NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office wants its inmates to leave prepared for life after incarceration. That’s why it hosted its semi-annual resource fair for 150 inmates on Wednesday.
Sheriff Joe Baron says he tasked jail staff with working on three different issues: employee morale, community outreach and inmate programs that can make a difference.
The resource fair, which featured different opportunities and assistance ranging from housing to yoga to Medicaid, helps provide inmates the basic necessities they’ll need once they get out.
“We can get them out of survival mode and into a mode where they feel like they’re part of the community and contributing to the community, that’s evidence based on info we know. We can get them to that point where they’re less likely to commit crimes and less likely to come back to jail,” Baron said.
The inmates 10 On Your Side spoke with agreed that this help would keep them out.
“It gives you hope. When we leave, we don’t think we have any options. We don’t have any housing. It gives us an opportunity and be more confident that we have somewhere to go. We have something. We have a community to go to. It’s really empowering because we don’t feel lost. We feel we have somewhere. We belong somewhere and it builds a lot of confidence in ourselves,” said Sarah Bernhim, who has been incarcerated since May.
Kirkland Edwards, another inmate, said he’s already been involved with other educational programs provided by the jail and believes the resources provided will continue to help him prepare for his next chapter of life.
“It’s a warm atmosphere as you can see. All my fellow inmates are with us today to get all the information they need to make themselves a better person for tomorrow,” he said.
Linda Parks, who has been incarcerated three times, promised this would be her last time as a result of resources.
“This past year has been kind of difficult. I’ve lost my son in the past year to death,” she said.
She said there are opportunities she now hopes to take advantage of.
“Seeing I have friends, made friends, that I can do better. I’m growing. I can do a lot better in life than I have in the past,” she said.