How Will You Be a Changemaker?

The Grand Rapids community is doing amazing things when it comes to reentry, and we need your help spreading the word and getting involved to make sure this good work continues.

When someone is away in jail or prison for an extended period of time, the world continues to constantly change and many day-to-day tasks become difficult to navigate when he or she returns to society. “Cell phones, Uber, computers, self check-outs in stores, job hunting, Craigslist, children left behind as toddlers who are now teens__many of these things are new and challenging to the reentering citizen,” explains Theresa Vickers, Program Director of Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids. 


Consider volunteering to help people coming out of prison navigate the foreign and often unforgiving world they have reentered. Two programs we’ve recently funded always need volunteers:

  • Women’s Resource Center’s New Beginnings program to mentor women leaving jail and create employment plans
  • Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids’s Workforce Development program to help people get jobs upon reentry


Take reentry beyond the personal level and consider how your workplace could get involved in this movement.

Several area businesses are leaders at the state and national level in giving returning citizens a second chance through employment. Cascade Engineering, implemented a hiring policy four years ago that considers all applicants, regardless of criminal record. A team of Cascade Engineering executives is committed to evaluating each individual’s personal circumstances so all qualified applicants, no matter their circumstance, have a chance to compete for jobs.

In 2012, Cascade Engineering, along with Butterball Farms and Grand Rapids Community College, launched the 30-2-2 Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to rally 30 local organizations to each hire two individuals with a criminal background and track their progress and success for two years. To date, 19 organizations have already signed up for the 30-2-2 Initiative.

Another way to become a more equitable business is to adopt “Ban the Box” policies, which remove the question about an applicant’s criminal history from preliminary job applications. Supporters of these policies suggest delaying inquiries about criminal history until after the person’s skills and other qualifying factors have been evaluated.


If you want to advocate for returning citizens, take steps to learn more about the challenges people face when they leave jail or prison. Spread the word about why reentry matters to your friends. Watch this New York Times Op-Doc about one former prisoner who guides men released from prison in their first hours of freedom. Really try to understand the underlying problems and issues at play.


In her years of working with reentering citizens, Theresa Vickers has found most people coming out of prison want to do the right thing. “It’s like a New Year’s resolution. If we put the right supports in place and open, rather than close, doors they will be much more likely to be successful.”   

Together, we can make a difference. Join us and help people reclaim their lives today.