an employer could expect by hiring a formerly incarcerated person, and if there was a minus side. Zaire replied, “While working with employers to hire our clients has its challenges, we have managed to form strong relationships with a number of employers. What eases some of their initial apprehension is both the training and support we provide our clients and the employer as well as the Tax incentives and Bonding opportunities available--which can all be seen as pluses. However, there are the social concerns that also help employers decide whether or not to hire our clients. Many employers, like people, are concerned about improving the city, our program provides them with an opportunity to do just that--they hire a trained person eager to change their lives, who is grateful for the opportunity, and will work hard to keep the job. It is often a win-win. The risk is a minus; however, if we can assuage their concerns they are often deeply satisfied with their hires. A number of our clients have gone on to excel, some even being recognize as employee of the month/year.”