FRONT ROYAL – The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on Thursday hosted an event that put about 100 inmates in touch with organizations that can be of help to them once they are released.
The program, the RSW Resource Fair for Reentry, was the jail’s first such event and is the work of Elisabeth Gochenour, a mental health professional who works for Northwest Community Services, and Terry Carter, a senior re-entry probation officer.
Carter said inmates being released from the jail are vulnerable to relapse or to confusion about what they need to do to get back on their feet.
This program is designed to let them know before they are released from jail what agencies are there to help them so that they have a better chance to succeed in society.
The Coffeewood Correctional Center in Culpepper has a similar program, Carter said.
“If the Department of Corrections is doing this at the state level, we thought we can do this at the local level,” Carter said.
So the two women reached out to their contacts and organized the event, bringing in groups to discuss resources such as child support enforcement, veteran services, help with drug addiction and employment assistance.
The regional jail aims to hold this event every six months.
Bryon Johnson, a peer recovery specialist for the Northwestern Community Service Board, was there waiting to talk to the inmates.
“We offer support because we have lived those same experiences,” Johnson said. “I think this is awesome. I was incarcerated myself from ‘94 to ‘97. I never had this. I wish I had. I failed within the first week of being out.”
In total, representatives from eight local organizations were available to talk to the inmates and give them brochures and contact information.
One of those groups was Virginia Career Works, represented by Michael Ratliff, an employment specialist.
Delmarco Brown, 38, was one of the inmates able to make some contacts at the event. He quickly approached Ratliff.
Brown, who runs his own business — Home Team Remodeling, said he would like to have more opportunities to expand his business when he gets out in March. He is at the jail for a probation violation linked to previous drug charges.
“I am hoping he can at least point me in the right direction,” Brown said.
The two talked for a couple of minutes.
“We can help put him in contact with people who can help with small business development,” Ratliff said afterward.
Ratliff said the organizations at the event work together to help an inmate succeed. If one organization cannot help, they know someone who can and can help put an inmate in touch with that group.
That is music to the ears of Carter and jail officials.
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