Friday, April 29, 2016

Homeless Inmates Leaving Jail Receive Backpack Gift as Part of Re-Entry Program

It can be a struggle for any inmate to re-enter society after being released from jail. To ease the transition, the St. Mary's Detention Center has instituted a number of Re-Entry Programs. As the Re-Entry Coordinator for St. Mary's County, Correctional Officer First Class (CFC) Roberto Ramos-Blancos links inmates to various resources within the community, such as social services programs and housing. Still, for newly-released homeless inmates, the most basic items may seem out of reach.
When CFC Ramos-Blancos saw a basic need that hadn't been filled, he introduced the concept of ‘Welcome Packs’ to St. Mary's County. Upon release from the St. Mary's Detention Center, each homeless inmate is given a backpack full of personal hygiene products and basic protective weather gear. Inspired by the success of a similar program in Prince George’s County, Ramos-Blancos wanted to provide the same resources to local inmates.
“We empower inmates by connecting them with the resources they need to make a smooth transition back into the community. It’s a very rewarding experience to see them get their life straight with help from correctional officers,” says CFC Ramos-Blancos.
Captain Michael R. Merican, Corrections Division Commander, adds, “Re-entry Programs such as ‘Welcome Packs’ helps inmates to prepare for life outside of jail, by providing them with a head start. These kinds of support services decrease the likelihood that an inmate will become just another recidivism statistic, and ultimately end up back at the detention center.”

In addition to personal hygiene products, the ‘Welcome Packs’ contain a pair of socks, a hat and gloves, and a pair of underwear. Extras like an alarm clock, a non-perishable snack, and a pocket calendar have also been supplied to those in need. One unique element of the program: An individual note of encouragement written by Catholic Charity volunteers is carefully placed in each backpack. CFC Ramos-Blanco states that the St. Mary's County Detention Center has given out four backpacks since the program started in January of this year. 

(L-R Deputy Patrick Britt, Lt. Christa Morzes-Cook, and CFC Roberto Ramos-Blanco, hold a ‘Welcome Home’ Re-entry Program backpack. The backpacks are given to homeless inmates leaving the Detention Center, as part of the Re-Entry Program.