In this time of national conflict and turmoil, it is worth reminding ourselves of the things that unite us. Some responses to big problems just make sense, regardless of one’s political perspective.
Life is messy, and sometimes people make big mistakes—commit crimes and spend time in jail or prison.
When that happens in a family, the effect never is restricted to the offender. In Maine, which I’ve called home for nearly nine years now, I’ve followed the story of Bruce Noddin, and have written about him here. A family member’s incarceration became his turning point.
Two years ago, he was honored for work he has done (and continues to do) for men in prison and for their families. https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/news/outreach/6-who-care/2018-6-who-care-winner-bruce-noddin/97-604515856?fbclid=IwAR3Fgi5Xry28cVgb-1m2Z2y34EpoGXurn9fJVgcuMEClvBaKeso8Yy6yxk8
Mindful that incarcerated individuals often relapse into the same kind of behaviors that landed them in prison, he wanted to do something helpful. The ripple effect of recidivism damages many people, including the offender’s family. As Kimberly Charland points out in the above piece, to help released individuals and their families, Bruce Noddin founded the Maine Prisoner Re-Entry Network “to help connect the various re-entry organizations with each other. These meetings have grown from five members, in the Auburn area, to twenty plus members, in other cities in Maine, in a short time.”
He’s done a lot for individuals re-entering society, but I’d like to focus here on what he’s done for their families. Bruce reaches out to people who like him have been affected by a family member’s incarceration. One encounter became a turning point for Bruce that now benefits many families that also face the challenges of having a family member in prison. https://portlanddiocese.org/harvest/roses-room
The article in the above link tells the story about that encounter with Rose Dubay of Poland, Maine. Her son had been incarcerated for fifteen years in another state, but she and her husband had kept this information to themselves, largely because of the stigma attached to incarceration. Imagine the emotions they were holding in. Finally, she decided she needed a support group. Recommended to Bruce at MPRN, she learned from him that no such group existed in Maine.
No problem. As part of his work with MPRN, Bruce organized a series of group sessions around the state that give families a chance to share their painful stories and to learn from each other. He named it Rose’s Room in honor of the woman whose need inspired his actions.
“The Rose’s Room attended by the Noddin and Rose meets monthly at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Auburn. They say as many as 20 people have attended.
“Since the first Rose’s Room was established in May 2018, the program has blossomed. There are now Rose’s Rooms in Bridgton, Farmington, Lewiston, Rockland, Westbrook, and a newly opened one in Winslow.”
Here’s a great interview about incarceration from Maine Public Radio, which features Bruce Noddin and also Joseph Jackson, whose impressive story has been shared here.
“What happens after a person is released from prison in Maine? Are there services and support available? How does someone transition back into society? We hear from those who have made the transition, or are in the process of making it, and learn about the challenges they have faced–and what they feel is most needed.
- Jackie McBurnie, works with Center for Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston and as a home health aide
- Joseph Jackson, coordinator, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition; program facilitator, Maine Inside Out
- Jeremy Hiltz, owner, Recovery Connections of Maine; substance abuse counselor
- Margo Walsh, founder and CEO of Maine Works
- Bruce Noddin, director, Maine Prisoner Re-Entry Network”
Bruce Noddin’s response to tragedy in his family’s life has turned that pain into help for people who need it. And let’s not fool ourselves, when formerly incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter society and become solid members of the community, everyone benefits.
Hats off to Bruce Noddin and the folks working to help those who are ready to take healthy steps forward.
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Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the TURNING POINTS blog on nedbachus.com and on his OPEN ADMISSIONS Facebook Page. City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.