Two years ago, Reentry Anonymous was created by members of the Bronx ReEntry Task Force and Bronx ReEntry Working Group to serve as a support group for returning citizens, similar to the AA or NA model of group therapy and ongoing support. On December 17, 2014 two members of the Reentry Anonymous group and myself went to the Metropolitan Correctional Facility where we participated in a panel for 20 detainees who will soon be released into their communities. The questions were all about reentry: the detainees’ had some good questions on how we reintegrated back into our family, community, and society; also how we found jobs with our criminal record. They asked how we were thinking before we became returning citizens, and how we prepared before we were released.
All of the detainees were intrigued about how we started the Reentry Anonymous group and what it is all about. Some asked if they can stay in contact with the group after their released. They also asked what challenges we overcame and how we overcame them. We simply told them what worked for each of us. For some of us, the key was persistence -- trying over and over again even when efforts to get a job, for instance, are not met with immediate success. For others the key was focusing on positive social relationships that do not undermine a person's progress.
The facility asked us if we can come again to do the same with another group and we will be pleased to do so. It is a rewarding experience going back to a correctional facility as visitors, not as inmates, in order to guide those who will soon take similar steps. Hopefully they can learn from our experiences so they will not commit the same mistakes and not feel defeated or end up going back to the same way of living that got them incarcerated in the first place.
Do not misunderstand me, there is a lot of work to be done in reentry. As we know the United States has the most people behind bars. The questions is when they go home how we are going to keep them home?
- Ramon Semorile, BCS Crew Supervisor and Bronx ReEntry Working Group Facilitator