Norfolk City Jail resource fairs prove to be a success

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A new program at the Norfolk City Jail is trying to lower the recidivism rate and it’s working so well, they had to bring it back for a second time says Reentry Project Manager Gregory Thomas.

Agencies promoting healthcare, housing, job opportunities and much more tabled up at the jail’s second inmate resource fair.

“I think we had about 33 percent of the people that went through the first fair that actually reached out to some of the people who were resources,” explained Thomas. 

The fair gives inmates a chance to connect those behind bars with the tools they need to rise above when they get out.

“It just helps the men have some type of resources once they get out instead of going out in the community and doing the same things they were doing when they came in,” said Thomas. 

10 On Your Side spoke with one of the inmates attending the resource fair. “It’s a good feeling to know someone cares,” said inmate Justin Mask. He’s scheduled to be released in January and said he was making a list of people to call for help when the time comes. 

“Definitely, I’ll be giving them a call I’m going to try a list, exasperate all my options, you know, try my best,” Mask said with a hopeful smile. 

One of the goals of having a resource fair in the jail is to lower the recidivism rate–meaning keep those who have been incarcerated from getting arrested again after they’ve been released. 

“Often men and women who are incarcerated are forgotten about by society, and sometimes they feel unforgiven and stigmatized and so to be a part of coming into the jail and letting the men and women know they are valued and supported,” said Garden of Hope Chairman of the Vendor Kirk Houston.”It gives me hope for a better job instead of the average fast food the usual,” he said.

According to a November 2017 report from the Virginia Department of Corrections, Virginia has the lowest recidivism rate among the forty-five states that report three-year re-incarceration
rates for felons. 

Thomas says because of the resource fairs success, they plan on making this a semi-annual event. The next one will be held in June.

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