Reentry fair held to prepare Richmond inmates for release: ‘They gave me hope’

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond City Sheriff's Office held an event Tuesday to help inmates that are about to be released get the help they need to get back on their feet.

The reentry fair was about eliminating barriers that exist to keep inmates from successfully transitioning back into society. The goal was to give them tools that they can use and to give them hope.

The day started out on a great note for inmate Mike Saunders who sifted through a bag full of flyers and brochures.

From housing, residential options, financial information, education, and job training, the event put a room full of resources at his fingertips.

“They gave me hope,” said Saunders. “Because I feel like one of my job descriptions, I think I aced it and I think I was hired on the spot.”

Saunders, who grew up in public housing, says he spent years making bad decisions and has been behind bars for the last year.

He says he’s ready to begin the process of turning his life around to better himself and his community and his family when he's released in June.

"This is my time to get myself together for him," said Saunders.

“The message I want the citizens to know is we are all one community,” said Richmond Sheriff Antoinette Irving. “They are going to be back in your neighborhood, and we want them to be productive in your neighborhood.”

Now, Irving says the goal is to get more businesses and agencies on board for future reentry fairs to help set Saunders and others up for success so when they get out.

April is reentry month and Irving says the Justice Center is just one of a handful of facilities to receive a $500,000 second chance re-entry grant.

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