NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Norfolk Re-Entry Council hosted over 200 representatives from non-profits and businesses across the state for its annual Community Collaboration Re-Entry Summit at Ted Constant Convocation Center Monday.

Presenters shared resources to help current and former inmates reintegrate into their communities.

Keynote speaker Dr. Stanley Andrisse, author and founder of the organization Prison2Pro, shared that he was sentenced to ten years in prison following three felony convictions. He said he read and reflected while in prison, working his way through a drug rehabilitation program. His father died from Type-2 diabetes while he served his sentence, which sparked his interest in endocrinology.

Now, he is an endocrinologist and assistant professor of medicine at Howard University Medical School. He also authored a book, From Prison Cells to PhD: It is Never too Late to Do Good.

“If you give resources, access and opportunity, there’s even less of a chance that an individual will make a choice that lands them back in prison. Thus, making our community safer,” Andrisse said.

He said that inmates and former inmates should seek supportive communities, such as his organization Prison2Pro.

“We can be that for you, but I think re-entering is challenging. You need a support system,” he said. “If you’re coming from incarceration, there’s likely a lot of psychological scars, challenges, and trauma that you’re dealing with. Understand and be loving with yourself.”

Deidre Love, Founder and Executive Director of Norfolk-based Teens with a Purpose, said her group uses the arts to engage teens impacted by the criminal justice system.

“This kind of work gives us the opportunity to learn together, to share together and to build resources that are not just jobs and counseling. But to help young people process their life, talk to people who have a similar experience, and help them to see themselves as their possible ‘selves’,” Love said.

Love said that children and teens must be taught to value themselves enough to seek out resources to better their lives.

“We see you as human. That transformation in our community starts with recognizing that humanity in each other and lifting up people who haven’t been told ‘you’re beautiful, you’re valuable, you’re human, you’re worth it,” she said. 

The Norfolk Re-Entry Council meets at 9 a.m. on the third Friday of every month.

More information is available HERE.