- Jack H. Bender
Imagine being released from jail or prison and realizing how much work will be required to “make it” in today’s world with no income, no job, no shelter and a debilitating “record.” The climb to a reasonable life will be very steep.
I observed C.L.E.A.R. Program which is designed to support an offender’s transition to a self-sufficient life. CLEAR stands for Coalition, Leadership, Education, Advice, Rehabilitation. It’s hosted at 70x7 Life Recovery (located within Moran Park Church).
Those involved in the program meet each Tuesday from 11:00-1:00 to share stories of success, current hurdles, advice, and resources while holding each other accountable. The group works best if there is a mixture of newbies and those who have been on the streets longer. Participants share how to avoid mistakes and live smart. The facilitator is a Holland Police Department officer who opens the meeting by saying, “I’m here to support you. I’m not here to judge you. This is your group. We’re here to help each other. If you call out someone’s BS, be respectful. We’ve all got problems. Your problems don’t end with release, so be here to work. Don’t hide your issues. Bring them out and work on them. This is not a faith-based program, but you can bring up religion if it’s an issue or challenge.”
Today’s topic is relationships and burning bridges. One participant shares, “When I became an adult, I realized that I’m the author of my own life. I realized I had to start living differently and making better choices. I had to recognize that alcohol was giving me problems.” The group discusses the meaning of “being a man.” The consensus is that being accountable, taking responsibility for one’s own actions is “being a man.”
Another participant adds, “The parole board told me that I have no excuse. I’m responsible for myself. The buck stops with me.” Another adds, “We did something crazy. Own it. Now let’s do something different.” The facilitator remarks, “When we stop doing something negative, it creates a vacuum. We’ve got to fill that void with good stuff.”
“Don’t get angry over having a tether or GPS on your ankle. Realize that it helps demonstrate that you are where you should be.” One man shares that he’s having trouble with people from his former environment. He says hello but doesn’t engage with them. He wants to avoid his old ways and his old group. They’ve started to call his parole officer in the hopes of getting him in trouble. This leads to the advice of another participant, “Build a relationship with your agent so they can begin to trust you, instead of distrust you.”
“We have to protect ourselves. We have a background. We have to know our options of how to take care of ourselves in order to stay out of trouble.”
The CLEAR program is held at 70x7 Life Recovery. It is sponsored by MI Works Offender Success and Holland Police Department.”
To support CLEAR, contact the Holland Police Department.