As a part of our “Downstream” efforts, OAR is on a journey with individuals who are experiencing incarceration and those on the journey home from incarceration. Individuals with the wisdom and insight of shared experiences lead supportive programs in our local detention facilities in Arlington and Alexandria.
OAR’s pre-release programs include: evidence-based cognitive-behavioral, fatherhood, and group psychotherapy programs as well as vocational, educational, personal development, transition planning, and reentry readiness programs. Post-release, OAR’s Reentry Program has become a welcoming, warm, and loving community. OAR provides individualized coaching and assistance with transition, employment, housing, cell phones, laptops, clothing, food, and more, to individuals while they secure a safe reentry back into the community for themselves. Additionally, we provide a weekly support group for the reentry community to gather and stay connected with us and each other. We have also opened our Gender and Culture Responsive Therapeutic Offices in Alexandria, VA by appointment only.
The OAR Collective believes that participants are experts on themselves and the agenda in all circumstances is to empower participants toward the goal of self-sufficiency and liberation. We support individuals of all genders through major life transitions directly or indirectly related to the individual’s criminal justice status or history. Eligibility for these services is contingent on a conviction record and certain residency requirements.
Participation in all of OAR’s reentry services is completely voluntary and cannot be court ordered.
Individuals have different needs and each eligible participant works with the team to develop an individualized plan that may include assistance with emergency shelter, transportation, clothing, food, identification, medication, mental health, medical care, and a wide range of social service referrals are provided. Participants are also a part of the employment program, which assists with resume building, vocational skills assessments, mock interviews and job searches.
In FY21 OAR launched a pilot Gender-Responsive Services program supporting individuals identifying as women that are impacted by the criminal legal system on their reentry journey after experiencing incarceration through tailored, culturally-appropriate, and trauma-informed services. Individuals who identify as female have a different set of needs and different reentry experiences from those who identify as male. For example, the majority of women who experience incarceration are primary caregivers to minor children and a crucial part of the re-entry process requires supporting their needs as the head of a family. They are also much more likely than their male-identifying counterparts to have experienced a long history of abuse prior to incarceration. Therefore, tailored services that address that trauma lead to the best outcomes. This program is spearheaded by Katy Steinbruck, OAR Collective member that has been with the organization for more than 22 years. The program has enrolled 20 women since its launch on April 19, 2022 and is regularly fielding requests to take on more.
OAR provides a variety of classes, groups, to incarcerated individuals at the Arlington County Detention Facility. These programs include classes in essential life skill areas such employment, parenting, and basic education such as computer literacy and writing. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, as of 2020 all programs previously facilitated inside of the detention facility transitioned to virtual settings. We provided the Arlington County Detention Facility with numerous laptops so that we could continue programming virtually and to stay connected with participants.
OAR jail based programs include essential courses such as Stress Management, Conflict Resolution, Health Awareness, Life and Transitional Skills, Meditation and Mindfulness, Money Management, Parenting, Impact of Crime, Expressive Arts, Creative Writing, Starting Your Own Business, Life Skills for Spanish Speakers, Computers, Employability Readiness, Substance Abuse Education, among many others..
This six-week class teaches incarcerated individuals the intricacies of conducting an effective job search, writing resumes and cover letters, presenting oneself positively in the job interview, and working productively with supervisors and other members of the team. This program is intended to promote job retention for today’s challenging workplace.
Comments from OAR Staff Instructors and Volunteers
“The “Awareness” classes I teach are participatory sessions requiring active participation of the inmates. Topics include blame, acceptance, the grieving process, perceptions, paths through life, feelings, forgiveness and depression. When I first began volunteering I had the standard prejudices and attitudes about persons incarcerated. But the participants have been eager to grow and learn and to stop the current cycle of their lives. The experience has taught me much about our common humanity.”
Ben Perchik, Volunteer