When it comes to leaving prison, there are two phases: reentry – which is simply leaving prison; and reintegration – which involves a community-wide approach to helping the formerly incarcerated have true mental freedom.

On this episode of the Civil Squared podcast, host Jennifer Thompson is joined by Tony Kitchens, a board member of Georgia Center for Opportunity. During the conversation, Tony shares his personal experience about the “second prison” many formerly incarcerated individuals face while on the outside: a mental prison created on their own.

Tony has a depth of experience on the topic. In addition to being a board member at Georgia Center for Opportunity, he works with Prison Fellowship; and in the past he’s worked in Georgia with the Governor’s Office of Reentry, the Department of Community Supervision, and the Department of Corrections.

According to the Justice Department, more than 10,000 men and women are released each week from our country’s state and federal prisons. Those reentering society face many challenges, and finding sustainable employment is one of the most urgent.

Tony talks about the work he and others are doing to change the way communities think about prisoner reentry. As he puts it, someone can be successful in prisoner reentry by living under a bridge. Community reintegration, on the other hand, involves a more holistic approach where the individual works within the community to build up their emotional intelligence and undertakes a holistic process of self-edification that can lead to mental freedom.

Tony wants us to start talking more about “reintegration” and less about “reentry.” He believes if we can change the conversation and think less about “getting out” and more about well-being and supporting individuals’ pursuit of mental freedom, lives will be changed, and all of our communities will be better off.

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Show Notes:

Georgia Center for Opportunity 

Prison Fellowship 

Re-Entry is Not Enough, Tony Kitchens 

First Week Out – Trailer, Iron Light Labs  

How Second Chances Impact Communities, Georgia Center for Opportunity

About our guest:

Tony Kitchens is currently a board member of the Georgia Center for Opportunity and Georgia Field Director for Prison Fellowship. He has also worked with the Georgia Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry, the Georgia Department of Corrections, and the Georgia Department of Community Supervisions. He is a husband, father and, most recently, a grandfather.