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Until Nov. 17, 2021, I was one of five assistant coordinators for the re-entry program at Pocahontas State Correctional Center (PSCC), Alpha building, pod 3. But me and 10 of the other re-entry workers have now been laid off, jeopardizing the entire program. We were told this was to streamline the program across the state.  

Despite its faults, our re-entry program was a fairly well-oiled program with a high rate of participation, and it seemed to be helping more than a few people. It was also the product of tireless efforts by two staff members who truly believe in restorative justice. 

These two people have wanted nothing more than to see people change their lives for the better and achieve their potential so they don’t return to prison. They went to great lengths to make this re-entry program a success, and were well on their way to achieving that goal.

But Virginia’s Department of Corrections (VADOC) is now drastically altering the makeup of the program. 

This change has no basis in sense or logic. This is a community of people who want to help, but it has now been disrupted by someone who is far removed from the day-to-day happenings of the program except a few pages of spotty data, likely without context. 

This program was working. 

I hope those who read this article will see the wisdom of reinstating our re-entry program to its former organizational standards. I also hope that it will be adopted as a model for other prisons. Not only is it a good way to reduce recidivism, it fosters real hope, inspires an honest desire for personal change and diligently provides a foundation upon which to build and sustain that change in the long term.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

David Annarelli is a father, musician, activist and writer. He is incarcerated in Virginia.