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Herbert Henderson Office Of Minority Affairs Hosts Summit, Part Of Governor Tomblin's Justice Reinvestment Initiative
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (July 15, 2014) – As part of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s justice reinvestment initiative, the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs (HHOMA), in conjunction with the Partnership of African American Churches (PAAC) and the West Virginia Division of Corrections hosted the Moral Rehabilitation Initiative & Faith Leaders Response Summit to find ways to help inmates and former offenders transition into society after completing their sentence. Joining the effort was Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action (KISRA).
“The summit was a great opportunity to share information about existing assistance programs for offender-reentry as well as identify ways state government, clergy and community members can give those re-entering our communities the best opportunities to lead more productive lives,” said Dr. Carolyn Stuart, executive director of HHOMA. “By coming together to share what programs are available, we’re able to connect people with job training, education and job opportunities available to them.”
Summit leaders also led discussions focused on finding ways to streamline processes for restoring driver’s licenses and voting rights, securing Social Security cards, finding housing, transportation and substance-abuse treatment programs and support for reconciliation efforts with family members and children.
“These are the types of programs and processes that must be in place to support successful re-entry into our communities,” Stuart said. “We want folks to have a better understanding of our state’s justice reinvestment efforts, and we look forward to continuing our work with local organizations to ensure vibrant, healthy communities.”
Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein said 90 percent of all inmates return to society, so it is essential that they “be prepared to be productive and that we give them the tools they need to be successful.”
Ray “Rocky” Meadows, whose former life of crime and incarceration was fueled by a 24-year addiction, was one of several former inmates and parolees who joined faith-based community leaders at the summit to share his story and the difficulties he experienced when re-entering society.
Meadows turned his life around after his best friend was killed during a drug-induced night that resulted in Meadows’ 34th arrest. After spending a total of 10 years of his life in prison, Meadows began his journey toward sobriety, guided by his faith, and now helps others accomplish similar personal victories. He founded The Lifehouse in Huntington, a nonprofit organization that helps men and women recover from alcohol and drug abuse by providing support and services.
“We are making justice reform a reality in West Virginia and are seeing significant progress and early signs of success,” Gov. Tomblin said. “By bringing communities together, we are identifying successful ways to help former offenders become contributing members of their community. With the right types of services, including workforce training programs and access to community-based substance abuse treatment programs, we can reduce the likelihood of re-offenses, invest in West Virginia’s future and make our communities a safer place to call home.”
In May 2013, Gov. Tomblin signed into law the West Virginia Justice Reinvestment Act – a comprehensive, bipartisan plan to improve the effectiveness of West Virginia’s criminal justice system. With the help of CSG Justice Center and West Virginia’s judges, the state’s justice system has implemented new policies to reduce the number of repeat offenders by supporting workforce training programs and ensuring access to community-based substance abuse treatment.
Established by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in March 2012, the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs is committed to advancing equality for all minorities across West Virginia and developing innovative ways to address issues affecting minorities through integrity, leadership and collaboration.
Dr.Carolyn Stuart 304.558.3179