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VSC October 2022 Newsletter

We are always booming with activity here at Voices for a Second Chance (VSC). We continue to provide services for D.C. residents reentering the community and we always have a lot going on!

Our 50 years of experience have provided some valuable lessons which continue to ensure VSC’s growth in scope and work collaborating with the Washington D.C. criminal justice system and community stakeholders. VSC has never wavered from its premise to build bridges with justice-involved D.C. residents during incarceration and after their release to create, maintain, and strengthen family and community ties.

We believe in providing comprehensive services to justice-involved persons serving months to years of incarceration in jail and federal institutions in an effort to create positive outcomes. With you as our partners in the D.C. community working with our clients, we will continue to achieve success together. We are excited to share this newsletter, Second Chance News, to keep our supporters informed throughout the year.

~ Paula

VSC is honored to be one of seven recipients of the True Reformer Grant award by the Public Welfare Foundation!

“In its commitment to provide trauma-informed, family-centered, culturally competent care to all individuals, Voices for a Second Chance upholds the vision of Public Welfare Foundation to advance opportunities and just treatment of all D.C. individuals impacted by the criminal legal system. Being one of only a few awardees we are humbled to be acknowledged and energized to continue to provide resources to returning citizens.”

New Terrain: Pathway to Sustainability

One of our goals at VSC is to offer a stable and sustainable path towards independent living. Towards a New Terrain is one of our new initiatives developed to assist individuals creating sustainability with essential vital supports such as moving from short term temporary housing to permanent housing. As part of this initiative, we offer home goods, furniture, mobile phones, work uniforms, and other items necessary to gain independence. Empowerment is not enough! We want to provide the tools in hand so that they can achieve their goals.

Congratulating our own Dr. Michelle Sermon

Our VSC team would like to congratulate our Clinical Supervisor, Dr. Michelle Sermon, on earning The Doctor of Philosophy, Social Work degree from the University of Maryland!

Michelle C. Sermon is a licensed social worker who has worked with VSC since 2013, serving racially marginalized, justice-involved individuals, their children, and extended families. Michelle's clinical expertise is counseling adults with trauma, severe mental illness, and co-occurring conditions. A skilled, justice-oriented facilitator, Michelle creates and conducts innovative professional development trainings for individuals and community groups, and organizations, using her social work research, genetics background, and professional experience to reconstruct the treatment narrative and improve professional practice with African Americans and other marginalized populations.

With almost 20 years of experience working with diverse communities, she is also an expert in diversity, equity, and inclusion and serves as a consultant and facilitator for a broad collection of organizations and industries. A capable researcher, Michelle uses history to elucidate the experiences of intergenerational racialization experienced as trauma by African Americans in rural southern U.S. communities to develop and implement effective, community-specific healing strategies. In addition to her Ph.D. in Social Work, Michelle holds a Master of Social Work degree from George Mason University and a Master of Science degree in Human Genetics from Howard University.

Our VSC team is incredibly proud of Michele and wish her the best in all her future endeavors!

Welcome our new Director of Development and Communications, Matti Miranda

This September, we welcomed Matti Miranda as VSC’s Director of Development and Communications!

Matti is an experienced fundraiser and strategist. With extensive client facing experience, strategic planning experience, and technical expertise, she is passionate about giving back to her community. Matti has years as a Digital Strategist and developed and implemented digital fundraising strategies for more than 20 U.S. House Congressional candidates. Matti has extensive project management experience as one of the founding members of the nation’s largest organization training the next generation of political entrepreneurs.

At VSC, Matti will be expanding the communications platforms to better connect with clients and the local community. She will also be fortifying VSC’s donor base to make sure that VSC continues to grow in our support of returning citizens in D.C.

Welcome to the team, Matti!

Message from Hop

Mr. Charles ''Hop'' Hopkins, is our Peer Engagement & Advocacy Coordinator at VSC. He supports our clients in navigating employment, resources, and services within the community for returning citizens.

As a graduate of our Training our Voices program, a returning citizen, community advocate and activist, and one of our newest members of our VSC team, Hop is

committed to expanding services and resources for returning citizens and justice-involved individuals through advocating on core issues for productive reentry. In an effort to expand connections with community members, Hop will be presenting resources, community events, and history related to incarceration and reentry to bridge the gap from incarceration to community.

Here is a message from Hop:

“Long before there was a Second Chance Act, Second Chance Month or the current White House stance on Second Chances, there was and is Voices for a Second Chance. Although these acts and others are getting a lot of media attention, and rightly so, Voices for a Second Chance, has been a trailblazer in providing services to returning citizens for over 50 years.

Today the social justice movement has created favorable terrain for addressing issues of returning citizens. However, this was not the case in the seventies, eighties, or nineties. No reentry services existed in the seventies that helped returning citizens obtain identification, social services, housing, or jobs. No reentry services existed that went into Lorton Reformatory or the D.C. jail to help prisoners reconnect with their families and community. These are some of the things VSC did during a period where returning citizens were called felons or ex-convicts.

There was no ban the box making it easy for returning citizens to get a job and no organization that had case manager resources that connected returning citizens with core services. The only organization doing these things during these times was VSC. The History of Voices for a Second Chance speaks volumes of its commitment to be of service to others.

Voices for a Second Chance has always been at the forefront of providing services to returning citizens. We now have expanded our services, and provide pre-release services to community correctional facilities, Volunteers of America, in Baltimore, Maryland. VSC helps soon to be released returning citizens obtain identification, mental health assistance, housing, and jobs. We also work with women residing at Fairview Halfway House, located in Washington, D.C. Additionally, we have two virtual support groups, Lessons in Law and Staying on Track, facilitated by our very own Michael Dickerson-El, Peer Leader and Reentry Navigator. For more information on Voices for a Second Chance and our services, visit our website at:”

​Members of the VSC team have been very active with our community partners during the following events this summer:

  • The H St Festival,

  • Beat the Streets,

  • D.C. Wave Fest, and

  • The Volunteers of America Community Correctional Facility Job and Resource Fair.

As part of VSC’s pre-release First Responders Services, we continued our work:

  • at the D.C. Department of Corrections Jail based intervention,

  • visited the Bureau of Prisons FCI Petersburg Correctional Facility in Hopewell Virginia,

  • assisted with pre-release services at the Volunteers of America Community Correctional Facility,

  • offered services to DC residents housed in Community Solutions Halfway House in Delaware, and

  • completed several hundred referrals throughout these institutions.

As part of our Community of Voices, VSC graduated our first class of the Train Our Voices advocacy training. The Graduation was held at the True Reformer Building and included over a hundred supporters, who viewed the videos and presentations from our graduates. We would like to thank Public Welfare Foundation for supporting the vision to launch this training. We look forward to the next cohort ramping up in early 2023!

As part of our Welcome Home component, VSC provides:

​✔️ Case management services

✔️ Birth certificates

✔️ Social Security cards

✔️ SNAP benefits

✔️ Voter registration

✔️ Mental health resources

✔️ Primary medical referrals

✔️ Substance abuse detox and treatment referrals

✔️ Short-term housing placements, and Housing and shelter referrals

✔️ Community meal delivery services

We can help you!

If you or someone you know is in need of reentry services or reentry case management services, please contact us at:

(202) 544-2131

1422 Massachusetts Ave. SE

Washington DC 20003

Solutions from the Yard Podcast

VSC’s Executive Director’s vision for clients to use their voices to elevate their lived experience for change created VSC’s Train Our Voices (TOV). Partnering with Nancy Ware who developed and facilitated the training module for TOV. We graduated our 2021 inaugural class of the Train Our Voices advocacy training in the spring of 2022.

VSC concluded with the graduates’ commitment to Solutions from the Yard Podcast, a solutions-based discussion hosted by individuals with the lived experience facilitating knowledge sharing on imprisonment and reentry. The participants in the podcast will be discussing the effects of incarceration not just on the person incarcerated, but also on their families.

We are really excited about this new avenue of information sharing that elevates authentic voices and experiences impacted by incarceration and the complexities of life thereafter. The podcast will be available wherever podcasts stream. Stay tuned for the official launch!

Lessons in Law

We are preparing to relaunch VSC’s Lessons in Law program! Here we will be partnering with Clifford Chance LLP and are welcoming Attorney Timothy Lyons as a guest host leading discussions in the group sessions. As we welcome Timothy, we also would like to thank former facilitator Dorsey Jones for all of his pro-bono work in our Lessons in Law program and wish to congratulate him on his recent judgeship!

Timothy Lyons is an associate in Clifford Chance’s Washington, D.C. office. As part of Clifford Chance's antitrust and competition practice, he advises clients on mergers, acquisitions, and other transactions providing counsel to help clients comply with U.S. antitrust laws. He has also represented clients in litigation as part of the firm's pro bono practice. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and a graduate of New York University School of Law. Timothy will be joining facilitator VSC’s Peer/Outreach Navigator Michael Dickerson-El to assist VSC clients with their legal concerns.

Train Our Voices

The next class of Train Our Voices will be starting soon! The Train Our Voices program is a 33- week curriculum that combines the education of advocacy and the illustration of using one's voice for effective community change.

The inaugural class of Train Our Voices has us inspired and excited to welcome a new cohort. In case you missed it, here are the stories of recent Train Our Voices graduates Charles Hopkins, Michael Dickerson-El, Donnell Felder, and Dietrich:

There are many opportunities to give back to our communities through VSC. Your volunteer time and financial contributions help ensure that we provide all of the tools necessary to ensure the best path forward to returning citizens.

While we will always send updates on new volunteer opportunities, we encourage you to check our website or email us directly!

If you are able to, please make a contribution to VSC and make a direct impact on D.C.’s communities.

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