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Re-Link Program Works to Prevent Recidivism

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Across the United States, approximately 60% of prisoners are African American or Latino, and studies show that approximately two-thirds or those formerly incarcerated will likely be rearrested within three years of release.

The Re-Entry Community Linkages (Re-Link) program was launched in August 2016 as a response to systems failing this population. Through Re-Link, Arbor Circle works to improve health outcomes for minority and/or disadvantaged male re-entrants, ages 18-26, in transition from jail to their communities.

When an individual is released from jail, it can be difficult to move away from old patterns. As many re-entrants are lacking employment and stable housing, they will often turn back to the things that led them to jail in the first place. Through Re-Link, Arbor Circle’s Peer Navigators work to help create new patterns and healthy connections, starting from the moment an individual is released from jail. Peer Navigators will pick up the participants upon release, setting the tone for the relationship moving forward.

Arbor Circle’s staff includes three Peer Navigators: Todd Johnson, Mark Morgan and Shawn Rosser. Between the three of them, Re-Link is currently serving more than 50 clients, with an average age of 21 years old.  Peer Navigators have lived experience with incarceration, and serve as mentors for the Re-Link participants. They each have their own clients, but they also work closely together as a team. Because of their experiences, Peer Navigators have an understanding of what the participants may be going through, and are able to build relationships and trust in a way that others can’t. Through this relationship, Peer Navigators make connections between re-entrants and community-based organizations that provide links to health care, including behavioral health care services, health care coverage, and social services such as housing, adult education, and employment assistance programs.

Shawn Rosser started as a Peer Navigator in February 2017. Prior to joining the Re-Link team, Shawn worked in retail for many years. He’s always had a passion for helping people – while working in retail, he often built strong relationships his customers, listening to their problems and providing advice. Shawn wanted to take this passion and do more with it, which led him to Arbor Circle.

Today, Shawn is working with a total of 23 young men who have recently been released from jail. Having experienced similar struggles of his own in the past, Shawn understands what these men are going through. He works alongside them as they rebuild their lives, assisting them to find stable housing, employment and other services. Sometimes, he is there simply to listen and talk through their struggles. Other times, he’ll accompany them to community events or bring them to interviews and appointments.

“As soon as I got out, that dude was there,” one participant said about Shawn. “He stayed in contact with my family. With Shawn I can be who I am, there is no filter between us.”

Shawn Rosser, Peer Navigator at Arbor Circle

The Re-Link program is proving to be impactful. Although it has been around for just over a year, the program is growing rapidly due to word-of-mouth referrals. Of the participants who have been enrolled in the program for at least six months, there has been a 79% decline in annualized rearrests upon release.

One particular client stands out to Shawn as proof of the program’s impact. This young man has a wife and two kids, but after his release, he did not have stable housing. Through the Re-Link program, Shawn connected him with a local shelter. He moved in, and after a few months, he was able to bring his wife and kids into the shelter as well. The Re-Link program helped him gain employment, and both he and his wife worked hard to save money. Now, their family has a place of their own. Successes like this are what Shawn loves about his job.

In addition to collaborating with the Kent County Correctional Facility and Office of Community Corrections, Arbor Circle is also partnering with the Grand Rapids Urban League, Criminal Justice Chaplaincy, Cherry Health, Network 180, Health Net of West Michigan, Hope Network, Steepletown Neighborhood Services, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, and Research and Evaluation Associates to provide the Re-Link program.

To learn more about the program, please visit this page.

If you or a loved one are looking for services, give us a call at (616) 456-6571 to learn more about how we can help and what steps come next.