Know Me Now
Being built to reduce the rate of moms and dads re-entering Oregon prisons upon release. We will serve parents and their children with the hope of reunifying families.
56% of formerly incarcerated persons in Oregon are arrested within three years of release from prison or felony jail sentence.
Children and parents suffer when parents are in custody or struggling to re-enter the neighborhood upon release. Children are in need of visitation.
Reduce prison re-entry rates by building family-centric support systems that empower the parent’s right to change, grow, and enhance legacy.
What if we acknowledged the stressful complexity of families impacted by incarceration and began pushing for long-term redemption for parents, children, families? What if we, as neighbors, step-up, speak life, and take action to fill the void?
The Contingent wanted to know the answer these questions, so in January 2020, we launched Know Me Now.
Know Me Now mobilizes community to come alongside parents in custody and children in foster care who have an incarcerated parent, ensuring visitation while the parent is in prison and healthy re-entry and relational reunification upon the parent’s re-entry into the community. This is done through education/awareness, re-imagining visitation experiences, volunteer opportunities, and longstanding relational support and advocacy. The Know Me Now program focuses on three primary interventions, all focused on the intersection of a parent-child relationship:
CHILD Know Me Now provides mentorship for 35 children in foster care in Portland whose parent is incarcerated, transports them monthly to visit their parents within prison, and facilitates redemptive visits between children and parents as they transition home.
PARENT Know Me Now establishes networks of community (Crews) to walk beside moms and dads in transition, to help parents develop pro-social support and advocates upon re-entry.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION EMPLOYEES Know Me Now invites community to provide hospitality to Department of Corrections employees, renovate facility spaces, and encourage healthy interaction between children and their parents within prison walls.
Prison is an isolating experience by design. COVID-19 is trying its best to further marginalize those in Oregon’s prisons. On March 13th, Oregon’s Department of Corrections closed all facilities to visitors, and the isolation is compounding. Both for those who work inside Oregon prisons and for those who are living there, this isn’t a simple time. We know that community has redemptive power and Know Me Now creates a contingent of volunteers to serve children and parents affected by foster care and incarceration, and those who work with them.
“It’s so important for parents in custody to see and have relationship with their child and family, because it ignites a different purpose in them. It fuels them to continue to do better.” – Earl, a father in custody
How are we doing this?
New Beginnings Bags & Tangible Needs Because the Department of Corrections cannot always meet the tangible needs for adults who are leaving prison and returning to the community, our New Beginnings bags are a great opportunity for community members to meet practical needs of our returning neighbors. You can find building and delivery instructions by clicking the link here.
Connect Kits Your willingness to create Connect Kits speaks volumes to how much you care about kids who are in foster care and who have parents who are incarcerated. You can find building and delivery instructions by clicking the link here.
Notes of Encouragement Adults in custody are especially isolated and many do not receive regular communication from those outside the corrections facilities. This is where you can help (and perhaps bring your neighbors in to join you!). For directions and examples on how to write your letter follow this link Here.
DOC Support Supporting our partners at the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the families they serve is a key part of our work. In light of COVID-19, DOC has suspended ALL visitations in the correctional facilities. As a result, adults in custody are further isolated from their kids and families as their regularly scheduled visitations are suspended. At the same time, DOC staff are navigating the complexities of serving as “essential workers” during the pandemic. How can we come alongside our neighbors who are particularly isolated in this season? One way is Staff Encouragement!
Staff Encouragement lifts the spirits of those interacting with adults and their families each week. Consider putting together thank you notes or other creative encouragement for the ~100 staff at one of the prisons Know Me Now adopted for 2020—Columbia River (located in Portland) or Santiam (located in Salem) Correctional Institutions. For the Know Me Now letter templates you can print out and write on the back follow the link Here.
What’s been done so far?
Since the launch of Know Me Now in January 2020, the community has responded!
As of June, we have provided:
30 Connect Kits
90 New Beginnings Bag
320 written letters to adults in custody and Department of Corrections staff
In addition to these tangible contributions, numerous community members have stepped up in a variety of ways to support families impacted by incarceration, offering to volunteer and even to share their personal stories! Watch Jackie’s story below to learn how incarceration has impacted her personally and her family.
Follow us on social media to watch more stories like this.
These accomplishments are worth celebrating! At the same time, Know Me Now is still young and we have big dreams for the project.
Coming up, in addition to continuing the Connect Kits, New Beginning Bags, and written letters, we plan to launch Crews in late July or early August.
When considering the multi-faceted challenges adults (and their children) face when attempting to return to the community after incarceration, nothing is more important than fighting against social isolation. Leaning on the generosity of volunteers and research on the impact of community networks, Know Me Now will recruit and build “Crews” of mentors for moms and dads leaving incarceration (and their children).
A Crew is a community network of 5-7 adults with the goal of providing specialized areas of support while walking alongside a parent—new neighbor—who is returning to the community from incarceration. With a 12-month commitment for the Crew, each member will play a specific role in the re-entry process while collectively supporting the adult who is reentering.
Navigator: The Navigator will serve as the point-of-connection between the new neighbor and housing & community services they will need in their transition. It will be important to ensure a mentor is available to help navigate the many organizations and processes that must be engaged in order to draw upon key social services.
Nurturer: The Nurturer will help with parenting support, skills, resources and tools for the new neighbor as they reengage with their child/ren. This person will be both a listening ear while providing tactics and strategies for strengthening the relationship and bond between the new neighbor and their family.
Accountant: The Accountant will work with the new neighbor on their personal finances and developing basic financial literacy skills. From the point of re-entry, the Accountant will support the new neighbor with support and skills around finances and provide accountability toward key attainable goals.
Empath: Everyone needs a listening ear. The Empath provides emotional support and encouragement for the new neighbor as they reenter into the community. Whereas other mentors may have specific roles, it may be important to have someone available to connect emotionally.
Skill Builder: The Skill Builder helps the new neighbor identify strengths and interests, makes connections for employment, and tackles barriers with permanent employment. Employment is the key to empowerment and self-sufficiency.
Sponsor: Whenever a part of the new neighbor’s reentry involves recovery, a Sponsor should be part of the Crew. The Sponsor provides emotional and physical support for sobriety post-incarceration.
Interested in joining a Crew? Please fill out the form on this page to get connected and stay involved!
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Far too often, the broader community’s response to the experience of those in the corrections community is silence. Join us in lending your voice and learning alongside our team. Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to learn more about how you can get involved as needs unfold and invite your neighbors to join you.
Get involved at any level. Everyone and every perspective is vital in the movement to transform Oregon.