In the state of Illinois, approximately 30,000 men and women are released from prison yearly. Many states have similarly high numbers of returning citizens. Upon release, they face the harrowing prospect of navigating a challenging reentry process – mostly on their own, in isolation. Compounding the problem of isolation is the problem of invisibility. Because of poor communication, constantly changing service providers, and out-of-date or incomplete information, most returning citizens simply can’t see the path to the help that is out there for them.
It’s important to recognize that the twin evils of isolation and invisibility aren’t simply confined to inmates and returning citizens. They are endemic to the entire system of those who work with prisoners on the inside and with returning citizens on the outside. Much work and ministry is carried on in small, isolated silos, with little to no way to ensure continuity of effort or effectiveness. This silo approach makes cooperation, coordination, and collaboration difficult to achieve. The result is the lack of a visible, seamless path or process for returning citizens to follow when they’re released.
And, once again, compounding the problem of isolation is the problem of invisibility. The truth is, many service agencies and church ministries have created effective and innovative programs, and yet they are struggling or failing for lack of participants. Week after week, life-changing programs go undersubscribed, job-training classes operate at half-capacity, halfway houses have unfilled beds, and ministries are shutting down. Here’s why: They lack an effective way to connect to and communicate with returning citizens in real time. People can’t see each other.
The Inside Out Network (ION) is a growing statewide network of service providers, churches, ministries, and volunteers who are banding together to offer a better way to help returning citizens navigate reentry. We believe it’s time to stop being invisible and working in isolation, because none of us can make the impact we want to see by continuing to go it on our own.
The ION mobile responsive website is a revolutionary interactive platform and the key meeting place where the power of networking will become real for returning citizens, service providers, individual volunteers, churches, and even family members. This is much more than a database. It’s an entirely new experience. After creating a personal or organizational profile (inmates will be enrolled and create a personal profile while in prison), users will log in and go to one of three main areas to interact: Search Center, Message Center, and the HUB.
Register today as a returning citizen, service provider or volunteer, or login as a guest, to be linked directly with the network of help being offered in your community and beyond.
ION is completely free to inmates, returning citizens, and their families.
All service providers receive a 6-month free trial! Afterwards, it’s only $25/year subscription for individual volunteers or $100/year for organizations.
The ION website works great on all smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.