By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer

The READY Center, 1901 E Street S.E., the new facility created to help returning citizens receive access to a multitude of services, is a quiet nondescript building just behind the treatment facility. But what the outside lacks in architectural pizzaz is surface. What it holds inside is the important factor. In fact one might argue vital for a number of people.

Information. Resources. Empathy. The mayor and the city are offering returning citizens the Justice League equivalent of agency resources all under one roof as the READY (which stands for Resources to Empower and Develop You) Center puts an exclamation point on the mayor’s claims of #fairshot for all District residents.

“To give more returning citizens a fair shot, we must continue building strong support systems for men and women transitioning back into the community,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement.. “By partnering with community-based organizations and working across D.C. Government agencies, we can set more residents up for success by providing more immediate access to employment, housing, educational opportunities, health care and more.”

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser launched the READY Center to offer resoureces for returning citizens in order to lower their chances of going back to jail. (Courtesy Photo)

The READY Center pulls resources from several different agencies including the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA), Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Corrections (DOC), Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Employment Services (DOES) as well as community-based organizations.

“Partnering with the READY Center team is especially meaningful for DOES because we understand that employment is a critical component of reentry,” said Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes, Director of the DC Department of Employment Services. “Investing in our returning citizen population is a win-win proposition that benefits our residents and impacts our neighborhoods and communities.”

The goal is a successful transition back into the community for returning citizens who were once incarcerated. It was a concept that was developed into reality by all the agencies that wanted to close the gap between information about tools and resources, to actual access to said services.

“It has been a priority of the mayor to bring together all the resources of the government agencies throughout the city that provide services to this populations,” said Brian Ferguson, Director of MORCA. “We have seen that making sure that people are getting their needs addressed not only when they come out, but even prior to their release dramatically reduces the chance that they will find themselves  with a lack of resources, and ensures we do all we can to make sure D.C. recidivism rates are as low as possible.”

“Because the amount of opportunities we can provide dramatically reduces the chance that he or she will reoffend.”

Short term goals are “making sure people understand and know about this,” said Quincy Booth, director of the DOC. Booth navigators work both in the center and in the actual jails, not duplicating services but in tandem with one another.

“Our goal overall is that we connect with people and understand their need and make sure their reentry plan is met,” Booth said.

According to a report by the National Institute of Justice, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of returning citizens were rearrested within three years. That number balloons to three-fifths or 76. percent within five years. The report added that a little over half, 56.7 percent, of people were rearrested within the first year of release.

Ferguson pointed to a Rand Corporation Study, saying there were about 67-68,000 returning citizens in the District, which is about 9 – 10% of the District’s population.  Booth said in D.C. Jails there can be about 1,800-2,000 people housed in them daily and annually the number can fluctuate from anywhere from 12,000 people to double that amount.

The READY center staffs about 14-17 employees between the facility and inside the actual jail. For more information about the facility please go to the mayor’s website