By Rachel Leber
MONROE, La. — While getting out of prison is generally a celebrated moment for inmates, the fact of returning to society after a long period of incarceration can be a daunting prospect for most. The Louisiana Reentry Program (LA-Re) in Monroe is a new ex-offender re-entry program just announced on March 22,, and is designed to support and serve those returning to society after serving time in jail.
LA-Re came from a partnership between the Monroe-based Northeast Delta Human Services Authority (NE Delta HSA) and Goodwill Industries of NELA in Monroe. The mission of the organization “seeks to address the socio-economic issues that increase recidivism among the formerly incarcerated,” according to a recent statement.
Louisiana releases approximately 18,000 men and women from jail each year, according to LA-Re. Countless obstacles and barriers quickly make themselves painfully clear upon release — such as finding prospects for employment, housing, health care and education. La-Re’s statistics show that 14 percent of ex-offenders will return to prison within the first year of release and that that number will grow significantly to 49 percent by the time five years have passed.
LA-Re considered these statistics in its efforts to reduce recidivism in Louisiana. If successful in reducing these statistics by even 10 percent, Louisiana will save more than $3 million, not to mention the important benefits of human rehabilitation, successful re-entry and long-term success for as many people as possible.
“Finding innovative ways to help solve significant societal problems are at the heart of what we do at NE Delta HSA,” said Dr. Sizer, executive director at NE Delta HSA in a recent statement. “Our Louisiana Reentry Program is an example of us working across governmental systems to help meet the mental, physical, addiction and workforce needs of citizens being released to our region from Louisiana’s overburdened prisons and jails.”
The program is offered explicitly to non-violent offenders with either mental health or addiction issues who are within 90 days of release from their sentence. Participants in the program are those who will return to the Ouachita Parish from the Ouachita Correctional Center and other state correctional facilities. During the program, inmates are matched up with social workers who will help them to strategize and plan for re-entry. In addition, participants may be admitted to any one of NE Delta HSA’s many inpatient and outpatient mental health and addiction clinics for treatment.
Additionally, throughout the duration of the program, participating ex-offenders will have access to a plethora of NE Delta HSA’s support services. These services include a gambling support services, developmental disability services, overall prevention, a tobacco cessation program, workforce training and placement services. NE Delta HSA has many health care partners in the fields of medical, dental and vision care, which are potentially made available to participants in the program.
“Innovation, integration and collaboration are some of the keys to resolving an entrenched social problem like incarceration,” said Dr. Sizer in a recent statement. “And while governmental agencies like NE Delta HSA should and can do its part, it will not be enough to solve this complex problem alone. We will need houses of faith, the business community, law enforcement, nonprofits, housing developers, educational institutions and families, to name a few, to work with us to help mitigate this issue.”