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The power of second chances: Root & Rebound helps formerly incarcerated people and their communities thrive

  1. Criminal Justice

The power of second chances: Root & Rebound helps formerly incarcerated people and their communities thrive

This nonprofit reentry organization is helping formerly incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives.

Jared Delacruz posing for a photo with his mentor Mrs. Martha

On the day he was released from San Quentin prison, Troy Williams was driven to the front gate, given $200, and told to report to his parole officer the next day in a city that was new to him. Williams didn't want to end up back in prison, but he wasn't sure how to begin making his way toward a new life. 

Leaving incarceration is a bewildering, overwhelming, and often isolating experience even in the best of circumstances. Half of formerly incarcerated people will be arrested again following their release. 

Some of this is likely due to a lack of resources on the outside. Some of it is a lack of support from a society they left for, in Williams' case, 18 years or more. "[People leave incarceration and end up] back in the community without tools, without resources, and without support," Williams explains.

This is what Root & Rebound addresses with their programs. They create a clear roadmap for re-entry success that benefits both society and formerly incarcerated individuals. They offer legal services, mentorship opportunities, and partnerships with employment, education, and immigration organizations who can provide opportunities and resources that help people never return to prison again.  

The formerly incarcerated benefit from lives of meaning and purpose and their communities benefit from increased public safety. 

A revolutionary reentry program 

Williams says a crucial part of Root & Rebound's success is the feeling of community they create. "People want help, but who's there? And if nobody's there, you never get the help that you need." 

Williams was able to turn things around thanks — in part — to his strong mentors. He now runs his own media company that focuses on helping formerly incarcerated people tell their stories.

Williams is just one example of the outcomes Root & Rebound helps people achieve. In total, nearly 9,000 people have received direct legal support thanks to the organization's extensive network of volunteer lawyers that supplement Root & Rebound's staff attorneys. Their website provides state-specific resources in 11 states. Over 200,000 copies of their educational materials have been disseminated since 2015.

To prepare individuals for life on the outside, Root & Rebound has an extensive downloadable toolkit that is accessible to citizens before formal reentry. Alongside numerous legal hotline numbers and physical resources, the toolkit offers detailed information on getting an official government ID, creating housing and employment plans, finding educational opportunities, setting up health care, and reunifying with family members. 

A reentry program that offers more 

Root & Rebound is focused on education, legal services, and policy reform. But they are also focused on personal storytelling – specifically, the stories people tell themselves about what they can and cannot do. This kind of narrative shift that allows people to see themselves — and the world — differently is transformative. 

A survey of Root & Rebound clients found that 94.5% of respondents feel more confident that they'll find a new or better job, while 72% say they've had their income increased thanks to the organization's services. And an incredible 100% feel confident that their story is valuable.

Carmen Garcia knows firsthand the importance of narrative change — as well as the necessity of community and support networks when reentering society. She started working in fields alongside her migrant farmworker parents at age five. Incarcerated at 41, she personally experienced the injustices of the justice system and vowed to fight for change. 

She eventually began working for Root & Rebound when it was founded in 2013, and was named executive director in 2021 – underscoring the organization's mission to put people first, to empower them to go after the future they want and desire, and to write their own stories. 

"We are advocating for people like me to get into positions like the one I am in now," says Garcia. "Our supporters believe in the power of hope and opportunity. They believe in the potential of everyone who needs a second chance."

Root and Rebound is supported by Stand Together Foundation, which partners with the nation's most transformative nonprofits to break the cycle of poverty.

Learn more about Stand Together's criminal justice reform efforts.

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