Contributor: Andrew Garrison
The process of leaving incarceration and integrating back into society is a challenge for a number of reasons. Frequently, with little support, each individual must navigate a range of obstacles to find stable housing and employment, to maintain physical and mental health, and to reestablish social relationships with spouses, children, and other family members.
Financial obligations such as paying off court fines and setting up child support agreements complicate matters more, as each person tries to build a new life after serving time. Even the process of obtaining a drivers license again can be expensive and tedious, but it can be the deciding factor in someone’s ability to maintain a job.
In many cases, people in this situation need extra help to get back on track, and often this help comes from organizations like Gemeinschaft Home. For 35 years, this unique nonprofit organization has used the philosophy and ethics of a therapeutic community to help teach, support, and prepare recently released individuals for a new life.
From the minute new participants walk through the door, they are a part of Gemeinschaft Home’s therapeutic community and programs that incorporate all aspects of life into the reentry process. The programs at Gemeinschaft Home—the Community Residential Program and Self-Pay Program, the Drug Court Program, and the Day Reporting Center all offer settings in which participants gain valuable skills and strategies for acceptable living, as well as the motivation to become productive citizens in the community at large.
The Community Residential Program (CRP) is based on mutual trust and respect, shared leadership and responsibility, mentorship, and the idea of “graduated freedom.” Residents participate in the daily and weekly chore schedules to maintain the cleanliness and upkeep of the house and to learn accountability and helpful life skills. The resident leadership structure provides opportunities for regular development meetings and a formal grievance and conflict resolution procedures.
The emphasis placed on residents making decisions for themselves or as a group creates a sense of autonomy that is important during their transition stage, as it encourages personal responsibility and consideration for self and others.
The Self-Pay program is designed for males from the local area who have completed the 90-day program, and local males in need of residential-based services can apply to live at Gemeinschaft Home at a low-cost fee. The structure of the CRP applies to these residents as well as those referred by the Drug Court (based on their need for residential services).
The Day Reporting Center (DRC) is a collaborative initiative with the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County court services that provides an alternative to incarceration for selected individuals in the pre- or post-trial process. Participants enroll in the program enabling them to sustain employment, childcare, and other obligations, while receiving needed services and supervision. Depending on their level of need, they report from 1-5 days per week for a combination of mandatory drug screens, case management, and group and individual sessions. Male participants with a high need for structured supervision can receive residential support as well.
Therapeutic interventions at Gemeinschaft Home, for residents and non-residents alike, come in two primary forms: group and individual sessions covering key areas of life recovery (self-awareness, relapse prevention, emotional control, conflict resolution, etc.) and case management providing practical guidance through the reentry and recovery process, referral services, and a personal accountability mechanism.
Gemeinschaft Home’s therapeutic community approach is essential for engendering mutual and self-respect among the participants and helping them regain some of the autonomy they have lost. This supportive structure helps them get a better understanding of themselves and others, ultimately contributing to an environment built to grow and to uplift one another.