The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Program recognizes each April as Second Chance Month, acknowledging the significance of serving individuals, communities, and organizations across the United States value their role in assisting with the secure and favorable reentry of incarcerated individuals. CommunityHealthIT (CommHIT) is proud to be one of the organizations across the country that is actively contributing to improved outcomes for incarcerated individuals who are navigating through life after imprisonment. The Bureau of Justice Statistics approximates that roughly 60% of previously incarcerated individuals grapple with securing employment (Wang and Bertran, 2022). This is due to a lack in a high school diploma, higher education degrees, education literacy and an absence in confidence in the ability to convince an employer to provide them with a job opportunity. CommHIT constructed the Rural Roads to Community Care (RRCC) program, to train a skilled healthcare workforce for rural community in Florida, with an emphasis on serving individuals who have previously been involved with the criminal justice system. Thorough the RRCC program, individuals residing in underserved communities can receive up to $3,000 in grant-funded support to pursue education in the following areas: community health workers, diagnostic medical sonographers, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, home health aides, medical assistants, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, mental health counselors, child, family and school social workers, and psychiatric technicians. 4.7% of the total RRCC participants disclosed that they were ex-offenders and have been able to secure employment and defy the negative odds that have been set against them because of their background. A participant in the Rural Roads to Community Care Program had a profound story to tell as an ex-offender re-entering into the workforce and wanting to pursue better career opportunities regardless of her status. This participant worked as a general manager in the fast-food industry for years, as she believed that she could not pursue another career path due to her background. She took a step out on faith and used the RRCC program funding to acquire a Medical Assistant and Phlebotomy certificate and found a true love for the field of medicine. The excitement of future career opportunities pushed her to gather more certifications and ultimately seek education on how to inaugurate her own business in the healthcare field. The RRCC participant now is in the process of opening her own mobile health unit, and serving individuals in her community who may not normally be able to afford care.
There are many stories like hers across the participants apart of the Rural Roads to Community Care Program. Stories of success and perseverance regardless of past setbacks. It is important to highlight stories like these during re-entry month, to encourage ex-offenders in knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel.