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NeighborCorps is a holistic program based on best practices and research from the field of post-incarceration re-entry. NeighborCorps includes three pillars of service for Participants: mentoring, creating compassionate community and connection to needed services such as mental health services, conflict resolution, addiction services, educational and job training programs, employment counseling, healthcare and housing.
The article “Re-entry Movement in Corrections: Shifting Paradigm or Passing Fad?” by Terry J. Collins, Director of the Ohio Department of Corrections, in the April 2007 edition of Corrections Today talks about the success of holistic re-entry programs that include one to one and group mentorship as well as “in-reach” where the program comes into the jail to establish relationships prior to release. NeighborCorps meets Participants in jail to establish compassionate community through relationships between Participants, volunteer Navigator teams and interested friends and family members on the outside. This in-reach creates a support system for Participants that fosters health relationships, goal-setting and accountability throughout the transition into post-release life.
A 2007 report by the U.S. Department of Labor, Mentoring Ex-Prisoners: A Guide for Prisoner Reentry Programs, explains that in a study of mentored vs. non-mentored post-release individuals, ex-offenders who received mentoring 1) increased their program participation and retention, 2) were twice as likely to find a job while in the program, 3) were more successful in retaining jobs, and 4) were 39% less likely to become re-incarcerated. Additionally, this report speaks to the necessity of case management and educational/employment services. In the NeighborCorps program, teams of volunteer Navigators mentor Participants for up to 12 months, assist them to craft their 30-day Plans of Action, and support them in problem-solving along the way. Plans include connection with referrals to needed services as listed above (housing, counseling, employment, etc.) as well as goal-setting and accountability to reach these goals. Participants, Navigator teams and interested friends and family members work together towards the successful completion of each successive 30-day Plan of Action. Each is a step that builds towards successful reintegration into society.
A September 2004 article in Federal Probation, “A Civic Engagement Model of Re-entry: Involving Community through Service and Restorative Justice” by Bazemore and Stinchcomb, talks about the importance of prisoners and ex-prisoners transforming the way they (and others) view themselves – from lawbreakers to those that have “earned redemption.” This transformation can come from restored relationships, success in areas of job and educational accomplishment, and from the idea of giving back to the community; personal growth in these areas is of specific focus in the NeighborCorps program. Inviting Participants who have completed the program to, in turn, become volunteer Navigators who can mentor others who are being released is an accessible and extremely effective way for Participants to give back to the community and to add real value to the experience of others in the program.