For those at risk in Baltimore, there are choices besides prison and death

Dear Fellow Baltimoreans: If you know someone who is caught up in something that might get them shot or killed — someone recently home from prison and having a hard time finding his way past his old life and old friends — you can send him my way. I’ll talk to him. I’ll make some suggestions. There are a lot of people willing to help.

We have been down this path before, many times.

Twelve years ago this month, we put out the first offer of help, just to get things started. We had no idea what to expect, and the reaction was overwhelming. The problems faced by ex-offenders — their lack of employable skills, their limited choices in housing, the unwillingness of businesses to hire people with criminal records — turned out to be a sleeping giant of a social issue. The number of men between 25 and 50 looking for a second chance ran into the thousands.

Since then, there has been greater public awareness of the challenges of reentry and the extravagant cost of having a high recidivism rate among the formerly incarcerated. Across the political spectrum, people agreed that we need a wholesale change in how we prepare offenders for their return to society and citizenship, and we need to do more to make the second chance real.

I am stepping in again, as Baltimore experiences a long and depressing surge of violence, to offer a little help for those who want a new direction in their lives, who don’t see it and who are at risk of slipping into the old ways.

Slipping into the old ways can get a man or woman killed.

Let’s start with this: One Stop Reentry Fair for Baltimore City Residents. It takes place on Wednesday, June 28, from 10 am until 3 pm in Baltimore’s War Memorial, 101 N. Gay St. There will be some 50 service providers there.

Please pass the word along to someone who needs to start thinking positively and who needs to see that there’s help available. It’s a good way for a man or woman to do some post-incarceration networking. You never know where a new connection might lead.

Also, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore has a comprehensive list of government and private-sector agencies that assist adults recently released from state and federal jails and prisons. This guide to reentry contains hundreds of resources with direct links to programs in Baltimore and all Maryland counties. You can get it at this link.

In the meantime, I am in the process of refreshing my list of companies willing to hire ex-offenders. I can be reached at 410-332-6166. My email address is [email protected]