Author: Greg Thomas, Communications Officer
A big thank you to everyone who made the 2023 NC Reentry Conference such a great success. More than 500 reentry professionals, advocates, service providers and local reentry council members participated in the three-day conference, this year titled Cultivating Cross-Sector Collaborations.
Around 25 percent of North Carolinians have a criminal record and when they complete their sentence they are starting over. They frequently need a place to live, a job and support to re-start their lives. In fact, about 95 percent of people in prison will eventually return to their communities.
Reentry programs help individuals rebuild their lives and reintegrate into communities by connecting them with resources from government, nonprofit and business groups. The goal is to begin connecting them before they leave incarceration so that support is already in place and established in their home community.
Department of Adult Correction Secretary Todd Ishee welcomed attendees by reminding them the new Department of Adult Correction (DAC) is examining every element to North Carolina’s reentry efforts and is poised to provide even greater support to those returning citizens.
For George Pettigrew, deputy secretary of Rehabilitation and Reentry, it’s all about coordination and collaboration. “Our efforts begin in the facilities. It’s about providing valuable programing and education that help people when they return home, so they are ready for success. Our local reentry councils, faith-based and community organizations are vital partners in making it all happen.”
This is the second year an in-person conference was held following the COVID-19 pandemic. Reentry Programs Manager Monica Artis says the face-to-face collaborations are important. “This provides us an environment for people to sit at the same table and talk about the challenges and potential solutions. The end of the pandemic certainly helped our justice-involved people, many of whom do better with personal interactions over of text messages, emails or video calls.
One area of technology that has been helpful is through the use of tablets by incarcerated people. “The use of tablets is a great advantage,” said Lateisha Thrash, director of Reentry Services. “They allow offenders to familiarize themselves with new technology, communicate with family members and earn educational certificates that can be applied to community college degrees. There are hundreds of online courses available, and when they return home, the can access that programing with a computer and pick up right where they left off, she said.” In the last six months, more than 280,000 online certificates have been earned by individuals serving sentences in North Carolina’s prison system.
Reducing employment barriers for the formerly incarcerated has been a focus of Governor Cooper. In August 2020 he signed Executive Order 158 to implement fair chance policies at state agencies to increase employment opportunities for people with criminal records. Among other things, Executive Order 158 removes criminal history questions from the state employment application, prohibits inquiries into an individual’s criminal history during the initial stages of the hiring process, and requires state agencies to provide a reasonable opportunity for applicants to explain the circumstances of their conviction. Learn more about Executive Order 158 here.
DAC’s Division of Rehabilitation and Reentry, along with the State Reentry Council Collaborative and local reentry councils across the state, work every day to help people who are returning to their communities be successful. Find out more here.
Photos from the 2023 NC Reentry Conference are available here.