On Saturday September 29th, the United Methodist Women hosted “Healing Broken Circles” moderated by Jo Dee Davis and 9 associates, some of whom were previously incarcerated individuals, some family, some friends, all volunteers. The purpose of this program is to assist those who are incarcerated to become fully functioning individuals once returned to society.

Did you know that the cost to provide incarceration for one individual for one year is $30,000? What becomes of an individual who is incarcerated? Only Ohio and one other state have DRC’s, not just DOC’s. DOC, or Dept of Correction, indicates that those who are incarcerated in those states are “put away” with the intention of removing the offenders from the general population, a punishment with no rehabilitation. ODRC, or Ohio Dept of Rehabilitation and Correction, provides some (fairly small amount of) rehabilitation with the purpose of attempting to give the offender skills necessary to return him/her to a productive (and emotionally capable) life once released. Marion Correctional Institution is such an institution. It is there that Healing Broken Circles is doing its “magic”. It may be relatively small, but the results are amazing.

The program consists of a wide variety of educational and emotional support programs with the purpose of healing the individual thru love and understanding. We learned a lot about working through the trauma that inmates have. As stated, “A traumatized brain is broken. It does not work right. It cannot decide, choose, plan. It cannot tell you what is wrong. It is terrified.” With a dedicated staff of volunteers, some prior inmates, some family members, some people interested in doing valuable volunteer activities, Jo Dee provides opportunities to heal, learn, and thrive for those touched by the justice system by, among other things, providing education and training, and coordinating and providing services, for displaced and hard to employ individuals, including those currently incarcerated, those formerly incarcerated and those at risk of incarceration. Until last year, 800 of the 3000 inmates in Marion prison were able to avail themselves of the program. Currently, due to state funding issues, only 300 can participate.

The program’s focus is on 5 areas of service: Turning Professional (workforce development & job readiness), True Potential (community & self-awareness, Thinking People (advanced & continuing education), Thriving Path (care for mind, body & spirit), and Talented Performers (art & creativity). We were treated today to a description of these programs, a discussion of the importance of returning a person to a productive person, and how Healing Broken Circles helps to provide the stated desired result. And we were shown such skills as Improv (teaches one to recognize emotions in oneself and others, for instance), heard how yoga helps to change a person’s attitude towards himself, even changing facial expressions and postures, and participated in several exercises ourselves in various areas. What fun! Those who presented, besides Jo Dee and several volunteers, were former inmate participants in the program, all of whom demonstrated clearly that they were well on their way to total integration in the community. We broke for lunch, one or two of the former incarcerated individuals at each table. Each of them was not only excellent communicators, comfortable speaking to the group during the presentation, but we found new friends during lunch. Each was currently involved in extending their education, all anxious to share with others what had so changed their lives. And lunch was provided by Freedom Ala Carte, which provides jobs for women who were previously involved in human trafficking.

We have invited our new friends to help us with the garage sale. A few live in or near Columbus. If you meet anyone who tells you he/she is with the Healing Broken Circles program, please make them feel welcome.

Lastly, the Healing Broken Circles program needs not only a large number of volunteers, but funding, the major portion of which comes from the state. In addition to contributing to this 501c3 organization, what can we do to help? We can help to decrease the prison population ($30,000/year, remember?). We were told to each “tell 2 people”. I’m telling you – Issue 1 will appear on the ballot in Ohio on Nov 6th. If passed Ohio Issue 1 – also known as the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment – would change the state’s constitution to reduce drug penalties and send fewer people to prison. Those using or possessing drugs would face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail, rather than a fourth- or fifth-degree felony, which could lead to prison time. Anyone convicted of those crimes would face probation or less for the first and second offenses within 24 months. On the third offense, the person could be sent to jail. Currently, someone convicted of holding even a small amount of drugs is sent to prison. This is a waste of not only the person’s life, but also of our tax money! Vote “Yes” on Issue 1 on Nov 6.

If you are interested in learning more about this exceptional organization, Healing Broken Circles,  or even in getting involved yourself, go to http://www.healingbrokencircles.org/ . – Eileen Reidinger