Blount County CPR organizes to receive former inmates

11,000 to be released statewide this year, according to ADECA

The first meeting of the Blount County Community Partnership for Recovery and Reentry (CPR) was a resounding success, according to organizer Ray Sport, with nearly 30 people attending, as well as a dozen churches and a half dozen or more state, regional, and local agencies represented.

A number of participants spoke, some on the official program and others extemporaneously. Ken Burroughs of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) described Gov. Riley’s vision for local CPR groups to provide local mentors for former inmates returning to the county to identify and meet their needs for re-integration into the community mainstream. Burroughs said some 11,000 inmates, men and women, will be released from state prisons this year. ADECA has been assigned to assist local CPR groups in getting established to absorb this population back into their communities.

Deborah Daniels of Birmingham, director of the Prison Fellowship Ministry, identified the basic needs of all former inmates: friends and church support, housing, transportation, documentation (driver’s license/social security card), job training and placement, and access to mental health assistance.

Many need mental health help

Glenn Bynum, pastor of Pleasant Mount Baptist Church and another member of the core group of CPR organizers, explained after the meeting that a considerable number of released inmates have various emotional and mental disorders, including a high incidence of bi-polar disorder. The disorder is treatable with medication, but a major problem with all bi-polar sufferers, not just those who have been in prison, is to keep them on their medication.

Phillip Cleveland of the Wallace State adult education division volunteered GED training at no cost for returning former inmates. Bud Jones, director of Hope House, described a number of programs already being provided by that agency for those who have encountered the legal system, and Darryl Wheeler of Community Corrections described the programs being carried out by that agency.

“I was overjoyed with the meeting,” said Sport. “The state men were like little boys they were so excited. They said this was the best meeting in the state so far. With Hope House and Community Corrections and the things they’re already doing, we’ve got a base we can build on that some other counties don’t have.”

Sport: more needs than anyone can imagine

Sport said at least 12 churches were represented at the meeting, including four or five different denominations. Some of them already have ministries addressing needs of prison inmates, both before and after their release from incarceration. “This is where we have to look for the manpower we need, and I think some of those churches will step up to the needs. There are more needs out there than anyone can imagine. There’s plenty of work for those churches and more, and I hope we’ll continue to draw them to into our group,” he said.

The next meeting is tentatively set for Thursday, Feb. 5. On the agenda will be electing officers, developing a mission statement, and beginning to organize efforts directed at filling gaps in what is already available. Organizers have mentioned a halfway house as a future goal, but stress the importance of meeting immediate needs first. The time of day and place of the next meeting will be announced later.