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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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President Biden's name could be left off the ballot in Alabama and Ohio, the Justice Dept. mandates background checks for gun show purchases, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to allow state police to arrest undocumented migrants.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

WV Program Mentors People Re-Entering Society After Prison

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Friday, December 9, 2022   

West Virginia's prison population has ballooned, and formerly incarcerated people face numerous obstacles when they are released. A Charleston-based program pairs them with mentors for one year, to help them successfully adjust and reorient their lives.

Amber Blankenship, peer-entry program coordinator with the REACH Initiative, said most people typically have "zero support" after their often traumatizing experiences in the criminal justice system. She added that many are also struggling with substance-use disorders.

"When they're released, we just expect them to make all these decisions and be responsible, and it's just, their brain has to heal," she said. "They have to train their brain back to do that."

Housing, health care and employment all are challenging to find for people coming home. A survey this year by Race Matters and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy found nearly half of respondents said their biggest worry after leaving prison was coping with the social stigma around their conviction and incarceration.

Blankenship emphasized that the mentorship program is a starting point for creating community and healing.

"People in West Virginia are hurting, they're broken, and they need hope," she said. "They need another individual that has, maybe, a similar story that can build that relationship, build trust."

Sara Whitaker, criminal legal policy analyst at the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, pointed out that prison sentences aren't served alone.

"There are obvious ways that this hurts the people who live with them and who rely on them for care," she said, "but it's particularly bad for children."

She added that one in 10 West Virginia kids has had a parent go to jail or prison. Research shows most incarcerated parents in the Mountain State have one or more children younger than 18 years of age.


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