The Reentry Guide Initiative team recently printed 7,000 copies of the 2021 version of Mapping Your Future: A Guide to Successful Reentry — the largest order up to date. Of the total copies, 4,000 were delivered to the Illinois Department of Corrections and they will be distributed to prisons throughout Illinois.
“We hope to get this guide into the hands of as many individuals as we can,” said Natalia Fic, distribution coordinator of the RGI team.
The rest of the orders were placed by social workers or counselors who are working with incarcerated individuals. Illinois Higher Education in Prison Programs has also placed an order for their students and so have other reentry organizations.
The Education Justice Project publishes two entry guides every year: Mapping Your Future and Returning Home. Mapping Your Future provides more than 200 pages of information on reentry preparation, steps to take following release and directories of resources across the state.
One of the biggest concerns that the RGI team faces is making sure the resources they include in their guides are reliable and useful for individuals who are incarcerated and their families, Fic said.
While it can be challenging to keep track of over 200 resources, the team hopes that they will be helpful for individuals both in- and out-of-state who might be needing them.
Behind the scenes, 40 members of the RGI team work together to create the guide every year. The team includes writers, outreach coordinators, distribution coordinators, outreach and advocacy experts and student interns.
Karolina Kalata, a student intern who has been with the RGI team for over a year, said her roles vary depending on which projects the team decides to tackle. Most recently, she has helped create the vaccine and health sections of the most recent Mapping Your Future guide and update the mindfulness chapter.
“When I lived on campus, my favorite part was also hand mailing and packaging the reentry guides after reading letters from those who sent them,” Kalata said.
Kalata added that another aspect of her work that she enjoys the most is working with the amazing members within the RGI team who show up to every meeting with hard work and dedication.
“What I enjoy most about working for RGI is first-handedly seeing the impact EJP has had on individuals who have experienced the consequences of incarceration,” Fic said. The team regularly receives letters of gratitude and appreciation from incarcerated individuals who thank them for their important work.
Fic said the next big project for the RGI team is translating the copy into a Spanish version so it can be more accessible. The team is also currently working on distributing the reentry guides to libraries within Illinois in the next six months, making them available at any time to anyone in the communities.
“RGI is a humble group of people who are truly dedicated to an important cause,” Fic said. “We are a busy and motivated team!”