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arbor circle celebrates first graduates of relink program

Arbor Circle staff and community partners recognized the first graduates of the Re-Entry Community Linkages Program (Re-Link).

Across the United States, approximately 60% of prisoners are African American or Latino, and studies show that approximately two-thirds or those formerly incarcerated will likely be rearrested within three years of release.

The Re-Entry Community Linkages (Re-Link) program was launched in August 2016 as a response to systems failing this population. Through Re-Link, Arbor Circle works to improve health outcomes for minority and/or disadvantaged male re-entrants, ages 18-26, in transition from jail to their communities.

When an individual is released from jail, they are often lacking employment and stable housing, which can cause them to turn back to old habits. Through Re-Link, Arbor Circle’s Peer Navigators work to help create new patterns and healthy connections, starting from the moment an individual is released from jail. Peer Navigators will pick up the participants upon release, setting the tone for the relationship moving forward.

Peer Navigators have lived experience with incarceration, and serve as mentors for the Re-Link participants. Because of their experiences, Peer Navigators have an understanding of what the participants may be going through, and are able to build relationships and trust in a way that others can’t. Through this relationship, Peer Navigators make connections between re-entrants and community-based organizations that provide links to health care, including behavioral health care services, health care coverage, and social services such as housing, adult education, and employment assistance programs.

In its first year, Re-Link has served 51 participants, and 13 of them were recognized as graduates of the program after completing one year of service. The average age of Re-Link participants is 21.

Early data shows the program is proving to be impactful. Participants show 74% fewer new convictions and 84% fewer days re-incarcerated in local jail. Additionally, participants who have been enrolled for at least 6 months show no new convictions and no new days re-incarcerated in Kent County Correctional Facility.

In addition to collaborating with the Kent County Correctional Facility and Office of Community Corrections, Arbor Circle is also partnering with 70 x 7 Life Recovery, Cherry Health, Goodwill Industries, Health Net of West Michigan, Hope Network, Network 180, Research and Evaluation Associates, Steepletown and Urban League of West Michigan to provide the Re-Link program.