LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Over 100 events are taking place in Arkansas corrections centers, prisons, and churches this week as part of Reentry Awareness Week.
Governor Asa Hutchinson declared April 26 through April 30 Reentry Awareness Week. Gov. Hutchinson stated, “Reentry provides offenders with the tools necessary to turn away from criminal behavior and embrace a better future where they are contributing to society and taking care of families.”
The Arkansas Department of Corrections believes that Reentry is not a specific program but rather a process that starts with those initially incarcerated and ends when they have been successfully reintegrated in the community. It focuses on providing offenders with the tools necessary to turn away from criminal behavior and embrace a better future where they are contributing to society and taking care of families.
Through the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office reentry program, Brian Riggs was able to get control of his life. He now has a house, and a wife and works with the Nehemiah House to help others break the cycle. Brian Ricks said through it all he learned this lesson.
“I define who I am. I’m not the choices that I’ve made. I’m not the label that they give you on the county tag. I’m who I’m created to be in the eyes of God, and the moment I accepted that is when my mind changed,” Ricks said.
According to the governor’s proclamation, at least 90% of state prison inmates will eventually be released. More than half have traditionally returned to prison within three years.
“Most people don’t know how to deal with their emotions,” Ricks explained. “As an addict, we try to hide them or things like that. What we do here is we give everyone the tools they need to do better.”
Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins helped give Ricks the tools he needed as a CSI teacher.
Higgins said, “People think it is some obscure thing that is crime. Crime is individuals that commit a crime or choose not to commit a crime, and when you have someone like Brian who comes through the program and wants to do something different, that’s exciting and that’s what you want to see, and it’s important that you tell that story.”
Ricks added, “If it wasn’t for the mentor and the foundation of the CSI program, I’d still be trying to do it by myself, and that’s where I was always failing.”
Learn more about reentry week and all its events HERE.