Statewide Community Reentry Meeting Held in Columbus, Ohio
By Nashid A. Shakir
MANA's Community Reentry Initiative sponsored the first statewide Ohio meeting for Muslim Reentry on Saturday, December 19, at the Islamic Center in Columbus.
The meeting opened with a presentation from guest presenter Pastor Gary Simms, Religious Services Administrator for the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (ODCR). He reported that there was 2200 Muslims locked up in Ohio prisons. He also stated that in regard to prison Imams there needed to be a consistency of message delivered to the inmates coming from both immigrant Imams and domestic Imams. The emphasis of the message should address the application of the religion of Islam in regard to how it enhanced the ability of the inmates to do good time inside the institution and to successfully transition to becoming law abiding productive citizens outside of the institutions. He also stressed that we, as Muslims, should develop a set of fundamental principles that would be taught in all prisons and given as expectations for all who come inside the correctional institutions to teach the Din of Al-Islam.
Simms also shared the importance of the Muslim community, as a united voice, interacting with the judges, politicians and the bureaucrats that are the decision makers and the policy makers that make the laws and practices that impact Muslims, rather fairly or unfairly, inside of these institutions. In closing his presentation, Administrator Simms shared the following suggestions as strategies, that his experience had indicated to him could prove to be very effective:
1. He stated in regard to funding opportunities that his office and other offices of the Department of Corrections were looking to fund valid organizations that were looking to service the hard-to-serve. The hard-to-serve being those inmates that were having major challenges inside the institution and would more than likely experience the same struggles during their transition back to the community at large.
2. He also shared that he felt that an “Adopt One Ex-Offender and their Family” by every faith based community’s individual place of worship would go a long way in reducing recidivism because it becomes a collective community effort where everyone’s small contribution makes a greater impact on the individual’s effort at maximum integration back into the society. The following conditions were also stipulated by Pastor Simms:
a. A one year contractual agreement outlining the behavior expectations of the reentry individual and their family and the type of support available to them from the masajid.
b. Upon the stabilization and the reaching of self sufficiency of the reentry individual it should be a clear expectation for them to a 6-month to 1-year commitment of service—a reflection of the healing properties of ‘Getting G-D, Getting Straight, and Giving Back’!
c. Keeping good records and measurement practices are a must. He stated that “if you cannot keep score than you are only practicing”!
d. That, we as a reentry program, should respect every reentry individual’s yearning for a job, a home, and a family and build the community reentry contract around these objectives.
e. And, finally he shared that from his experience the most immature group of people was the Black Male and that we should address that in our programming.
After Administrator Simms finished his presentation Ismail Abdul-Aleem, Chair of MANA’s Community Re-Entry Initiative presented the group with a very informative PowerPoint presentation on the MANA Reentry Initiative.
Ismail Abdul-Aleem, Chair of MANA’s Community Re-Entry Initiative presented the group with a very informative PowerPoint presentation on the MANA Initiative, followed by a final presentation by Kyle J. Isma’il, National Director of the SHARE Network, to help coalesce the meeting's objectives. Kyle helped attendees gain a better understanding of MANA’s role and the importance of the Ohio collective coming together to initiate this Allah-driven effort, in the spirit of collective work and responsibility. He made it clear that MANA was there for technical assistance when needed and when they had the resources or expertise to provide it. He shared with confidence that once the Reentry model was built it should be able to get funded, but he clarified that MANA's role is not to build it, run it, nor finance it. Kyle also shared that he was happy to see brothers at the table who were willing to get involved in this much-needed effort, and who were affiliated with organizations that interact with the corrections department, as well as organizations who work outside the department. He stressed the importance of being able to leverage our networks, our influence, and our good relationships to make a place that is distinctively Muslim at all of the tables that matter; not through demanding but through good work.
1. That where we have Muslims in important positions we should work hard to keep them there while we are building our base and developing our infrastructure,
2. We must work hard at maintaining group cohesion as we involve more and more Muslims from across the state of Ohio, working hard to keep all informed and to alienate none,
3. That SHARE and MANA were with us every step of the way as a support, but Ohio Muslims must be the “movers and the shakers, rather we are armed lightly or armed heavily”.
In his closing, He facilitated the development of the following action steps:
1. Nashid Shakir (this writer) was nominated and voted in as interim facilitator to act as point of contact and to oversee the development of the Muslim Reentry Program, in Ohio, for the following agreed upon actions:
a. The choosing of a name for the statewide organization (being conscious of the need for the name to be open enough to garner favorable circumstances or situations, and not so closed that it could encumber opportunities),
b. Having our different cities across the state update their portion of the directory (that will be forwarded) to identify the current masaajid in their locale with name of leadership, addresses, telephone numbers, etc… and if they presently have a reentry program or someone who goes into the correctional institutions,
c. Getting a non-profit Ohio State charter and non-profit incorporation for the organization,
d. Identification of possible fiscal agents from across the state of Ohio until we establish our credibility,
e. The acquiring of a 501C3 for the Statewide organization,
f. Identification and development of both a prestige and a working Board for the organization that brings instant credibility and positioning for possible funding opportunities when we reach that juncture.
2. A clear understanding that there is a need for a commitment from every Muslim involved in this movement and even though an interim facilitator was nominated that it is incumbent on everyone to work diligently to get the work done.
Meeting attendees included: Samuel Abu-Bakr (Cincinnati), Tariq Al-Karim (Dayton), Ismail Abdul-Aleem (Indianapolis), Imam Umar Khattab (Indianapolis), Usman Booker Love (Columbus), and Nashid A. Shakir (Cincinnati).
For more information or to arrange a presentation please contact Brother Ismail Abdul-Aleem at firstname.lastname@example.org.