BALTIMORE — The transition from inmate back into the community can be tough on the ex-offender, families and the neighborhood itself.
With 458 individuals from the Sandtown-Winchester Harlem Park neighborhood of West Baltimore currently serving time and accounting for one of the highest incarceration rates in Baltimore, officials at Bon Secours Baltimore Health System decided to spring into action and become proactive in helping the transition.
The health organization, which assists the West Baltimore Community with a comprehensive array of services that include a 72-bed acute care hospital and comprehensive behavioral health care, has launched a re-entry program for returning citizens to that area of Charm City.
“The division of corrections releases approximately 9,000 inmates annually from their system who return to Baltimore City. After statistics revealed this incredible number of ex-offenders returning home, we learned that 59 percent return to the city and, more specifically, 30 percent of those return to just six zip codes which surround Bon Secours Community Works and the hospital,” said Anees Abdul-Rahim, Bon Secours Community Works Re-entry Coordinator. “Therefore, it just makes sense to have programs in place to assist this population with their reintegration back into society. Something had to be done and Bon Secours stepped up.”
Funded by the Bon Secours Health System Mission Fund, the Bon Secours Community Works “Re-Entry Success” program is a 12-week training course that addresses the challenges of reintegration and teaches various life skills in what officials said takes place in a positive, collaborative environment.
The program emphasizes character building to ensure participants are ready to fully integrate back into society.
“Our executive director, Talib Horne, CEO Dr. Sam Ross and his staff at the hospital are all committed to the success of the program,” Abdul-Rahim said.
Following the 12-week training, graduates receive a year of comprehensive follow-up services by the Career Development Program team that include individual, personalized coaching for motivation; help with real-life issues and tasks like transportation, child care and support, mental health and substance abuse concerns; mentoring; peer support; and job placement assistance.
The program also offers certification and occupational training for careers such as construction and urban landscaping.
Traditional education classes such as GED classes, community college courses, online classes in our computer lab with reading and math tutoring are also offered.
Additionally, services such as housing assistance, credit repair, childcare, tax preparation, parenting classes and expungement assistance are available for program participants through the Community Works program.
“As an ex-offender, who was released in 1989 after serving a lengthy sentence, I did not have services to assist me with integrating back into society,” Abdul-Rahim said. “Ironically, as the two attached letters from division commissioner will bear witness, I had more support on the inside, than what was available upon returning to my community and it was hard for me. However, I forged ahead and I persevered. I made a determination to help others coming behind me.”
To be accepted into the program, an individual should simply call Bon Secours and make an appointment. No one is turned away because of the crime they’ve committed and the requirement is that participants must have a willingness to change their lives, according to Abdul-Rahim.
“The most important thing they should know is incarceration affects you very deeply emotionally and psychologically. Institutionalization during the prison experience that hinders the progress of imprisonment long past their release from prison,” he said.
“Without the help of professionals who really understand its impact on the offender and his family, there is very little hope for success. There are many well-meaning folks who desire to help; they just do not know how to help.”
For more information about the program, visit http://baltimore.bonsecours.com/community-works-career-development.html.