Attorney General, White House Champion of Change Coming to Alabama for National Reentry Week
BIRMINGHAM – U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Daryl Atkinson, a White House Champion of Change and the Department of Justice’s first Second Chance Fellow, will be in north Alabama next week to participate in National Reentry Week events that will focus attention on the importance of helping ex-offenders build successful lives when they come out of prison, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.
The attorney general will visit the Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega on Friday to highlight reentry programs in the prison.
Atkinson, an Alabama native, served three and a half years in an Alabama prison after pleading guilty in 1996 to a first-time, non-violent drug crime. He is now an attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in North Carolina, where he focuses on criminal justice reform issues, particularly removing the legal barriers triggered by contact with the criminal justice system.
The Justice Department designated April 24-30 as National Reentry Week to encourage and highlight work being done across the country to make the nation’s criminal justice system more fair, efficient and effective at reducing recidivism, and to help ex-offenders build fruitful lives and contribute to their communities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama has organized events throughout the week across the district, including a reentry simulation, a roundtable discussion with former inmates, and reentry programs for inmates nearing the end of their sentences at both Talladega FCI and the women’s Federal Correctional Institution in Aliceville.
“As Alabama struggles to reform its prison system, we should use proven methods to support people returning to the community from prison find employment and lead law-abiding lives,” Vance said. “Our events this week are designed to educate the community about barriers to successful reentry and the benefits to society when we help overcome those barriers, including reduced crime, lower prison costs and an expanded work force.”
Atkinson will speak at the beginning of the reentry simulation on Tuesday, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the National Alumni House on the University of Alabama at Birmingham Campus. He is a living example of someone who served his sentence, faced many obstacles when he left prison, but overcame them and now works to shape reentry policy and practice at the federal level.
The reentry simulation is a role-playing exercise designed to give participants an understanding of the often overwhelming day-to-day barriers that someone coming out of prison faces in seeking a job, a driver’s license, housing, or transportation.
Another key event during the week is a reentry and employment roundtable at The Dannon Project from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday. The Dannon Project is a non-profit organization that provides services, including counseling and job training, to people coming out of prison. Dannon also works with employers to find appropriate job placements and provides support to both employer and employee to encourage success on the job.
The roundtable will serve as a listening session for local businesses and civic leaders to hear from Dannon’s clients about the importance of having job opportunities so that they can support themselves and their families and become positive role models in their communities.
Other events throughout the week will include two law enforcement crime intervention call-ins and a dinner gathering for recently released individuals and their families at the new state day reporting center in Birmingham to discuss the importance of family support to successful reentry.
The call-in as part of the Birmingham Violence Reduction Initiative will be held on Wednesday. This call-in of people identified as high-risk for committing or becoming a victim of violent crime will be the fourth call-in for the Birmingham VRI. Law enforcement will offer the opportunity for participants, who already are under probation or parole supervision, to connect with community resources, but also will deliver a strong message of hard consequences for individuals or the members of any group they associate with if the call-in participants engage in violent crime, particularly gun crime.
The Jefferson County call-in is scheduled for Monday. Participants called in for that meeting with law enforcement will be recently released state and federal offenders who are returning to Jefferson County. They will be provided information about community service providers that can help them successfully reintegrate into society.