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The Circle of Support program supports parolees aged 16 and over who are returning home to Harlem from New York State correctional facilities. The families often bear the enormous financial and social impact a prison sentence has on an entire household—particularly on children—and receive our special attention. In Harlem, there is an existence of strong grassroots, community groups, who want to be part of the solution to the urgent, endemic problem of recidivism.

Central to the program is our partnership; and we work with the faith communities and families both formally and informally before and after release. By involving the parolee’s family members and faith-based volunteers the program fosters informal social networks to support successful re-entry, a more effective means of changing behavior than the formal controls used by law enforcement.

Mobilizing Communities:

  • Research has indicated that “informal social controls” occurring in an individual’s “natural community” (i.e. family, friends, congregation) are more effective in creating behavior change than formal controls (i.e. law enforcement).
  • Harlem is a community of faith with over 400 houses of worship.

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Family & Faith Services:

  • Accompanies parolees home from prison, welcome them back to the community.
  • Helps congregations to be places of welcome for people returning home from prison and their families.
  • Organizes outings for families or host a community meal.
  • Supports parolees’ relationships with their children: create a kid-friendly play space that these parents can enjoy with their children, offer tutoring, and provide occasional child care.
  • Connects parolees and their families to community services: through regular orientations, resource fairs and ongoing referrals.
  • Accompanies parolees to appointments or job interviews.
  • Provides individual and family counseling.
  • Organizes support groups (with child care) for parents or partners of returning parolees.
  • Provides coaching: speakers bureau, life skills, opportunity for reflection.
  • Provides job training and job readiness: mock interviews, resumes, networking.
  • Offers Benefits assistance.
  • Provides educational and health services by referral.