WASILLA — Dozens of professionals gathered inside the Menard Sports Center this week for the two-day 2020 Mat-Su Reentry Summit. There were several workshops, exercises and speaker presentations that were all centered on improving the various steps involved in the prisoner reentry process.
“I was really impressed with the gathering of information,” Mat-Su Reentry Coalition reentry coordinator Barbara Mongar said.
The main focus of the summit was a training session focused on improving and supporting skills that help change criminal behavior, develop program action plans, and reduce overall recidivism rates in their respective communities.
“You have to have all the different organizations working together. It makes a big difference,” Mongar said.
University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice Director and Professor Edward Latessa was this year’s keynote speaker. This was his second year flying up to participate. As the 2020 keynote speaker, he went was able to go in depth as he shared his knowledge and experiences.
“It was very good,” Latessa said.
When it comes to reducing recidivism rates, it doesn’t matter where it is, according to Latessa. He said it’s vital to support prisoners on their journey to reenter society and help them gain the skills and tools necessary to stay out of jail and grow as people. He noted that it’s important to not dwell on those who couldn’t be helped and focus on helping as many people as possible.
“It’s not about coddling people… You want them to come out better than they came in,” Latessa said.
Latessa said that improving the reentry process helps more people get their lives together and become productive members of society; and that ultimately benefits the community as a whole. Lowered recidivism rates means lowered crime rates.
“If you can lower recidivism rate by 20 percent, that’s a matter of public safety,” Latessa said.
Numerous representatives involved in the various steps in the reentry process participated in the summit, ranging from parole officers to substance abuse staff.
“It touches all of us. Ultimately, it touches the whole community,” Set-Free Alaska marketing program manager Jessica Jones said.
Between Latessa’s lessons, participants broke into groups to apply what they learned and problem solved solutions, sharing their experiences and knowledge from their respective fields. The goal was to train each participant and surround them in a multidisciplinary problem solving think tank of sorts; so they could bring back what they learned to their workplace.
“We can take what he offered and apply it locally,” Jones said.
Attendees from across the state showed up for the summit. Teri Tibbett is the co-chair of the Juneau Reentry Coalition and she serves on the Alaska Mental Health Board/Advisory Board in Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
Tibbett said that Latessa’s lessons and the accompanying group exercises really resonated with her. She said one of her biggest takeaways was the importance of communication between agencies. She was glad to see them all work together in one place.
“That’s very, very valuable,” Tibbett said.
For more information about the Mat-Su Reentry Coalition, call 907-414-4077 or email Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com