Throughout most of her adult life, Ginger Wilk has been drawn to the hurting and the lost of society, and especially to the incarcerated.
In most cases, inmates are the most broken of society and they have often been abandoned by their support system, said Wilk, a program manager at Family ReEntry, a nonprofit organization founded in 1984 that helps individuals involved in the criminal justice system.
Through its intervention, re-entry and mentoring programs, Family ReEntry works to help break the cycle of incarceration.
Several times a year, Family ReEntry — which has locations across Connecticut — hosts events to rally the community and raise awareness of its programs. The next event is “Mass Incarceration & Racial Disparity” on Wednesday, May 6 at 7 p.m. at the Klein Memorial Auditorium, 910 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport.
Actor and community activist Danny Glover will be a guest speaker.
“Our goal with our events includes encouraging employers to take the chance and hire ex-offenders, inspire individuals to mentor offenders who are getting ready to re-enter society, and for the public to hear success stories,” said Wilk, who lives in Redding.
“I have a real heart for people who are incarcerated,” said Wilk, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling.
Prior to her employment at Family ReEntry, for over 24 years Wilk has volunteered in prisons throughout Connecticut and New York state, working with inmates who were re-entering society and those with severe mental health issues.
The trauma factor
According to Wilk, nonviolent offenders make up more than 60% of the current prison population. ”Most people who are incarcerated have been identified by trauma before being identified as a criminal,” she said.
Trauma includes those who have been sexually abused, who have lived in poverty, and who have been exposed to violence.
“Inmates are the ones that society often tosses aside, but to me they are some of the strongest individuals on earth who have overcome tremendous trauma and adversity,” Wilk said. “They need to be injected with hope for a second chance.”
Many programs offered
Jeffrey Earls of Fairfield, who is director of development at Family ReEntry, said the agency’s youth programs involve mentoring children who have incarcerated parents, and its domestic violence programs help individuals with anger management.
Family ReEntry also offers temporary housing to individuals coming out of prison and employability classes to assist with getting a job.
According to Earls, holding community awareness events “puts our name on the map, shows what Family ReEntry does, and how effective the work we do is.”
The money raised through Family ReEntry’s events helps keep its programs running. For tickets or sponsorship information on the May 6 event, visit www.familyreentryevents.org.