Making a difference one county at a time, Project Re-entry resides in 16 counties across North Carolina. Different from others, they give a new name to the idea of ‘re-entry’. While many prisons offer some sort of reentry program, this particular one provides intensive pre-release and post-release services to those currently and formerly incarcerated. Looking for a position where you can give back and better your community? Then you have found the right place.
What They Do
Around five months before an inmate’s release, he or she can qualify to join the reentry program. This consists of a 16 week group course that helps re-acclimate prisoners to daily life outside of the cell walls. The group curriculum takes prisoners through the changes and information about the outside world that they missed out on. Project Re-entry also provides personal care, whether they need to know how to tie a tie or how to sit at the DMV for a driver’s license — even how to send a text message. They also have a post release program that works with prisoners 90 days after their release. This can consist of case management, counseling, employment training and more.
From starting as just a dream and still running out of a building shared with Goodwill, it has turned into quite the saving grace for many former prisoners. “The unique partnership with Goodwill Industries of NWNC has given us the avenue to expand Project Re-entry by providing funding for staff. The remaining funds come from grants,” Project Family Engagement Coordinator Tonja Fultz said. Many employees have spent some time behind bars which makes Project Re-entry such a unique organization. Their dedication for helping others going through this experience truly makes the difference.
Who We Help
Project Re-Entry helps many prisoners get back on their feet and understand the differences between life in and out of prison. Along with helping those inside the cells, they also help families of those imprisoned. This organization gives different services and support to the children and other family members. They also work with the inmates to ensure they can care for their child once released, attend classes on different daily struggles and get the support that many do not receive once leaving prison. Since many may not feel prepared to care for their children afterwards, Project Family works to make that a fear of the past. Many prisoners get released from jail and end up falling back into the cycle of crime due to the difficulties that they face alone. But with these services, they receive more of a fresh start and have someone beside them — someone who may have even done it before — to walk them through it.
What It’s Really Like
The energy at Project Re-Entry positively differs from many other work spaces. “Everyone is so passionate about the work. Some of the employees have been incarcerated, while some haven’t, but all are equally committed to helping former offenders. It is the type of job that someone will do only if they love the work,” Project Re-Entry Intern Seth Wood said. They put on and partake in many different events — even a Family Fun Day where you can face paint till your heart’s content. Nothing compares to getting to put a smile on those kids faces and leave even just a little impact on their lives. You can also go to different Re-Entry events around North Carolina, including reentry simulations where you get to try and replicate what struggles former inmates face after release. You get to meet so many other people intrigued by the process and wanting to help. Passion makes all the difference in this business because it showcases a want to help these people not an obligation.
What You’ll Learn
Depending on the position, your level of interaction may differ. Many people, however, don’t fully understand the frustrations that former prisoners experience once released. “Numerous small obstacles add to the difficulties of former offenders’ reentering society. I knew there would be stigma involved and it may be difficult to get a job, but there are many actions a former offender is required to take once they are released,” Wood said. From not having a state ID to not having enough money to meet with parole officers, many times it seems that former offenders don’t get the help they need to succeed. Seeing the difficulties and negative connotation attached to these former inmates for yourself creates a strong desire for change in the reentry system.
How to Get Involved
Getting involved at Project Re-Entry takes you just a few clicks. “We have had many students that have wanted to complete their internship with us to learn more about reentry, how reentry may be different that was they thought, and how our participants are successful. They send an email to Tonja Fultz,” Founder of Project Re-Entry Rebecca Sauter said. Sending an email to Tonja Fultz gets your foot in the door. With no resume needed, the email to Tonja may result in an interview. The interview comes with little stress, as they really just want to see why you want to become a part of Project Re-Entry and what you can bring to the organization. The employers would love to see you passionate about helping and excited about wanting to partake in the work they do.
Skills That Impress Them
In this type of work environment, skills that impress differ from a normal “desk job.” In this case having real experience going through the reentry helps with the skill set. Going through the process yourself helps them make improvements in the curriculum by seeing what differences you would have liked to see in the process. “We believe that passion is a key in identifying potential candidates/student interns. Not everyone can or wants to work with “those people” and that is okay. Our participants deserve a case manager that wants to truly see them succeed,” Project Family Engagement Coordinator Tonja Fultz said. You can’t teach drive, but it can make or break their final employment decision. Having the ability to interact comfortably with people from all different backgrounds also comes in handy when attending different types of events. Project Re-Entry welcomes people from all different walks of life and backgrounds, so no need to panic about stressing for perfection.
This type of work doesn’t fit everyone but Project Re-entry wants to make a difference in their communities and see a change in how former offenders cope and deal with daily life. It can all start with you. When looking for different positions, don’t shy away from showing your colors because the real you makes you stand out from the crowd. “Companies are interested in people who take initiative and have a positive attitude. Many employers value potential employees who fit into their culture that the company has established,” Wood said. With an environment full of devoted employees, you want to express your own desire to them because at the end of the day, the “want” to help others must shine through. Hopefully Project Re-Entry continues to grow as people begin to see the impact they have on not only the lives of the formerly incarcerated but on the families as well.