Three Receive December Think Legacy Director’s Excellence Award
CONGRATULATIONS to Lisa Free, Grievance Officer at the Ester Unit, Linda Hill, Pine Bluff Unit Training Instructor, and Kerri Kocourek, Think Legacy Facilitator/Program Specialist at the McPherson Unit, for all being selected as recipients of the Think Legacy Director’s Excellence Award for December 2018!
Ms. Kocourek was recognized for going above and beyond to assist the Think Legacy Reentry Program participants in ensuring that they’re ready for success upon release from incarceration. Furthermore, in addition to researching evolving reentry practices, Ms. Kocourek works diligently to promote new mentors, volunteers, and stakeholders to assist the McPherson Think Legacy Program.
In acknowledgement for being an asset to the Think Legacy Reentry Program, Ms. Free and Ms. Hill were also recognized. While both of these employees are tasked with numerous responsibilities vital to ADC operations, they are always willing to lend an extra hand to support the agency’s reentry program efforts when needed. Ms. Free and Ms. Hill have assisted with numerous Think Legacy events, including employee workshops. Recently, the Hawkins Unit hosted an event held over a five-day period called, “Girl, Wash Your Face,” which required a great deal of assistance to accomplish. Ms. Free and Ms. Hill both demonstrated a willingness to help with the initiative through contribution of their time and talents, which had a direct impact on the success of the first-time event!
We appreciate all of your efforts in “Going the Extra Mile” to advance our Reentry efforts, ladies!
"Cooking Matters" Graduation Held at Hawkins Unit
On Thursday, November 1, 2018, a “Cooking Matters” graduation was held at the Hawkins Unit! The Think Legacy Reentry Program participants utilized the cooking skills they learned during the eight-week course to prepare homemade pizza for all Think Legacy Reentry Program participants. Deputy Warden Inman served as the class facilitator that evening, and a great time was had by all! View all of the photos on our Facebook page!!!
Representatives of National Reentry Programs Visit Hawkins Think Legacy Reentry Participants
The Hawkins Unit Think Legacy Reentry Program received a special surprise on October 31, 2018 when several people flew in from different states representing the groups, Cut 50 Foundation and The Ladies of Hope Ministries!
Topeka K. Sam of New York is one of the creators of Hope House NYC, an initiative of The Ladies of Hope Ministries, which empowers women by providing a safe housing space, a supportive community of women, mentorship and guidance for formerly incarcerated women to successfully reenter life after prison. Ms. Sam received information about the reentry efforts within the Arkansas Department of Correction and decided to make a visit with her friends from the Cut 50 Foundation, which travels around the globe to speak to incarcerated individuals about resources that are available during and after incarceration!
Grimes Unit Holds Mock Job Interviews for Think Legacy Reentry Program Participants
The Grimes Unit held mock job interviews on October 24, 2018 for participants in the Think Legacy Reentry Program. Mock interviews serve as a valuable tool to help prepare inmates for their reentry back into the free world, where they will be faced with finding employment following their release.
A big THANK YOU goes to the unit’s staff members who served on the interview panel – Sgt. John Sparks, Mrs. Tanya Higgins, and Mrs. Niki Naracon. The team provided a great deal of relevant information and feedback that all of the participants found to be helpful. Gratitude also goes to B-Shift Security and the rest of Team Grimes for making an event such as this run smoothly!
A Familiar Face Returns to EARU as Think Legacy Graduation Speaker
A Think Legacy graduation was held on October 17, 2018 at the East Arkansas Regional Unit (EARU). One of the things that stood out about the event is the guest speaker was someone with whom the program participants could relate. A former ADC inmate who served two stints for separate charges from 1995 through 2010, Diego Rodriguez is a living, breathing reentry success story! He’s someone who made a number of poor choices before making changes for the better following his final incarceration. Once a Hispanic gang leader within the walls of prison, Rodriguez is now functioning well as a parolee serving his community as a minister. He shared a powerful and encouraging message with the Think Legacy graduates who all personally knew or recognized him for having previously served time alongside them. Rodriguez’s presence at the event served as a true symbol that a successful reentry back in society is possible!
EARU Think Legacy graduation speaker Diego Rodriguez (right), who served mulitple prison stints, worked for Jeremy Andrews on several occasions thoughout the Warden's career -- all the way back to the days that he was a Sergeant in 1995 to when he was a Major in 2010 and Rodriguez received parole.
First-Ever Think Legacy Reentry Program Graduation Held at the McPherson Unit
On October 5, 2018, the McPherson Unit hosted their first-ever Think Legacy Reentry Program graduation! B.J. Brady, Director of Reentry Services at Quapaw Rehabilitation, Quintin Stephens from Goodwill of Arkansas, and Nicole Smart, Think Legacy Treatment Supervisor, spoke at the graduation.
Several of the Think Legacy Reentry Program mentors also addressed the group in regards to what it takes to ensure a successful transition when released. The Dance to Be Free participants surprised the graduates by performing a dance they choreographed for the occasion. Rounding out the special event, cake and punch were served to all Think Legacy Reentry participants who took part in the celebration!
Voss and Frazier Receive Think Legacy Director’s Excellence Award
CONGRATULATIONS to Twona Frazier, Assistant Reentry Coordinator, and Denese Voss, Hawkins Unit Program Specialist, for being selected for the Think Legacy’s Director’s Excellence Award for September 2018!
An “Entrepreneur Class” was held at the Wrightsville-Hawkins Unit on Friday, September 21, 2018. A great deal of planning and collaboration went into the event, which focused on home-based business and career opportunities for Think Legacy participants. Ms. Frazier and Ms. Voss managed to effortlessly put together a program from which participants not only gained a lot of knowledge, but had a great time as well!
Thank you for “Going the Extra Mile” to authenticate the Think Legacy Reentry Program, ladies!
ADC Director Wendy Kelley presented the award to Ms. Frazier.
Entrepreneur Class for Reentry Program Participants Held at Wrightsville-Hawkins Unit
Think Legacy participants took part in an Entrepreneur Class at the Wrightsville-Hawkins Unit on Friday, September 21, 2018. Instructors Twona Frazier and Nicole Smart facilitated the class, which focused on how to build a home-based business and career. Following class instruction, the participants were able to take part in the hands-on activity of creating their own all-natural bath fizzes, a.k.a. “bath bombs.”
While information regarding other business opportunities was also provided, the goal of the Entrepreneur Class was to direct participants to ‘think outside the box’ and envision a successful reentry back into their communities following release from prison. Since many end up returning to the same negative subculture experienced before their incarceration, a creative idea could be a true catalyst for successful change versus falling back into a lifestyle of destructive routines and patterns.
Participants expressed their gratitude for having the opportunity to obtain the practical information in an enjoyable way. Afterwards, participants were asked if they had ever dreamed of opening their own business. While the majority had not, many indicated that they can now envision it as a possibility!
The Think Legacy Program extends a special ‘thank you’ to Deputy Warden Billy Inman for his support and assistance in not only this event, but all of the other programs at the unit, which promote successful reentry. Appreciation also goes to Denese Voss, Program Specialist at the unit, for her assistance as well!
North Central Unit Think Legacy Graduation Held
The Think Legacy Program at the ADC North Central Unit recently conducted a graduation ceremony for particpants who successfully completed the six-month program. Pictured above from left to right (back row): Ms. Onnafay Downard, Think Legacy Coordinator; Christopher Andrews; Andrew Schubert, NCU Mental Health Specialist; Jack Hansen; Rich Fischer, Think Legacy volunteer; James Chaney; Gary Boehler; NCU Warden Stephen Williams, (front row) Bobby Brown; Charles Campbell; Joshua Coleman; and Lloyd Hughes. The program provides inmate participants with skills, tools and training aimed at positioning them to be successful upon release.
National Author Shares Her Message of Hope with Think Legacy Program Participants at Three Arkansas Prisons
Susan Burton, author of the book, “Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women,” met with the Think Legacy Program participants at the McPherson Unit on June 27th and the Hawkins and Wrightsville Units on June 28th.
Ms. Burton shared her story of spending 20 years in prison – on and off – following the death of her young son and how the tragedy fueled a drug addiction for many years. She revealed that it was after 20 years of incarceration that she made the decision to ‘forgive,’ which allowed her to turn her focus onto a different lifestyle.
This change in direction paved the way for her to open a safe house for women in Los Angeles, California following her final release. That number has since grown to five houses, and after many years of trials and tribulations, Ms. Burton is living her dream!
Her message to the Think Legacy Program participants was an encouraging one about setting goals and achieving them. She graciously donated copies of her book to all of the Think Legacy participants, and signed them before departing!
The Think Legacy Program is honored to have been chosen for this event and was happy to welcome Ms. Burton to Arkansas!
Think Legacy Program participants at the McPherson Unit enjoyed getting
to meet Ms. Burton and have their books signed!
Ms. Burton’s talk left the Think Legacy Program participants at the Hawkins Unit feeling encouraged and uplifted!
The Think Legacy Program participants and Wrightsville Unit Deputy Warden Claudia Harris
presented a plaque of appreciation to Ms. Burton, of which she was happy to receive!
McPherson Unit's "Dance To Be Free" Program Receives Visit from Colorado Instructor
Katherine Shoulders, a "Dance To Be Free" instructor from Colorado, visited the McPherson Unit on June 27th. The unit’s instructors were able to demonstrate their own choreography for music she previously sent to them and it was amazing!
Veteran's Outreach Program Created at Ester Unit
The Veteran’s Outreach Program committee at the Ester Unit has worked diligently for the past several months to create a program for the veterans housed at the unit to include a:
• barracks that solely houses veterans
• recreational yard
• garden that includes flowers and plants
The name of the program is “Restoring Honor.” Mr. Richard Norris, Jonesboro Veteran’s Outreach, made a personal donation of flags for the daily flag detail that is initiated, and Lowe’s in Pine Bluff made a generous donation of flowers and plants. Corporal McBride and Deputy Warden Gray hope to expand the garden by adding vegetables in the future. We are extremely grateful for their contributions to these worthwhile efforts!
In addition, Corporal McBride has created a newsletter called the “Veteran’s Voice,” which can be viewed HERE. Take a look to learn more about the program and their activities.
We want to say a sincere THANK YOU to all of our Veteran’s Outreach Program committee members and GREAT job, Corporal McBride, for going the extra mile to make a difference!
Inmates Participate in Mock Job Interviews
From White River Current – Publication Date: March 1, 2018
Inmates at the ADC North Central Unit (NCU) enrolled in the Think Legacy re-entry program recently participated in mock job interviews. Preparing for and practicing job interviews is one component of a comprehensive Job Search Skills Training program developed and delivered by White River Current co-publisher Rich Fischer of Calico Rock.
Think Legacy includes a variety of programs on a number of different topics with the aim of positioning inmates for success upon release. The 13 week Job Search Skills Training program, one of those encompassed within Think Legacy, consists of three modules: Resume Creation (5 wks), Job Interviewing (5 wks) and Targeting Potential Employers & Networking (3 wks). This year marks the third year that Fischer has delivered the training program at the NCU.
“Conducting mock job interviews was not originally part of the training when first designed,” commented Fischer. “It was added in response to inmate feedback and requests, and I must say has been a resounding success.” Figuring out the logistics of just how to conduct practice interviews with 50 inmates in a room presented a challenge, however with some thought and support from the NCU staff it was made to happen.
The mock interviews involve panels of three or four interviewers who then are joined by an inmate interviewee who responds to some of the top ten questions normally asked as well as questions the panel develops based on a review of the inmate’s resume and/or the type of job for which he is applying. Guest, non-inmate interviewers are also included on each panel when possible, many of whom are volunteers from the community.
Following each interview the panel then offers feedback and constructive criticism to the inmate interviewee aimed at providing them with ways in which they might improve their answers and overall interviewing skills. Such things as maintaining eye contact, awareness of one’s body language and keeping answers short and to the point are often points of feedback offered by the panel.
“From what I can tell, the main reason these men come back into the system after being released is their inability to get a good job,” concluded Fischer. “What this program attempts to do is to provide inmates with the tools and skills to be successful in their job search such that they can become contributing members of society.”
Anyone wishing to learn more about the Think Legacy program or how they might volunteer is encouraged to contact program coordinator, Cprl Onnafay Downard at the North Central Unit at 870-297-4311.
Photos/Narrative by Rich Fischer
Think Legacy Program Graduation – North Central Unit
Think Legacy Program participants at the North Central Unit in Calico Rock took part in a graduation ceremony in February led by Warden Stephen Williams and Cpl. Onnafay Downard, the Think Legacy Coordinator for the unit. Special guests on hand for the event were ADC Director Wendy Kelley and Deputy Director Dexter Payne. A total of ten inmates graduated from the program, five of which completed the program’s Victim Impact curriculum.
Cooking Matters Class at Hawkins Unit
The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance’s Cooking Matters team partnered with the Arkansas Department of Correction’s (ADC) Wrightsville Hawkins Center to pilot a program introducing nutrition education to the female inmates housed there who would be completing their sentences soon. The initial six-week pilot course graduated twelve women from the Cooking Matters class, held as part of the prison’s Think Legacy Reentry Program. Think Legacy is an evidence-based program developed by the ADC designed to increase the potential for successful reintegration of participating inmates into the community.
"White River Current" feature Think Legacy Graduation
Incarcerated Veteran's Resource Fair held at the Barbara Ester Unit
On November 17, 2017, the Barbara Ester Unit held an Incarcerated Veteran's Resource Fair for inmate veterans. The Craighead County Veteran's Monument Foundation donated $1,000 which will be used for the coverage and awning of the Veteran's Exercise Yard. The Department of Child Support Enforcement, Delta EEOC, Arkansas Workforce, Disabled Veteran's Outreach, Veteran's Outreach were among some of our vendors. Director Wendy Kelley, Research and Planning Administrator Tiffanye Compton, Think Legacy/Reentry Coordinator Nicole Smart were some of our staff members in attendance who spoke to the veterans. All 75 of inmate veterans present were thanked for their service. The event was catered by the Whole Hogg Cafe from Little Rock, Arkansas.
EARU Inmate Council Veteran's Day Program
On November 15, 2017, the East Arkansas Regional Unit Inmate Council sponsored its first Veterans Day event. The event was held in the Unit Chapel, sixty-one (61) veteran inmates present. The program consisted of guest speaker Andre Jones, Veteran Outreach Specialist of Pine Bluff, EARU Chaplain Arlen Parham and Deputy Warden James Dycus. Veteran inmates were treated to a meal of fried chicken, mash potatoes with gravy, green beans, rolls and cookies. The inmates were also shown a movie during the meal. This was the Inmate Councils first attempt sponsoring a Veteran's Day event and it was a great success.
McPherson Unit Resource and Reunification Fair
The McPherson Unit held a Resource and Reunification Fair on Monday, October 30th. Various speakers included Warden Toni Bradley, ACC Reentry Assistant Director, Carrie Williams, Ms. Kim and Tracy from Hope Rises, and many others.Think Legacy Reentry Mentor D. Hill presented a very motivational speech to the participants. Nisha from Protech Good Grid, spoke about knowledge on the utilization of software that assists with “felon-friendly” employers and more.Think Legacy participants received vital resources and knowledge of the different entities available that could provide services once released.
Wrightsville Think Legacy Program Graduation
A Think Legacy Re-entry Program graduation took place on September 26, 2017 at the Wrightsville Unit. Guest speakers included Nicole Smart, the Think Legacy Reentry Supervisor, Deputy Warden Harris, Warden Watson and Shanice Benson, Think Legacy Facilitator. A luncheon was provided for all Think Legacy Program participants and all graduates were awarded with a certificate of achievement!
Burlsworth Foundation speak to Think Legacy participants
Marty Burlsworth and Rick Watts from the Burlsworth Foundation spoke to Think Legacy participants on September 24th. Marty is the brother of the late Brandon Burlsworth formerly of the Arkansas Razorbacks Football team (66th walk on), and Indiana Colts draft pick. Brandon had to work and train extra hard to walk onto the Razorback’s football team. Through Brandon’s dedication, he received a scholarship to the University of Arkansas after one year. After many tribulations, Brandon was drafted by the Indiana Colts. Brandon was traveling back to Harrison, Arkansas to take his mother to church when he was tragically killed In a car accident. Brandon’s spirit lives on through the Burlsworth Foundation. The Foundation provides under privileged children vision care and glasses. The movie “Greater” is based on Brandon’s life, with his family incorporated, they were his biggest fan. Marty Burlsworth and Vickie Burlsworth (Marty’s wife) donated 30 “Greater” movies, and 60 hard back books, “Through the eyes of a Champion” – The Brandon Burlsworth Story, to the Think Legacy population. The Think Legacy Participants have viewed the movie, and are now receiving visits from the Burlsworth’s and Rick Watts whom was Brandon’s youth pastor.
Wrightsville Resource and Reunification Fair
The Wrightsville Unit held a Resource and Reunification Job Fair on August 31, 2017. A plethora of motivational speakers included Principal Jason Williamson from Star City High School, Quintin Stephens and Misty Behr from Goodwill Industries, Marty Burlsworth from the Burlsworth Foundation, and Rachel Lindstrom from Good Grid. The purpose of the fair is to provide the tools inmates will need for a successful reentry back into the community upon release.
Think Legacy Program Graduation
A graduation ceremony was held for the 1st class of 2017’s Think Legacy program participants at the Ester Unit on July 27, 2017. Former State Representative Efrem Elliot was the guest speaker for the event. A total of 14 inmates graduated from the program.
Tucker Reentry for Women Resource and Reunification Fair
A Resource and Reunification Fair was held at the Tucker Re-Entry for Women's Center on Friday, June 19, 2017. The Arkansas Workforce Mobile Unit was parked outside the Tucker Re-Entry Center, the participants were able to get on the bus and complete resumes, and look for employment. The bus was equipped with 12 computers with built in internet. College of the Ouachita, Henderson University, and Shorter College were in attendance. Arkansas Legal Aid, Adult Education, Child Support Enforcement, TRIO, DHS, Phoenix Recovery, Hope Rises and many more were in attendance to provide resources and knowledge to the attendees. Guest speakers included ACI Administrator Rick Cooper, ACC Re-Entry Assistant Director, Carrie Williams, Jennifer Hawthorne from Restore Hope and a host of others.
Tucker Unit Resource and Reunification Fair
The Tucker Unit hosted a Think Legacy Resource and Reunification Job Fair on June 9, 2017, approximately 120 Reentry eligible inmates were in attendance. Guest Speakers included Patty Sims from ACC Good Grid, Chief Deputy Director K. Murphy from Arkansas Community Correction, Dr. “DUBS” Byers from the Board of Corrections, Richard “Rick” Cooper, ACI Administrator, and Quintin Stephens, Goodwill TEO Supervisor. The Arkansas Workforce Development Agency was in attendance with the Mobile Unit, offering 12 high speed internet, enabling the Think Legacy participants to search for employability and instruction on resume writing.
Veteran's Resource Fair held at Ester Unit
The Veterans Resource Fair was hosted by Deputy Warden John Wheeler at the Ester Unit on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Dr. Irving Kuo, and his team provided information for the unit’s veteran population. Ms. Linda Catalano attended and provided information from the Veteran's Administration. Ms. Catalano has agreed to partner with the Think Legacy Reentry Program, and provide information to the men and women assigned across the state, who have served in the armed services, as well as inmate veterans’ requesting the information.