The Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center (NRADC) in Winchester held its first ever reentry career and resource fair for inmates Wednesday.
“We’ve invited a lot of local businesses out to talk to a lot of our inmates – everyone who’s within six months of their release date,” said James Whitley, NRADC superintendent.
“I know it’s going to be difficult to get back on my feet, so it’s nice that they have somebody who can help you with jobs or places to go, and I feel like it’ll be easier to get established once I’m out,” said Amber Duncan, NRADC inmate.
The resource fair is something the jail hopes to put on regularly.
“My hope is that we can do this at least twice a year,” said Theresa Bell, NRADC reentry services specialist. “What we want them to start thinking about is, ‘What’s going to happen when I step on the other side of that door? Do I have a plan?’”
Jail officials said events like this are beneficial for both inmates and the community.
“It enhances opportunities for these guys, so hopefully they’ll be getting employed and less likely to commit crime. So, we’re hoping it reduces recidivism,” Whitley said.
The Virginia Employment Commission, Winchester Social Services and the AIDS Response Effort are just a handful of the organizations that participated.
“A lot of times they may have needs for housing or literacy or substance abuse education, things like that to follow up for what they began here at the jail,” said Kim Chmura, chief at Old Dominion Court Services.
“My goal is to go out of business at some point. But I don’t see that happening,” Whitley said. “But anything I can do to reduce the numbers, I’m very happy with.”
According to Whitley, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s allocation of more resources toward reentry programs at jails helped make this possible.