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Newport Business and Community Leaders to Convene at Luncheon Forum on Prisoner Reentry June 23rd, 2009

Leadership Rhode Island, in partnership with the Newport County Prisoner Reentry Council, has invited key Newport business and community leaders to a luncheon forum to address the topic of Prisoner Reentry on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009, from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. in the Community Baptist Church Annex, 40 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Blvd., Newport. The goal of the event is to help improve the quality of life in Newport County by generating strategies for strengthening the reentry process.

The program will begin with an introduction and welcome by Newport Mayor Jean-Marie Napolitano and Newport’s Police Chief Michael McKenna. J. Clement “Bud” Cicilline, President and CEO of Newport County Community Mental Health Center, will then give a brief keynote address on the state of prisoner reentry in Newport County. He will be followed by testimonials from ex-offenders who have successfully reentered the community and obtained housing and employment as well as contributed to society in very meaningful and positive ways.

After the speaking portion of the program, the business and community leaders in attendance will break out into focus groups and engage in discussion around topics such as housing, employment, and education. This will be followed by a brief report session with the goal of creating an action plan with next steps for the Council and the community.

Attendees will include leaders from East Bay Community Action Program, the Poverty Institute, Rhode Island Legal Services, Newport Skills Alliance, and other local agencies and organizations, along with local employers and business owners.

Prisoner reentry is more than just a buzzword used by policy makers and government officials – it’s an important social issue that affects all citizens. While many would prefer to deny that there are ex-offenders among us, there is no such thing as “not in my backyard” in our small state. With over 550 men and women on probation and parole from Newport alone and over 26,000 in the entire state, it’s likely that ex-offenders are next to you in line at the store, living in your neighborhood, or dropping their children off at the same schools your kids attend. What makes more sense – to have a closed mind and insist that no services be provided to those who have done their time, or to face facts and take proactive steps to ensure the success of people coming out of prison and help them to avoid returning to the prison system? Without adequate support and resources, ex offenders wind up repeating past behaviors that led to their incarceration, creating a revolving door and costing tax payers thousands of dollars.

With the exception of two dozen men serving sentences of life without parole, the roughly 3,700 men and women in Rhode Island’s prisons and jail will be released to their home communities. Whether one likes or agrees with it, that determination is made by the terms of the offender’s sentence. Corrections professionals, law enforcement, community service providers, and other stakeholders are necessary partners to ensure a smooth and safe release so offenders don’t spiral downward upon release, commit more crimes, and create more victims. It is part of the Department of Corrections’ obligation as a public safety agency, in partnership with service providers on the outside, to afford some structure for life after prison.

The Newport County Prisoner Reentry Council includes representatives from many sectors of the Newport community including the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, the Newport Police Department, the Community College of Rhode Island, faith-based agencies and area service providers. The Council in addition to this forum is looking at ways to strengthen the reentry process and get more people from the community involved in this effort. While the event is not open to the general public, for more information about attending the event or getting involved, contact Kathleen Swann, President and CEO of Leadership Rhode Island at 273, 1574 x103.

Leadership Rhode Island (LRI) is an independent 501(c)(3) educational foundation dedicated to creating and supporting a legacy of leaders for the state. LRI accomplishes this through offering programs to develop community leadership, such as the Core Program which has been offered annually since 1981. For more information about Leadership Rhode Island’s programs, visit or call (401) 273-1574. Members of the press interested in attending should contact Tracey E. Zeckhausen, Chief of Information and Public Relations for the RIDOC, at (401) 462-2609.

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