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Folklife Center looks at Vermont prison life

MIDDLEBURY-On Thursday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m., the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury will host a panel discussion featuring the Return House reentry program for youth offenders.

This presentation is part of a program series organized in conjunction with "After Attica: the Prison Portraits of Neil Rappaport," a multi-media exhibition that combines Rappaport's portraits with audio drawn from interviews with Return House participants, which was created by Erica Heilman. "After Attica" will be on display at the Vermont Folklife Center through Dec. 4.

Return House, which opened in 2006, is a comprehensive community-based program for 18 to 22-year-old men returning to Barre City from jail. This 10-bed transitional facility is staffed 24/7 and resulted from two years of planning that included collaboration with the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC), the city council, and other organizations, well-attended community meetings, and a study of best practices.

Return House is the only comprehensive reentry program in Barre and the only one in Vermont targeting 18-22 year old males. Return House has served almost 40 young men since it opened three years ago. No resident has been convicted of a new crime.

Return House conducts intake interviews/assessments with offenders in jail; serves 10 offenders at any one time in the residence; and supports offenders after they leave Return House. Offenders receive support and supervision, housing, meals, employment services, life skills training, substance abuse and mental health counseling, and recreational/leisure activities. All offenders are under DOC supervision, and the program collaborates extensively with Parole Officers. The program holds offenders accountable for their behavior and helps them build law-abiding lives.

Jill Remby, Return House coordinator, will present information on the evolving program model including successes and challenges. Two Return House participants will join Ms. Remby for the presentation.

The Return House panel discussion will be held at the Vermont Folklife Center's Vision & Voice Documentary Workspace, 88 Main St., in Middlebury. For additional information about the "After Attica" exhibit or program series call 388-4964 or visit our Web site at www.vermontfolklifecenter.org.

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