`Re-Entry Sunday' Meant to Help Ex-Convicts Get Jobs

By Washington, Adrienne T. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 11, 2002 | Go to article overview
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`Re-Entry Sunday' Meant to Help Ex-Convicts Get Jobs


Washington, Adrienne T., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Adrienne T. Washington

I was in prison and you did not look after me . . . whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (Matthew 25:40).

Clarence Scott, Larry Condrey and Anthony Barnes are among "the least of these." Ranging in age from 24 to 53, they are attempting to re-enter their Southeast community after years of imprisonment. They are spending hours at the Learning Lab in St. Luke's Catholic Church on East Capitol Street SE trying to resist a return to their former lives of crime.

Not easy, they concede. They need help - lots of it.

Scott has mastered his computer-training courses, but with no experience, he can't get a job. Condrey resides in a halfway house near Blue Plains and had to travel by public transit to Reisterstown, Md., because of bureaucratic red tape, just to secure the identification card issued to nondrivers. Barnes studied and thought he was prepared for the high school equivalency exam, but the test was revamped recently and made harder.

In an effort to provide much-needed assistance in these men's self-help efforts, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) established Jan. 13 as "Re-entry Sunday."

Chosen to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Re-entry Sunday "is a call to service" for mentors who "seek a different kind of ministry, a redemptive ministry that helps redirect the energy of offenders coming back home," said Jasper Ormond, interim director of CSOSA.

January is also National Mentoring Month. "Helping hands are healing hands . . . and the men and women returning home from prison need your help, your prayers and your compassion," reads the cards that will be passed out Sunday.

Ministers in the 39 participating churches will devote part of their services to educating their congregations and to calling upon parishioners to volunteer in helping offenders reconnect with their families, communities and places of worship.

That these returning offenders "are sons and daughters of the neighborhood," Mr. Ormond said is a point the ministers will emphasize.

Next month, mentors will be trained to work with their charges, as well as provide spiritual support and guidance.

That's no easy task. The biggest hurdles returning offenders face are securing a job and securing affordable housing. Overcoming drug addiction, childhood abandonment and abuse and low literacy rates are other obstacles.

St. Luke's, in the 6th Police District, is an ideal location for such a faith-based program because "it is surrounded by drug activity," said Condrey, who returned from a Pennsylvania prison in November and is staying in Hope Village, a nearby halfway house.

"If you've been out of the work force for years and you come to the church, they can direct you," Condrey said.

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