Earlier this fall, two GEO Reentry Services managers who support former program participants were invited speakers at two conferences taking place in Illinois and New Jersey, sitting on panels that covered certain topics regarding the criminal justice system.
Manager of Alumni Services Tim O’Boyle participated in a panel called “Cognitive Behavioral Interventions Programs Within the Criminal Justice System” at the 2019 Illinois Certification Board’s 23rd Annual Fall Conference in Vernon, Illinois, of which he is a board member. The ICB is a nonprofit agency whose mission is to promote standards for professionals in the addiction treatment field.
O’Boyle’s workshop presentation was designed for criminal justice professionals and examined the therapeutic community and its structure and tenets of learning, focusing on educational and vocational programs. He focused on the importance of mentoring others, specifically through the Certified Associate Addictions Professionals program. The program gives offenders an opportunity to enter a training program to become certified addiction counselors. Three of the four representatives on the panel are CAAP graduates, with two being successfully employed as addictions professionals.
“We wanted to present the importance of the CAAP program to the therapeutic community and its value to professionals,” O’Boyle said. “The CAAP program has been successful for many of us, by mentoring others we have found purpose, a rewarding profession and a message that we are committed to carry to others.”
O’Boyle was joined by three former offenders who have successfully turned their lives around. All of them gave credit to the reentry programming they received. He was a graduate of the CAAP program at the Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center. The training is in accordance with the requirements of the ICB.
The program requires a sincere commitment to change and a desire for a second chance and consists of hours of study as well as working with staff and others. Many preparing to reenter the community have embraced the program, as it helps them identify with addiction and a wish to help others.
“We have come full circle, from peers in recovery to professionals,” O’Boyle said. “We all share the mission of helping each other, and mentoring those that are willing to change and live a productive lifestyle by embracing the CAAP program.”
Alumni Services Manager for New Jersey Arthur Townes spoke at the “Balancing Justice With Mercy” panel at the Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, New Jersey. The panel consisted of two formerly incarcerated individuals and two family members of currently incarcerated loved ones. They discussed the criminal justice system and participated in a question and answer session.
The event was created to help individuals address issues that mass incarceration has on families and the community and included topics such as “Experiences with the Criminal Justice System” and “The Community Response.”
Townes gave a presentation on the importance and value of reentry services provided in prisons and shared his personal experiences while facing reentry. He credited reentry services and previous alumni who helped him and others reenter society successfully.
“Reentry services can change lives. I see many people develop hope if they are willing to be open and change,” Townes said. “We are honored to deliver the message that there is help out there through the transition, and a positive lifestyle is attainable.”
As a GEO Reentry Alumni Services Manager, Townes works with individuals currently in and out of the system to support a successful reentry by providing information resources on substance abuse treatment, education and vocational opportunities, housing and other services available.