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New grant program will support men leaving Arlington County jail

Jail entrance at the Arlington County Detention Facility

New grant funding will expand re-entry services for men incarcerated in Arlington County jail as they prepare to return home.

The $750,000 grant, available for three years, comes from the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Local nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration, which provides 60% of the transition services offered at the Arlington County Detention Facility through the Community Readiness Unit (CRU), applied for the grant in May.

OAR has been heavily involved in the CRU since its inception seven years ago. The organization decided to fundraise to support their existing work and do more, according to Executive Director Elizabeth Jones Valderrama.

The new program “will have major long-term public safety benefits and will provide people coming home with badly needed support,” Valderrama said in a statement. “Research shows that in order to mitigate against the harm and discrimination that impact those who are incarcerated, individuals must have access to robust wraparound programming both before and after release.”

CRU provides daily programming on topics such as parenting, conflict resolution, healthy relationships, entrepreneurship, ethics, social justice, wellness and substance use regulation, she said. OAR also offers job training, therapy and basic Spanish.

Dubbed “Project Second and Fair Chances for Individuals and Families,” the plan includes hiring additional staff and purchasing more resources to improve its offerings. It will allow the nonprofit to work with 40 men nine months prior to their release and up to 18 months after their release.

Valderrama told ARLnow the grant will pay for:

  • two new therapeutic staff and additional therapeutic resources.
  • a new tool to evaluate participants and identify appropriate therapeutic supports and post-release plan
  • a third-party evaluator to gauge participants’ success and identify gaps in the nonprofit’s funding programming

Men who participate in the new program will have access to a range of pre-release services, including:

  • risk assessments
  • one-on-one reentry coaching and planning
  • weekly workshops about subjects like co-parenting, employment retention and conflict resolution
  • cognitive-behavioral therapies and psychotherapy

After their release, OAR’s “Project Second and Fair Chances for Individuals and Families” will provide:

  • intensive case management
  • psychotherapy
  • facilitated support groups
  • family support and reunification
  • referrals for educational and vocational training

“Currently, OAR follows participants for three months-post release before transitioning them to other partners,” Valderrama tells ARLnow. “The grant will allow OAR to do more for participants, for a longer period of time after release.”

After the money runs out in three years, OAR will need to seek out more funding to sustain the program.

The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office said it is thrilled to keep working with OAR and expanding resources for incarcerated individuals.

“Most of those incarcerated will return to our community and my staff and I are committed to offering programs and additional services to help their transition and ensure their success,” said Sheriff Beth Arthur in a statement to ARLnow.

In her statement, Valderrama said the grant will mostly serve to uplift Black men as they transition back to their communities.

“Seventy percent of OAR’s reentry participants are Black, compared to only 4-12% of the Arlington area, which reflects the institutional racism and anti-Blackness pervading our country and the criminal legal system,” Valderrama said.

Additionally, 80% live in poverty and 40% experience homelessness after their release, according to OAR.

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