Dismas Discussion connects to returning citizens

By: Azl Saeed ~Staff Writer~

Newswire photo by Hannah Paige Michels | Named after the thief crucified beside Jesus, the Dismas Journey sparked discussion about incarceration in America.

On Monday, Feb 6, approximately 40 Xavier students and parish members joined in Bellarmine Chapel to hear about the Dismas Journey.

The Dismas Journey is named after Saint Dismas, the “good thief,” who was crucified alongside Jesus. The evening consisted of an interactive conversation, which was facilitated by members of the Help Program through St. Vincent de Paul. The conversation focused on incarceration in today’s society and the struggles that citizens face when returning to society.

The evening began at 7 p.m. with an opening prayer. The first speaker, Bob Miller, the chair of the Help Program, then went on to state that the purpose of the program was to create a deeper connection with returning citizens. Miller then briefly mentioned some statistics about the reality of incarceration in this country.

While most Xavier students are not directly exposed to it, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Approximately 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated on any given day, and 700,000 are released back into society annually. Additionally, Miller mentioned the factor that race plays into incarceration. For any given crime, the arrest rate for Black citizens is higher than that for White people. For example, statistics show that, while marijuana use between Blacks and Whites is relatively the same, Blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

Miller further went on to say that the rise of incarceration rates is responsible for nearly 20 percent of the total poverty in the nation. This is because returning citizens have immense difficulty with employment, housing and education.

As Dominic Duren, the reentry coordinator of the program, mentioned, the ultimate goal of the Help Program is to provide a caring and supportive community for these returning citizens so that they can overcome these challenges.

Duren shared his own journey of being a returning citizen after serving twelve years in prison. He credited the Help Program for assisting him in securing a job, a task that was otherwise difficult for him due to his felony record.

As the program went on, other returning citizens shared stories and expressed their concerns about “the broken system” for returning citizens. Following that, the attendees were split into small groups to further discuss the subject of re-entry.

Members of the Help Program encouraged attendees to visit their website, helpprogramcincinnati. net, in order to learn more .about becoming involved in the program.