RECH Foundation, co-founded by Pauline Rogers, has been boots on the ground for decades providing transitional housing and reintegration services to the formerly incarcerated in South Jackson, Mississippi. RECH has maintained zero recidivism for over 30 years and became a SAFE Housing Network member in 2020. Pauline is grateful for Susan Burton, who has embraced her organization and supported RECH by providing resources and expanding its visibility. RECH Foundation offers critical support in a state with a history of slavery and ties to mass incarceration.
A New Way of Life recognizes the RECH Foundation’s unique struggles in the deep South. This region tends to be forgotten until someone outside sheds light on what is happening. In 1863, Mississippi outlawed the practice of slavery. However, convict leasing continued in the state for decades. Convict leasing was a legalized form of slavery, forcing thousands of Black people to work under terrible conditions throughout the South. “Most of the prisoners subjected to convict leasing were Black, and many were convicted of dubious offenses such as vagrancy or changing employers without permission.” In 1906, Mississippi abolished convict leasing. But those bound by convict leasing weren’t set free; the state sent them to prison, where penal labor continued. The 13th Amendment to the constitution allows penal labor in the US. According to Newsweek, incarcerated people aren’t paid for their labor in Mississippi. This loss of income impacts their ability to succeed after release.
Mississippi continues to function under the same biased, unequal practices, discriminatory practices, unfair sentencing, time not matching the crime, and different rules for whites than people of color. While the number of people cycling in and out of prison is rising in Mississippi, the funding for reentry support is not. The Mississippi Department of Corrections spends 2% of its budget on prison-based intervention programs, little to none of which are evidence-based. Pauline Rogers says, “We need more people closest to the problem who understand the issues to lead the way to solutions for organizing, educating, mobilizing, and strategizing for systemic change.”
Organizations like the RECH Foundation are crucial to offering support to formerly incarcerated people in Mississippi. As a SAFE Housing Network member, RECH dedicates its time to providing formerly incarcerated women the support and stability they need to transform their lives. The Wendy Hatcher Transitional Home provides a home for formerly incarcerated women. RECH offers prison ministry for those building their relationship with God. And finally, Mississippi Offender Reentry Establishment (MORE), a project that hosts statewide Reentry and Resource fairs, where formerly incarcerated individuals can find employment, leadership training, and mentorship. Reentry services have an incredible impact on the lives of system-impacted individuals and communities. Through reentry work, RECH Foundation confronts Mississippi’s dark history every day.