For 30+ years, the rate of incarceration in our country has grown steadily (in 1980, 220 in 100,000 people were in prison, today 750 in 100,000 Americans are incarcerated) and as the number of incarcerated people continues to grow, so grows the number of men and women being released from correctional facilities back into communities—communities that offer little to no opportunity to a person with a criminal record.
In 1967, Amicus was founded on the idea that people in prison would be less likely to commit another crime upon release if they had a positive connection to the community—a friend. For 21 years, One to One was Amicus’ sole program; a program that provided pro-social relationships to hundreds of men and women in Minnesota’s State Correctional Facilities. After two decades of honing this still-thriving program, leaders at Amicus came to realize that, as great as the program was, it simply wasn’t enough.
Amicus could not continue to offer just one program to the growing number of men and women in Minnesota’s Correctional Facilities; they knew they needed to provide more and better services that had the potential to reach an increasing number of men and women—and not only those in prison but also those people who had done time and were making the transition from prison back into the community.
In 1988, Amicus increased its capacity to serve a growing number of transitioning offenders and introduced a program called Reconnect. Reconnect, like One to One, is based on the power of relationship and offers walk-in, one-on-one referral services to men and women who have spent time in prison. People who are coming out of prison are often starting from scratch—with few advantages or connections in the community, but with the same needs as the rest of us. The Reconnect program provides that connection to the community and empowers men and women as they begin the task of reentering their communities.
Reconnect is led by three Amicus staff and a number of staff-supervised interns. Open daily, Reconnect provides referrals for such tangible needs as employment, housing, ID, family services, transportation, clothing, food, sobriety supports, resume building, et cetera. But more than this, Reconnect provides ex-offenders with a place where they can feel human again—a place where they feel welcomed, validated and respected. By offering these tangible and intangible services in combination, Reconnect provides its clients with perhaps the most paramount necessity for successful reentry: hope.
Over the past 23 years, Reconnect and its devoted staff of employees and interns have touched the lives of thousands of men and women (today, the program serves more that 2,000 clients annually) and, in turn, these thousands of men and women have touched the lives of hundreds of Amicus employees and interns. Indeed, one of the most special and significant things about this particular Amicus program is that it offers a number of internship positions to students at local universities and colleges and every semester, Reconnect staff watch as a new group of passionate young interns learn what it means to bring hope back into the lives of people who have lost it.
This past semester, Amicus and Reconnect were lucky enough to take on a young intern whose passion for justice shone through each day that she came to work with our clients. We were doubly lucky when, at the end of the semester, Maya shared with us a written reflection regarding her experience in Reconnect and then agreed to allow us to share it with the wider public. This Thursday, June 9, InsideChange will feature Maya Pisel’s powerful, insightful, inspirational reflection. Tune in!
Reconnect is open Monday – Thursday from 9:00am – 12:00pm and 1:00pm -4:00pm as well as Friday from 9:00am until 12:00pm. We are located in downtown Minneapolis at 15 South 5th Street in the 15 Building on the 11th floor.