Monica Jahner is the Program Manager of Advocacy, Reentry, Resources, and Outreach (ARRO), an Ingham County grassroots program working to eliminate barriers faced by people released from prison. When Monica sits down with someone who has recently completed his/her prison sentence, she has a gut-level understanding of what the newly returning citizen is experiencing because Monica was once that returning citizen herself. Her 28 years of incarceration gave Monica time to consider not only the impediments in the justice system, government and society that make it more difficult for returning citizens to succeed in the community, but also to focus on what she wanted for her life. She decided that these two things were inseparable for her.
Monica channels her unique perspective into making Ingham County a safer and healthier place by collaborating with Michigan State University to create and run Spartan Fair Chance, a job preparation service that helps those with criminal records with craft resumes and gain employment skills. She also facilitates a mentoring program in the Tri-County Re-Entry Coalition and serves on both the County Board of Commissioners’ Community Corrections Advisory Board and board of Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending.
I work to let individuals find the path to their fullest selves. Coming back out really is an uphill battle for anyone, but it’s even harder if you went in as a kid. There are all kinds of life skills that we take for granted that these kids were never exposed to because they essentially grew up in prison. All that plus the stigma of a criminal background can really be too much to carry alone – nobody should have to do that.