Challenges don’t end when individuals are released from incarceration. That’s one reason why Hancock Health Connection Center’s justice navigation works to close the gap and make sure individuals have the necessary resources to start the next chapter of their lives. This important program underscores Hancock Health’s commitment to the health and well-being of the local community, including those who are facing unique challenges. Read on to find out more about what our justice navigators can do.

Justice navigators work on a 90-day plan

Lexi Inman, a Connection Center justice navigator, and Krysti Montgomery, a Connection Center certified peer recovery specialist, are tasked with engaging people at the Hancock County Sherriff’s Department who are within 90 days of their release dates. During this pivotal time, Lexi and Krysti will work to establish trust and determine how to connect these individuals with available community resources. Individuals who are incarcerated may face several barriers prior to their release from jail. Unfortunately, many individuals experience homelessness upon release, along with other barriers such as unemployment, lack of family support, and struggles with mental health or substance misuse.

“We’re here to help support them in getting a plan in place so that once they are released from incarceration, some of those stressors are taken off of them,” Krysti says.

The first two weeks after release can be a vulnerable time and there is a higher risk of recidivism. This is where our justice navigators can tap into the Connection Center’s rich knowledge of community resources that can help make a difference.

Justice navigators provide support and resources for common challenges

Food is perhaps the most immediate challenge for people who are leaving jail. If someone doesn’t have family or friends who can provide them with meals or even grocery essentials, they’re looking at a bare cupboard – if they even have a place to call home. Someone who is eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits may have lost their benefit card during incarceration. In that case, they’ll have to reapply, which means they’ll go without benefits for at least a week while their application is processed. The Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen provides meals during weekdays and can offer sack lunches to sustain patrons over the weekend. If our justice navigator knows someone is being released on a Friday, she’ll reach out to the soup kitchen to ensure a sack lunch is available.

Clothing can be another challenge for someone who is leaving jail or prison. Recently incarcerated people may discover that the clothes they wore when they started serving their sentence no longer fit or are inappropriate for the season. Collaboration with the Hancock Hope House Thrift Store allows justice navigators to provide a full outfit for the release day, and Changing Footprints can help with shoes and socks.

Substance misuse and mental health issues must be addressed to help reduce the risk of recidivism. While not all incarcerated people are serving drug-related sentences, many are struggling with substance misuse or mental health issues. Justice navigators may refer people to a counselor, support group, or the Hancock Health RISE Recovery and Wellness Program. As a certified peer recovery specialist, Krysti provides a special sense of kinship and support for people who are embarking on their own recovery journeys.

What can justice navigators NOT do?

While our justice navigators are familiar with the ins and outs of the justice system, they are not lawyers, nor can they provide legal advice. They can listen, but they do not provide counseling. Instead, they can refer clients to an appropriate therapist while establishing trust and connections with patients in the justice system. They’ll help with appointments and referrals, and they’re ready to listen with a non-judgmental ear.

Hancock Health Connection Center justice navigators work hard to make life a little easier for people who are being released from jail. They’re passionate about this underserved population and want to give individuals every opportunity possible to make a successful transition back to the community.

“You don’t realize all the barriers they have to go through,” Lexi says. “I think it would be hard to do it alone without somebody to support you.”

If you want to learn more about the Connection Center’s justice navigation, reach out at (317) 468-4231.

Relevant Services

View all Services

Learn about individual and group therapy offerings through Hancock Health.

Behavioral Health

Explore counseling and behavioral health services for mental illness, trauma, addiction recovery, and more.

Addiction & Recovery

Get holistic support for patients with substance abuse disorder and other addictions.