Transitioning from a life behind bars to one back in the world isn’t easy. Many worry former inmates aren’t prepared for what happens then they’re released. 

One local jail is trying to change that. Norfolk City Jail is the first in Hampton Roads to host a resource fair, an event designed to connect inmates with programs to help them adjust to life outside of jail.  

“The things that we’re giving them today is not just going to help them for today,” explained re-entry counselor Gregory Thomas. “It’s going to help them long term down the road because they’ll have the resources and they can continue to go back to those resources until they can stand up on their own and do what they have to do.”

About 70 inmates getting ready to be released voluntarily attended Wednesday’s fair. Vendors included programs to help with everything from housing to finding a job. 

“I think some came out of curiosity and some came maybe out of peer pressure,” said Thomas. “We’re hoping once everyone leaves that they’ll all walk away with something that’s going to help them in the long run.”

Thomas and other organizers hope this program will help lower the number of inmates who reoffend and land back in jail. 

“A lot of times they’re coming back because they don’t know where resources are to help them stay out,” explained Cynthia Thompson with Second Chances.  

Studies have shown inmates who participate in some sort of educational program are 43 percent less likely to re-offend. The inmates we spoke with said they found this resource fair very helpful.

“I don’t have a lot of family down here,” said one inmate Sheldon Spruill. “And you know basically when I get out I have to find somewhere to stay so with housing and stuff that helps me out a whole lot.” 

Gregory Thomas says sometimes asking for help can be the hardest part. 

“They’re very reluctant to ask for help and they continue to do the same thing over and over again.” said Thomas. “They keep falling back into the same trap that they’ve been in most of their lives.”

Organizers of Norfolk City Jail’s Resource Fair say they plan to host events like this every six months.