The economic strain of the pandemic has made it even more difficult for thousands of returning citizens who are struggling to settle back into their daily lives after incarceration. During the past few weeks, members of the Returning Citizens Assistance Network at NYAPC and other congregations have helped a woman pay her rent so she and her 11-year-old daughter won’t lose their home; provided emergency food for a 57-year-old man who has lost his job; and also donated a wide variety of games, puzzles, books, and other items to youth in detention facilities who have little to do during the pandemic.
The Returning Citizens Assistance Network (RCAN) was organized by NYAPC in 2018 in partnership with the Public Defender’s Service of Washington, DC. Members from the ten congregations that form the network help those who have been in the criminal justice system by serving as mentors, assisting with job searches, volunteering to help with specific tasks, and sometimes making financial contributions to assist with emergencies. Requests for aid come from Public Defender Service on a regular basis and RCAN shares them with interested church members and works to assist as many people as possible.
NYAPC’s work with returning citizens started as a result of a McClendon Scholar Program several years ago that featured Bryan Stevenson, the well known director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Because of this, the work of RCAN is under the direction of the McClendon Scholar in Residence Council and Theo Brown, the program director. Any NYAPC member who would like to get more information about RCAN and how they might help returning citizens should contact Theo Brown at email@example.com.