Michael’s* Reentry Journey

Michael’s involvement with the criminal  justice system began at age 12 with a variety  of drug related charges. He was finishing two, five-year sentences at Coffeewood Correctional Center in Culpeper, VA when he began working with OAR. For 10 months prior to his release, Michael met with OAR once a week for two-hour sessions. During these weekly sessions, Michael worked with his an OAR Reentry Collective member to create a resume, discover strengths and talents which he could bring to the workforce upon his release, and identify jobs which matched his skills and interests. Michael also worked with an OAR Reentry Collective member on addressing issues he had been struggling with, such as coping with the loss of his mother and older brother during his period of incarceration, through self-reflection and motivational therapy. Throughout his sessions with OAR, Michael frequently stated, “When I talk I can tell that you are listening and care what I’m saying. While I’m here in this room, I forget that I’m in a prison.”

After his release, Michael continued to work with the OAR Collective to find employment. With his resume already completed, OAR worked with Michael to develop interview skills and attain professional attire including several suits, ties, and dress shoes.  OAR also worked with Michael to reunite with his children as well as providing him with a cell phone, transportation assistance, and clothing. After a month of hard work and dedication in his job search, Michael was hired for a full-time retail job at a local business in the City of Alexandria.  Having obtained employment, stable housing, and being reunited with his family, Michael is flourishing despite his many hardships. When talking about his period of incarceration, Michael stated, “Doing time is easy, but coming home and starting from scratch is tough. There are two ways that I can approach this situation, I can either hold my head up high and grind it out, or I can do what I used to do and get myself in trouble again. Coming back to prison or somebody’s jail is not an option for me this time.”

*Name changed to protect privacy of the participant. We do not use the actual names, photos, or videos of OAR participants to protect their privacy. To learn more about OAR’s Ethical Storytelling Philosophy please see the video below* 

OAR Ethical Storytelling Philosophy