Salisbury Safe Streets Program to Aid Ex-Inmates
02/02/2012
Daily Times - Online, The

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QUANTICO -- A multiagency effort supported by funding from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention will soon yield a pilot program aimed at providing job readiness training to ex-inmates.

In early April, 10 outgoing inmates from the Eastern Correctional Institution will be chosen to participate in a trial run of the Offender Re-Entry Program through the Poplar Hill Pre-Release Unit.

Roughly $35,000 has been reallocated from Salisbury's fiscal year 2011 Safe Streets Grant to fund the program.

ECI warden Kathleen Green said the program's intention is to prepare inmates so they can successfully integrate back into society and not become repeat offenders.

"They become tax-paying, law-abiding citizens and there are less inmates in our correctional facilities and booking centers, and less work for our law enforcement agencies," Green said.

According to Mayor Jim Ireton, the inmates must be Salisbury residents and must be eligible for work release.

They will complete a four-week employment class conducted by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Inmates will then attend classes at the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation's training center for pre-appren-ticeship training in building maintenance, including drywall installation and painting.

Upon completion of these classes, inmates will enter a work preparedness course offered by Goodwill.

Inmates will then be placed into work or apprenticeship opportunities at local businesses and organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Salisbury Ministerial Alliance. Released inmates will be monitored to ensure they are gainfully employed and their employment is within their training area. They will be asked to attend monthly meetings to discuss their job status, serve on an orientation panel for ex-offenders entering the program and serve as mentors to other inmates after they're released.

Ireton said the program is part of the community's effort to become more proactive, rather than reactive.

"We need to do this especially for our African-American male population, so they don't have to approach their mayor and ask for help finding a job," he said. "The first thing they will tell you is (they're unemployed) because they had to mark off on their job application that they have committed a crime."

Police Chief Barbara Duncan said her department will actively participate in the program, which she believes will "go a long way" in the community.

"This is a natural fit for law enforcement," Duncan said. "The SPD comes in contact with former prisoners on a daily basis."

The city is in its third year as the pilot site for Gov. Martin O'Malley's Safe Streets program, which supports violent crime reduction through multiagency collaboration and information sharing.

Virginia Geckler, chief of policy, research and training for GOCCP, said Salisbury has become a model Safe Streets community for other municipalities throughout the state.

"I see the (Offender Re-Entry Program) as a microcosm of what Safe Streets is already doing -- bringing people to the table, in this case to transform lives," Geckler said.