La Crose libraries receive grant to help transition people out of prison

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – A program through the La Crosse Public Library helps recently incarcerated people acclimate back into society. First News at Nine’s Dashal Mentzel shares how a new grant will help the library bolster this program.

The La Crosse Public Library has been chosen as one of 16 libraries across the country to receive a $10,000 grant. The money will help a program that focuses on assisting citizens who have been recently incarcerated. Library Access and Engagement Manager, Barry McKnight, says, “One of the things we realized is that there was a fair number of folks in this community either who were incarcerated or recently incarcerated, who would benefit from knowing what resources that were available to them here at the library as a patron.”

La Crosse Library Assistant Kam Hartfield says they’ve been trying to find ways to add to the program since it began a few years ago. “We’ve just been looking for ways to bridge programming in the La Crosse County Jail with the services that we do offer here at the library, which could be critical for somebody who’s reentry, transition back into society, post-incarceration. And this grant is going to kind of enable us to, really put some roots down and be able to make those ideas more tangible and concrete.”

Program officials say there was plenty of excitement when they found out about receiving the grant. Hartfield says, “Yeah, I cried. It was really awesome moment. It was just really exciting.”

Mc Knights adds, “I think what it says is that it validates the work we’ve been doing in the jail already, and it validates the work that we’re doing here with folks once they get out.”

McKnight says the grant will help the program add things, such as reading and writing materials, laptops, and even clothes. “One of the things that is going to help with that is folks who are looking to get a job, sometimes they don’t necessarily have the clothes for the interview. Clothes vouchers is something we’re going to offer along with coaching for interview skills, working on resumes, applications, and things like that.”

In La Crosse, Dashal Mentzel First News at Nine

Hartfield adds that the goal of the program is to help citizens value their sense of place and belonging and reduce barriers to reintegrating into the community post incarceration.

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