‘We believe in second chances’: Local organization guides those incarcerated on path to re-entry into society
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - If you ask anyone who has served some time behind bars, chances are they have experienced some difficulty getting back on their feet. A faith-based organization that specializes in re-entry services and other community-based programs is on a mission to change that with its new location in Richmond.
It has been a little over two weeks since Dale Battle was released from the Chesterfield County Jail. Cellphone video captured the big moment as Thomas Mundy, a resource case manager for Metro Community Ministries Inc. and a returning citizen himself, arrived to pick him up. A warm embrace followed.
Battle tells NBC12 he is ready for a new beginning.
“I’ve damaged a lot of people that love and care about me in the course of me being in and out of prison,” Battle said. “I’m at a point now where I have to make changes.”
While Virginia’s recidivism rate is just 22 percent, the second-lowest in the country, Battle’s past struggle with a substance use disorder led to several trips back to prison over the course of three decades. Admittedly, each release ignited some fear about having enough support to start over.
“Being a convicted felon and trying to get jobs, you’re kind of looked down upon,” Battle explained.
Metro Community Ministries Inc (MCMI) is doing everything in its power, with the help of community partnerships, to change that. The faith-based organization has been around for a little over 50 years providing support services, emergency food banks, clothing closets and more.
Founded in San Diego, with offices around the country, the organization now has a presence inside the Virginia Career Works building located at 4914 Radford Ave. in Richmond. The location has served as a one-stop shop for clients like Battle.
Program Manager Monica McMillan and Mundy have been with Battle every step of the way. The team believes in establishing relationships with clients before they are even released.
“I think it’s vital that you build that relationship with your client pre-release because you can get a feel for who they are as a person so when they come home post-release, you can spot irregularity,” Mundy explained.
“We believe in second chances,” McMillian said. " We believe that just because someone makes a mistake, it does not define who they are.”
With the help of referrals from transitional counselors, inmates who are 18 or older, not imprisoned for a sex offense and set to be released between 20 and 180 days, are eligible for its New Path program. The program offers everything from workforce development to assist with basic needs like clothing, housing and medical benefits. Assessments are done in the process to help MCMI better understand the client’s goals.
There’s also an eight-week program that focuses on job readiness.
“That eight-week course will range from how to interview, how to write a cover letter, how to have a positive relationship with others,” said McMillian, who ran down a lengthy list of offerings.
Mundy, who now shines as an example of what life for a returning citizen could be, is just proud to be a part of this mission to help those who dream of a second chance.
After 13 years behind bars for drug charges, Mundy became a free man in July 2020. He promised himself and his family that he would never go back again. It was his third trip back to prison. He was first incarcerated for selling drugs at the age of 18.
“Back then, I had a hopeless mindset,” said Mundy. “I thought that the only way for me to have access to the life I thought I deserved was by doing what I was doing.”
But, Mundy says a lot has changed. He is now walking in purpose and helping others like Battle recognize theirs.
“I had to learn that in order for me to get better, I have to do better, and in order for me to do better I have to start loving myself,” said Battle, who is hoping to land a job as a painter or forklift operator using his certification.
Metro Community Ministries is ready to take on more clients. They are also hoping for additional community partners to help these men and women succeed both personally and professionally.
You can contact Program Manager Monica McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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