CSOSA and D.C.’s Faith Based Community Help Ex-Offenders Reenter
March 4, 2011 1 Comment
For nine years, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) has been working alongside Washington D.C.’s faith-based community to help ex-offenders reenter society and avoid returning to prison. On Feb. 10 the two organizations celebrated the anniversary of their partnership with the Citywide Reentry Assembly, a staple event of the “30 Days of Reentry Reflection.”
What is described as one of the “foundation events” during the 30 days, the Citywide Reentry Assembly, which is held at the CSOSA headquarters in Saint Luke Catholic Church on East Capitol Street SE, recognizes the accomplishments of the mentorship program and encourages people to continue their work. The other goal is to provide the general public the opportunity to join the reentry effort.
Nathaniel Garvin is a Washington, D.C. native who returned home from prison 16 months ago. At this year’s assembly, he was named the mentee of the year for Cluster C, the faith-based mentorship program that operates in the northwest section of D.C.
Garvin described the reentry process as “tough.”
“I had a lot of people that wanted to see me do bad,” Garvin said. “I just put my foot forward and did what I had to do.”
With the help of the CSOSA/Faith Community Partnership, Garvin is currently working and taking classes online. He gives credit to the partnership for getting him an effective mentor.
Garvin’s mentor, Anthony Hawkins stood beside his mentee during the assembly as the Cluster C mentor of the year. He has been mentoring Garvin for a year and has been overall pleased with his mentee’s progress and effort.
“He’s [Garvin] willing to be a participant,” Hawkins said. “He will use what’s available to him to improve himself.”
Mr. Hawkins intends to work with Garvin until his objective of helping him reach independence has been achieved.
“My goal is to not keep him under my wing but to let him soar on his own,” said Hawkins.
As the reentry process was a difficult for Garvin, the mentorship process has been a challenge for Hawkins. Prior to the mentoring Garvin, Hawkins had worked with four to five other ex-offenders. Throughout his tenure, Hawkins said he has experienced different levels of success with the program. Nevertheless, he views the program as beneficial.
“It’s not always an easy task, but it’s a rewarding task,” said Hawkins about mentoring.
He also expressed the need for more mentors with the increasing number of “returning citizens,” but CSOSA’s mentor training program will help people become effective mentors.
Unlike Garvin, ex-offender Gene Nelson has repeatedly reentered society. He attributes his recidivism to not receiving the type of help offered by the CSOSA partnership. Since his most recent reentry in July, Nelson has had a difficult time getting his life back to normal.
Nelson took the initiative to attend the Feb. 10 reentry assembly to find out what CSOSA had to offer. He believes that the agency’s programs offer a “good opportunity” for ex-offenders, and that helping returning residents can solve the recidivism issue.
“We need to teach them [law enforcement] how to help us. Locking everybody up is not the solution to the problem, because the problem is still going to be there,” Nelson said.
Nelson also identifies the faith portion of the partnership as “the main thing.” He explained that in order to make it through the reentry process successfully, spiritual enlightenment and mentorship from spiritual individuals is necessary.
“You have to walk out in faith. You have to believe in something bigger than you. You have to have someone who will show you the way to do it and how to do it,” said Nelson.
Religious mentors like Hawkins use their faith as a means to lead by example.
“If people see how you walk, they will follow your footsteps,” said Hawkins. Through this method, Hawkins explained, the mentors can offer an alternative to federal aid and simultaneously “evangelize” to their mentees without “ramming religion down their throats.”
CSOSA provides several other services along with the faith-oriented programs. Yet, the overall goal of the organization remains the same. Associate director Hendricks said that the emergence of the partnership has allowed the expansion and development of CSOSA as well as raising public awareness of what the agency offers and needs to assist returning citizens.
“Through collaboration and partnership, we are able to inform the public about reentry, the needs men and women coming home have and hopefully recruit more soldiers and resources to help people come home and stay home,” Hendricks said.