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Dena Dickerson has some thoughts on Alabama prisons, Gov. Kay Ivey should listen

July 26, 2019 | AL.com

The governor says she wants the Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy to gather “data” to drive “meaningful progress” to fix our awful prisons.

What she and her group really need is Dena Dickerson.

They need her because she has something they don’t have, something no data will reveal: She’s been there, 10 years inside the walls of Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Elmore County.

Ten years of a 114-year sentence levied in 2002. That’s right—one-hundred-and-fourteen years. For a non-violent crime—“conspiracy’ involving selling drugs.

One-hundred and fourteen years. She was 23 years old.

They need Dena because they need to know what happens inside those walls. What happens to people. Not just to those who overdose, who are attacked or attack others, who kill or die, but to those who simply serve their time and ultimately return home.

Out of Prison and giving back

April 13, 2019 | WBRC

Deborah Daniels has been out of prison 22 years, and even though she hasn’t reoffended, she can’t stop going back. Daniels is the Southeast area director for Prison Fellowship Ministries and co-founder of the Offender Alumni Association (OAA), a network of people who have been in the system that provide support to those who are recently released.

In 2014, Daniels came up the idea based on her own struggles of trying to find a job and adjusting to life after prison.

“I realized there was a missing link,” Daniels said. “The idea is no different than NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). One offender helping another offender.”

Offender Alumni Association offers mutual support after prison

October 23, 2018 | Clayton Daily News

On Thursday evenings, a non-profit group called the Offenders Alumni Association (OAA) meets at Seed Planters Community Church. Similar groups exist in Fulton County and around the country. This peer support forum, which calls itself “a collaborative effort of those that believe or have been given a Second Chance,” helps people transitioning from prison back into the community “with stuff regular people just won’t understand.”

At a recent meeting, the topic was “unconditional love.” Participants shared the difficulties they face with mending family relationships after incarceration and provide support for each other.


Stephanie Hicks added to Mayor Woodfin's re-entry task force

April 30, 2018 | AL.COM

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Monday announced the formation of a task force to help the formerly incarcerated re-acclimate into their communities.

The Re-Entry Task Force, at the same time, will work to lower the recidivism rate in Birmingham.

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Inside Journal: The Secret to Strength

February 7, 2017 | Inside Journal

OAA Co-Founder Deborah Daniels featured in Inside Journal, Winter 2017 edition, and on www.prisonfellowship.org.

"It's never easy to be open about your struggles and admit your need for help. But at OAA, it's not about pretending to be perfect. It's not even about trying to be. Rather, it's about being honest in the midst of challenges, and seeking strength outside yourself."


Letter of Support from ADOC

On February 8, 2017, Commissioner Jeffery Dunn wrote a letter of support to OAA for teaching inmates life skills that lead to positive contributions to their communities.

Hope instead of hurt

August 16, 2017 | Iron City Ink

Sidney Cromwell of Iron City Ink profiled OAA during our first session of our Youth Career Readiness Initiative (YCRI) in Titusville. OAA's YCRI is our effort provide career readiness training and positive decision-making techniques to at-risk teens ages 14-17. With YCRI being one of our programs to be an effective change agent in the community, OAA leaders were able to share their thoughts about the reentry of former offenders.

Excerpts:

Deborah Daniels, co-founder, provides the purpose of OAA. “To have us go back into prison — and especially for men or women who we did time with — there is such great hope for them,” Daniels said. “Nobody knows how it feels to be on your bunk and be faced with all the decisions and the harm and stuff that you caused and not be able to do anything, except somebody who has been on that bunk and cried those tears.”

Dena Dickerson, Executive Director, defines what role OAA plays for returning former offenders. “We are the extended arms of re-entry,” Dickerson states.

Carmone Owens, Program Coordinator of OAA Inside, said he has been able to watch ex-offenders dramatically alter their lives with “the encouragement that yes, I can do it and I don’t have to be a hostage to my past, and my past is not preventing me from becoming who I can become.”


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Profile: Offender Alumni Association

B-Metro

Dena started coming to the meetings diligently, and the members began to mimic how an Alcoholics Anonymous group would operate—electing executive officers and establishing an initial structure. Eventually, they decided to file the paperwork to become their own 501c3 non-profit organization, and Dena, the most loyal member of the group, was selected to serve as a bona fide executive director. They came up with the name “Offender Alumni Association” (OAA), not shying away from their past, while signaling the establishment of a network of people with a common heritage and purpose.

The organization is certainly inspired by the AA and NA models—groups of people with a similar troubled pasts who inspire one other to be the best versions of themselves they can be. It’s a model that’s proven to be successful worldwide, but what’s so radical about OAA is that former offenders are generally not encouraged to spend time with one another. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; they’re discouraged from being around others who were formerly incarcerated.