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A “Roadmap to Reentry” Demystifies the Legal Process for People Rejoining Society

5 min read

What if a decision you made 32 years ago followed you for the rest of your life and defined your existence?

Imagine living the same day, day in and day out, during which decisions are made for you — what to eat, what to wear, what time to wake up and go to sleep.

This was David Basille’s existence until June 3, 2014, when he was released from prison. David spent 32 continual years in prison before he was “found suitable” to re-enter society, and he shares his story here.

In and out of prison three times, David knew what it took to get parole, but he struggled to stay out of prison. At first, his release plan was just to go back to where he came from, entering the same destructive cycles that led to his incarceration. It was not until the third time that he realized he could redefine his life and contribute value to his loved ones and his community. He finally embraced the opportunities in front of him and put a plan in place to become better, to transform. Today, he works as a maintenance operations manager — a job he calls a blessing and one he’s grateful to have.

For many, implementing a re-entry plan is a daunting feat. Between federal, state, and local laws, 44,000 legal barriers stand in the way of successful reintegration, whether regarding housing, employment, financial services, or more. That’s why Katherine Katcher founded Root & Rebound, an organization dedicated to connecting people with criminal histories to educational and legal resources necessary for a successful integration into their communities.

Am I Worth It?

“Am I really deserving of this? I didn’t think I was worth it. … Come to find out, I am worth it. That’s the transformation I’m going through on the outside now. I’m really embracing the opportunity that’s out there in front of me.” — David Basille

Stigmatized by the worst decision he had made, David left prison and entered a parole system that made it difficult to leave his past behind him. A different man than he was 32 years ago, David desired to start over.

With the realization that he has something to offer, that he can work to bless others and reconnect with people still left in his life, David has the hope and the chance to break a cycle of incarceration that has plagued his family for years.

And, he’s not doing it alone.

Upon his release, David found a community of “lifers” — others who had spent most of their lives in prison and who were trying to start over.

“There’s a network of us that meet routinely. We come together and share stories. We share opportunities for jobs.”

This type of community has the power to strengthen, support, encourage, and hold each other accountable. With the right resources, support, and community, David has been able to turn his life around and support others trying to do the same.

Building a Road Map

David’s story is one of many that Root & Rebound is highlighting in a campaign to educate the public about the devastating effects of mass incarceration. The narratives amplify the voices of formerly incarcerated individuals who have weathered the immense impact of broken systems that set them up for failure, rather than success.

In their stories, there is hope.

Given a second chance and the right tools, men and women feel armed and able to get their lives back.

Started in California, Root & Rebound exists to educate, empower, strengthen, and unite. Leveraging existing infrastructure with a belief that “knowledge breeds power,” they aim to provide knowledge and expertise freely to those in the re-entry process. In doing so, they can help disrupt the cycles of poverty and incarceration plaguing families and communities.

Root & Rebound’s mission is “to increase access to justice and opportunity for people in reentry from prison and jail, and to educate and empower those who support them, fundamentally advancing and strengthening the reentry infrastructure across the state of California.”

They have published a “Roadmap to Reentry” guide designed to educate those preparing to join society. Available in print and online, the guide covers a host of legal issues, including probation and parole, identification and legal documents, housing, finding and maintaining employment, credit and debt issues, family law, and more.

Statewide trainings dive deeper into the labyrinth of legal obstacles people face. Technical assistance is also available through a hotline for anyone in California with re-entry related questions. Root & Rebound doesn’t just address the individual; they also serve potential employers. The California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit equips employers to navigate the concerns of hiring people with records.

Their recently launched online training hub, the first of its kind, provides an online learning center with interactive videos, worksheets, and other resources. The training hub serves currently or formerly incarcerated people, family members, and professionals who work with people in re-entry.

Root & Rebound doesn’t stop there. They also advocate across California and nationally to improve re-entry policies and promote the dignity and health of people returning to their communities.

Recently, their work caught the attention of the Human Rights Commission in San Francisco, who awarded Root & Rebound their Hero Award for 2016.

Respecting the dignity of every individual, Root & Rebound works to build a road map to success for everyone transitioning back into society. These individuals often fall through the cracks and end up back in the corrections system. Their services help people like David confidently start over.

Root & Rebound is always looking for volunteers — lawyers, students, graphic designers, coders, filmmakers, activists, educators — who are passionate about criminal justice reform. Fill out this form to learn more about how you can join Root & Rebound in increasing justice and opportunity for thousands of people rejoining society.

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