Re-Entry Table Model
NEWS: For Immediate Release
Open Table Collaboration
Launches Re-Entry Model in Florida
Open Table, though, has nothing to do with dining, restaurants or the culinary arts. It’s a program aimed mainly at preventing convicted felons from becoming the latest statistics in recidivism. Lake County’s rather unique Open Table model is being launched this year with an aim toward ex-offenders who have just been released from jail or prison, and, weighted down by a criminal record that closes a lot of doors in their face, are struggling to put their lives back together.
It’s Lake County’s Probation Services Division that’s creating this local version of Open Table, a program that got its start in Arizona. The local model encourages churches to partner with probation programs, and literally set up “Tables” that ex-offenders can come to, where they can meet with community leaders who will work with them to figure out a long term plan to get their lives back on track.
The goal is ambitious and long term. This first Probation Department Open Table aims to create a law enforcement community model that, if successful, might mean that Florida could eventually become a teaching center for other communities to see how this work is done.
Covington said the program hopes to recruit volunteers willing to help a segment of society that is very much in need of assistance, and she said the volunteers have a great opportunity to demonstrate that their “commitment and enthusiasm is such an inspiration. I know the lives that will be touched and changed by this movement will be a blessing — not only to your new brothers and sisters, but also to everyone whose lives they come in contact with.”
The Lake County Department of Conservation and Compliance’s Probation Services Division learned about the program, and began looking into it as a model for helping inmates who were coming out of prison — and who are all too often denied opportunities for housing, employment, and credit because of their criminal record.
Prior to learning about Open Table, the Probation Services Division tried to assist ex-offenders by hosting Re-Entry Fairs, which bring together social service agencies willing to assist convicted felons returning to the community following their incarceration. Then last summer, Probation Services Division began exploring the possibility of creating a local, Lake County version of Open Table, by encouraging churches to partner with probation programs to set up tables that help ex-offenders get reintegrated into society.