When a young man approached librarian Simone Richardson and told her he’d just been released from prison and needed help, she sprung into action. Since meeting him, Simone has dedicated the last 16 years designing programs to help those who’ve been formerly incarcerated.
Through her job as a reference librarian for the business and government (BG) division at The Akron-Summit County Public Library, Simone’s goal is to help people re-engage with the community after leaving the prison system.
This August, she has two reentry programs coming up at the library.
“This is basically Simone’s passion,” says Diane Barton, BG manager. “She’s genuinely trying to help people and I think the awareness that someone out there is trying to help is nice.”
The first program, called Reentry in Motion: Reentry Court, will take place on August 3 from 12 – 1 pm. It will educate people about reentry court and give them resources and encouragement to help them start a new life.
“People will come away with the understanding that the court system is not about locking people up and throwing away the key,” says Simone.
The second program, called Reentry in Motion: Reentry Success Stories, will take place on August 12 from 11 am – 12 pm. It seeks to inspire the formerly incarcerated and their family members through storytelling. It will also show them that there is life after prison, and it will offer them a community of people who support them.
These two programs are not the only reentry resources that people can take advantage of. Simone has put together a Welcome Back Library Experience service that gives people a special tour of the library and shows them all of the resources available to them.
“It’s nice to show some of the resources that are available,” says Diane. “For example, they can take computer classes because very often, someone who’s been in a prison situation hasn’t had a chance to maybe stay up with the latest technology.”
Aside from Welcome Back Library Experience, Simone has put together a “Reentry Job Search Resources: Breaking the Barriers to Employment,” booklet which includes information about employment, medical and legal assistance opportunities that are available to the public.