Second Chances Start in Midland

Local organization helps ex-offenders reintegrate safely and successfully

“There are some evil people out there – but most aren’t.” So says Rob Worsley, the executive director of Midland Community Former Offenders Advocacy and Rehabilitation, located in Midland, Michigan.

Worsley, an Army veteran, has more than 37 years of experience working with offenders in law enforcement, jail administration and the Michigan Department of Corrections. He started the Midland organization after working for the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative. During its tenure, the initiative gave local agencies funding to help ex-offenders find housing and employment when they return home. But it was replaced by a more centralized program run by the Michigan Department of Corrections that uses state re-entry money on in-prison programming.

When the state shuttered the re-entry initiative and took back the money it had previously sent to fund community-based programs, Worsley decided to start something new. Something had to be done, he realized, to help returning prisoners, former jail inmates and other offenders meet their basic needs. That wasn’t happening once the re-entry dollars disappeared from local organizations. Although the Corrections Department now provides in-prison programs to prepare ex-offenders for re-entry, Worsley maintains that it’s not enough. “Close to 100 percent of the offenders who return to this area come to [us], and close to zero percent of them have had the re-entry preparedness that we think [MDOC provides them].”

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Once ex-offenders do return home, finding help can be a challenge. “This area hasn’t had a dime of re-entry money in five years,” Worsley says, adding that many prisoners return home under the mistaken impression that they will find other sources of aid. “I wish people would tell offenders that they will be held as long as we can keep them, and then monitored without being given anything.”

Midland Community Former Offenders Advocacy and Rehabilitation is the only nonprofit in the Tri-City area that helps returning prisoners. It works with faith communities, community assistance agencies and government offices, including law enforcement, the courts and parole and probation offices. Worsley’s devotion to this work has paid off: Of the 86 parolees he is actively working with, only two have returned to prison. He says this is a win for public safety and a major savings for taxpayers, who would bear the $45,000 cost of imprisoning an offender for a year.

Although Worsley estimates that his nonprofit service saves taxpayers approximately $3 million per year in prison housing costs alone, he operates it on a much smaller budget. Fundraising is a challenge, he says, because of the stigma of criminality. Still, he says, “they are who they are, and we’re trying to turn them and their kids around. We’re making a huge impact.”


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