Cathleen McLaughlin is the CEO of Restorative and Reentry Services and the former Director of Partners Reentry Center, a community-based program helping people who have just been released from prison to become productive members of society. When Cathleen started as the Director of Partners Reentry Center, she was walking into an open slate. It was the first year of the program’s operation. The State of Alaska rates of recidivism–the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend–were the highest in the country. But that was five years ago. To date, the Alaska Department of Corrections has announced that recidivism has been reduced by 5%. Now, Cathleen is taking the success of Partners Reentry Center to the rest of Alaska and the nation through Restorative and Reentry Services, a service providing support for the startup of other community-based reentry programs.
Cathleen practiced law for 17 years. She is currently on the Board of Directors for One2One, a women’s mentorship program that connects female professionals with female reentrants to help them with anything they may need as they reenter society. As someone who went through the criminal justice system as a part of her personal journey, Cathleen sees her work at One2One, Partners Reentry Center, and Restorative and Reentry Services as a way to give back. Formerly at Partners Reentry Center and currently at Restorative and Reentry Services, her job is to guide the creation and implementation of programs that serve two mission statements–first, to find ways to reduce recidivism, and second, to enhance public safety.
Partners Reentry Center serves the highest risk, highest-need individuals–those who would otherwise be homeless. On the first day of release, the program provides reentrants with housing, food, clean clothes, and hygiene and gives them a purpose; to get jobs if they are employable and to get back on social security if it is needed. The short-term goal is to get reentrants out of survival mode, which can contribute to reoffence. The long-term vision is not only to provide stability to reentrants but also to incentivize them to become self-sufficient and restore them as productive members of society.
For the first month or so, Partners Reentry Center covers 70% of reentrant housing through blended funds from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC), Catholic Social Services, the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and private donations. After this, reentrants must begin paying into their housing. There are currently 250 people in some form of housing through Partners Reentry Center. Since the beginning of the Partners Reentry Center, they have served over 8,100 reentrants.
Seeing the need for programs like Partners Reentry Center in other parts of Alaska and across the country, Cathleen and her husband founded Restorative and Reentry Services about a month ago. Community-based programs like Partners Reentry Center are nimble and able to respond to the needs of reentrants the moment they walk in the door. This past week, Cathleen went out-of-state to start working with regional and state offices to help them implement these “on-demand” services. Her mission is to “create, advocate for, and support community-based reentry programs throughout the country.” The Restorative and Reentry Services website will be live by August 1, 2019 and available at www.restorativereentryservices.com.
Cathleen firmly believes that treating people with the dignity, respect, and kindness that we all want leads to better lives. “If you want a healthy community,” she says, “you have to look at all as equal. When we look at the different types of people in our community and have judgment, instead of “us vs. them” we have to look at the “we.” We are all part of the same community fabric. We are all the same thing.”
“Cathleen is an amazing woman making a huge difference in helping individuals who have been released from jail/prison locate housing, work, and social needs to turn their lives around and become productive supported members of our State. She and her team work tirelessly in coordinating with other nonprofits, funding sources and finding resources for these individuals. I admire her so much and just know she would be perfect for your #ShineYourLight campaign.” – Kristi Acuff, Owner at Acuff & Associates