Local nonprofit continues to aid released inmates' transition into society

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A local nonprofit organization is helping inmates who are being released from prison transition back into the community.

513FREE is an Eau Claire-based organization that connects directly with inmates to help them take the right road after they’re released from prison. Sunday, they held a fundraiser in Eau Claire to help their new program, RE:ENTRY, which will allow them to further their efforts with helping the inmates’ transitions.

“They’re people with stories,” Chris Van Dyke, the director of RE:ENTRY , said about inmates who are being released. “We look at them like we look at everyone else; they’re people who need a new identity.”

The group 513FREE says the rate in which released inmates will be back in prison within 3-5 years is over 70%. They say they can help lower that number by connecting directly with them while they’re in prison.

“600,000 men and women are released from prison every year,” Jesse Hamble, the Director of 513FREE said. “They come into our communities, they’re in the grocery store with us, they’re on the streets with us, and they’re driving their cars next to us.

Hamble says the group performs their music inside prison for the inmates and connects with them.

“It allows us to build relationships with prison staff and inmates,” Hamble said. “Some of them that we meet in prison; they potentially come out and connect with us.

“There’s a lot of unknowns and we try to assist with some of those unknowns such as housing, employment, creating community for them,” Van Dyke said. “We come beside them in practical ways to help them reintegrate into society.”

Tim Gabrielson, an entertainer and speaker who emceed the fundraiser, says he went with 513FREE when they went into prison and performed for inmates. He says he saw what the group does for the inmates firsthand, and it’s why he continues to help them out when he can.

“I saw that happen,” Gabrielson said. “I watched it firsthand. It was like wow. This really is happening. You guys are really making a difference. It’s good. They’re kind of a forgotten community. We don’t really think about them.”

RE:ENTRY will launch this June and will continue to help inmates transition into the community for years to come.

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