A new nonprofit aims to connect former inmates to all the resources they need to reenter society.
The Recovery Support and Reentry Opportunity Center, also known as The ROC celebrated its grand opening Thursday morning. The center is located just north of Vandiver Dr., and Columbia police officers volunteered to cook for the grand opening.
Dan Hanneken, founder of The ROC, said he envisioned the new center as a one-stop shop for former inmates.
“Everyone knows that Columbia has a lot of resources, but historically, we have not done a good job of collaborating with one another, so The ROC is designed to bring all of those resources together with regard to the criminal justice population,” Hanneken said.
Hanneken spoke about the importance of taking a holistic approach to reentry.
“If you look at housing — if someone doesn’t have a place to live, they won’t be successful, employment — if someone doesn’t have a job, they won’t be successful, addiction — if some doesn’t get treatment and stay clean, they’re not going to be successful,” Hanneken said.”But with many organizations that deal with these issues, they put their services at the top of that list, and the reality is, people who are released from prison, they need everything, and they need it all at the same time.”
More than 15 organizations are involved in the coalition Hanneken has put together, combining Columbia’s wealth of resources. The coalition includes housing organizations, like the Fresh Start Living Program, which rehabs houses in central Columbia and rents them affordably to recovering addicts.
Addiction services, like the Missouri Recovery Network, and employment preparation services, like Job Point, are also included.
The Missouri Department of Corrections, including the Division of Probation and Parole, have also partnered with The ROC to connect inmates to resources when the inmates are released.
Anne Precythe, director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, and Hanneken signed a memorandum of understanding among the parties at the event to solidify their relationship.
Ken Chapman, reentry and women’s programs manager, said the department’s goal is to reduce barriers to support offenders, including working on reentry prior to release.
“If one of our clients (inmates) has a year left on their sentence, and they’ve gone through (one of 22 career and technical) job training programs, it’s our job to make reentry as easy as possible for them. Why wait until they are out to start that process?” Chapman said.
Chapman said, with Precythe at the helm, there has been a cultural change within the Department of Corrections. Chapman also said that the department plans to open its own recovery center in November in Tipton.
Karen Pojmann, the department’s communications director, said a 2017 study from the Council of State Governments showed that probation and parole violations accounted for half of prison admissions in Missouri.
Sherry Poeppe, a probation and parole officer in Missouri’s 6th District, said many of her problems as a parole officer stem from the fact that former inmates often don’t know how to get the help they need when they get out, or they simply just need encouragement to get help.
Pojmann said the probation and parole violations in the Council of State Governments study are not new felonies and that programs like The ROC, which are oriented toward programming solutions, prove effective in helping people get themselves together after release.
The Department of Corrections released more than 5,000 inmates in 2018. It was the second year in a row that Missouri lowered its prison population.
In 2016, Missouri’s 44,300 inmates ranked 10th out of all 50 states in highest incarceration rate per 100,000 people, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones, who spoke at the event, said that he wants support programs like The ROC as a part of the police department’s approach toward community caretaking.
“This is a part of self-policing that we can do as a community to address issues,” Jones said, “I’m hopeful that something as comprehensive as this will help reduce recidivism. What Dan has done, pulling all of these resources together, is incredibly impressive.”
Hanneken said The ROC is currently being supported out of the Boone County Community Health Fund and that they are looking for donations.
Hanneken said the agreements between The ROC and Department of Corrections, as well as the organizations present Thursday, are temporary, but there will be a legally binding process soon.