Transitional Housing, Restoration of Voting Rights Are Among Topics at Inmate Resource Fair
March 2, 2016
"It's awesome that they do something like this for us" said Helen, an inmate who visited the Fairfax County Sheriff's Inmate Resource Fair in the Adult Detention Center. "I came here looking for substance abuse programs, and I found a few," she said. The program to which Helen submitted an application is Friends of Guest House, a transitional home for female ex-offenders.
Laura Jessick is a residential case manager with Friends of Guest House. "I want women to know that we offer safe, female-only facilities that give them the opportunity to break the cycle of trauma and abuse and recidivism." Jessick explained that while Fairfax is a notable exception, "the services that are available for women being released from jail or prison across Virginia are more limited than for men." Her program provides a structured, supervised environment with individualized plans that focus on housing, employment, health care, mental health, addiction and family relationship building.
New to this third resource fair is the League of Women Voters. Sidney Johnson is the League's voter services coordinator who distributed information about how ex-offenders can apply for restoration of their voting rights. "I am grateful that the Commonwealth has made the process of restoring voting rights much more straightforward than it used to be," said Johnson. "We are also very pleased with the progress the Sheriff's Office has made in releasing detainees at a reasonable hour of the day and providing practical help with their reentry."
Sheriff Stacey Kincaid has made inmate reentry one of her top priorities. All inmates without a diploma or equivalency are eligible for education programs through a partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools. The Sheriff's Office also has over 300 volunteers who lead classes on anger management, impact of crime, workplace skills, keyboarding, financial planning, responsible parenting, addiction recovery and spirituality. A work release program helps eligible inmates keep their jobs while incarcerated or seek a job if they are unemployed. Kincaid said, "If we give inmates opportunities to better themselves and make appropriate connections to the community while they are in our jail, then we have increased their chances of becoming productive members of our community after they are released."
The Sheriff's Office sponsors the resource fairs in conjunction with the Fairfax Re-entry Council. Lekita Sykes is a co-convener of the council. "I am so appreciative of the resource agencies here today," said Sykes. "Their commitment helps to facilitate client change and create success after release."