Group helps citizens return to society

WARREN –With the goal of helping people who have been incarcerated return as productive members of society, representatives of Citizens Uniting Citizens shared what they have done with the Southwest Warren Neighborhood Association.

The association held its monthly meeting recently at New Freedom Baptist Church.

Barbara Phinisee, president and founder of Citizens Uniting Citizens, said the nonprofit organization that receives funding from different organizations, including the Wean Foundation, focuses on helping people who are being released from prison or jail.

“When someone has been incarcerated and gets out, they do not have much. They do not have money to get what they need. We assist them with getting social security cards and other identification they need to help find jobs,” Phinese said.

The focus is on reuniting people with their families and community,

She said she was able to get the organization started with assistance from Warren 6th Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold when they worked on the fair hiring or “Ban the Box” for city of Warren workers.

“Our goal is to make sure each person who is a returning citizen is helped. We help them get back into the community and with their relatives. We want them to feel like that they are a vital part of the city,” Phinese said.

She said for anyone it is difficult to return to community after being in prison for several years. Phinese said many do not have access to a computer while incarcerated.

Pastor Robert Stringer of the church where the association holds meetings said the topic should concern everyone.

Phinese said she and others with Citizens Uniting Citizens work to get identification for people released from prison because ID is needed for almost everything, including getting a social security card. CUC assist with costs for identification and birth certificates.

“We provide what our citizens who are coming home need to move forward,” she said.

The group formed in 2015, and its members visit institutions. Last year, they spoke to 250 inmates and worked with 150.

The organization provides suits and outfits to people leaving prison.

“If you are not familiar with the prison system, you do not know what happens to them when they get out of jail. Many want to do better. If there is a need to help them be productive citizens, we will do what we can to help them get over the hump and bridge that gap,” Phinese said.

She said many individuals have no relatives or no connection with family.

The organization also offers improvement classes on managing money and budgeting

“Our main focus is to get people back into the community and make them citizens who can work, do what they need, pay taxes,” she said.

They collaborate with other organizations and agencies to accomplish goals.

For information, call 330-883-6605 or citizensunitingcitizens@gmail.com

CUC, 2051 Niles Road, is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m Tuesday to Thursday by appointment.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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