Ashfield conference to explore life after incarceration

The Rev. Vicki Ix, pictured inside St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ashfield in 2018. The church has planned a half-day conference on Saturday to explore how previously incarcerated individuals experience re-entry into society, what kinds of support they need to adjust to life outside of prison and ways to help ease that transition.

The Rev. Vicki Ix, pictured inside St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ashfield in 2018. The church has planned a half-day conference on Saturday to explore how previously incarcerated individuals experience re-entry into society, what kinds of support they need to adjust to life outside of prison and ways to help ease that transition. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-11-2024 2:08 PM

ASHFIELD — St. John’s Episcopal Church has planned a half-day conference on Saturday to explore how previously incarcerated individuals experience re-entry into society, what kinds of support they need to adjust to life outside of prison and ways to help ease that transition.

“Moving Forward: From Incarceration to Community” will feature a keynote speaker followed by five breakout sessions with panelists discussing different topics. The conference is slated for 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with registration starting at 8 a.m.

“Supporting successful re-entry has nothing to do with crime and punishment. People are released because they have paid a price and are supposed to be given a fresh start as citizens and members of community,” the Rev. Vicki Ix, the church’s vicar, wrote in an email. “Recidivism is reduced when people find their place in society again and become contributors to the common good. It’s a win-win.”

Daryl McGraw, who was previously incarcerated and is now working with others on re-entry, will be the keynote speaker. Attempts to contact McGraw were unsuccessful by press time on Thursday.

“Imagine how hard it would be to start over — no home, no job, no friends — and add to that the stigma of incarceration. Wouldn’t we all hope for kindness?” Ix added. “Our Baptismal Promises call on us to ‘uphold the dignity of every human being.’ Every person is a child of God. We all make mistakes — life-changing mistakes. We proclaim a loving God of mercy and compassion so we have to live it ourselves.”

Coffee and breakfast items will be served. Breakout sessions and lunch will be held at the Curtis House, next to the church. A film titled “The Roots of Change,” created by Four Rivers Charter Public School seniors, will be shown at lunch. A final roundtable will be moderated by Nell Todd, who consults with the U.S. Department of Justice on criminal justice issues.

Her mother, Susan Todd, who sits on the church’s planning committee and is one of the conference’s coordinators, said the event is the result of realizations made possible by the church’s Love in a Backpack program, which supplies women with backpacks filled with much-needed items when they are released from the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee. She said letters written by some of the women changed a lot of notions about the realities of an inmate’s re-entry into society.

The elder Todd said this conference was put on hold due to the pandemic.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

As I See It: Between Israel and Palestine: Which side should we be on, and why?
‘Everyone loves our whoopee pies’: Over the Top Bakery in Orange enjoying a successful first year in business
The slow spell of Negril, Jamaica: Scenes from an idyllic island getaway
Home sales in state, Franklin County spring to life in April
Greenfield Police Logs: May 8 to May 20, 2024
Push to legalize psychedelics in Mass. met with caution

“But we never lost our desire to do such a forum, because there is so much we don’t understand about the re-entry process,” she said. “It’s amazing what a small group of people can do.”

St. John’s Episcopal Church is at the corner of Main and South streets. For more information, call and leave a message at 413-628-4402 or send an email to stjohnsashfield@gmail.com. The office email and phone line are checked several times a day. This event is free and open to the public thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts in Springfield. Registration is requested at stjohnsashfield.org to enable an accurate lunch count.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.