BY KARIMA AMIN
When someone is paroled, they serve part of their sentence under the supervision of their community with an eye toward the parole candidate’s becoming a productive member of society. Frustration abounds when prison staff imply that the parolee will be returning to prison, sooner or later. On the outside, despite best of intentions, the parolee may be confronted with issues that sent him to prison in the first place, poor mental health, unemployment, drug and/or alcohol addiction, unsettled home life, etc. To further complicate one’s return to society, the parolee has to navigate a minefield of negative attitudes, framed by stereotypes, that are often based on misconceptions, attitudes that malign the parolee, limiting his potential.
We have shown films and have discussed recidivism before. This is an important topic. Previously, we screened “The Very Same House,” a film about recidivism in Buffalo, by Canisius College student, David Goodwin. At our last monthly meeting, our guest speaker was Gerrod Bennett, a recent parolee who was released on June 14 this year, after 22 years in State Prison. His family is helping him to navigate the many pitfalls of this brand new world. He is becoming a successful reentry candidate. The Center for Employment Opportunities (C.E.O.) in Buffalo works hard to assist parolees who are seeking gainful employment. According to the C.E.O. website, “While nearly everyone will eventually be released, recidivism rates are stubbornly high: more than 40% will be reincarcerated and more than two thirds will be rearrested within three years. Employment challenges, sobriety, housing, mental health, and a lack of strong social ties are among the premier reasons that people return to jail or prison.”
Our next monthly meeting will address the issue of recidivism with a film, “Revolving Door? Does the System Play Fair?” by Charles Duncan and a speaker, Pastor Charles Walker from Back to Basics Outreach Ministries. Pastor Walker is the Reentry Coordinator at Back to Basics. He works with parolees, helping them to becomeassets in society, not liabilities.