Volume 4 Issue 2 Friends of The Way Home Summer 2008
Our Mission is to free individuals from the cycle of crime and despair by providing them with holistic support after prison that generates hope, self-sufficiency and connection to the community
Yesterday marked a very special place in the life of The Way Home, and in my life- Men’s House Celebration, good first audit, great article in the Wave…seeing old friends and feeling the guiding, supportive presence of the board as we face and struggle with the challenges of the day…
The beautiful prayers spoken by Fr. Max, his eloquent and inspiring words, the Holy water falling on my face, on the lintel, the kitchen, all the rooms blessed, this ministry blessed, Tony’ s prayer from the heart, Lee reading from the psalms, Brother Steve affirming our work in the house….the “art of blessing the day.”
It was indeed a day to savor, to give thanks in place of a tiresome litany of need and complaint…to run the tongue over the sweetness of the day again and again, to crack the bones of the ordinary and feast on the marrow of all that is sacred within.
This time is ripe for blessing. It is time, as the poet Marge Piercy says, to “pick up the tools and make new all that we cannot bless.”
Last two stanzas in Marge Piercy’s
The Art of Blessing the Day pages 4&5:
“But the discipline of blessing is to taste each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet and the salty. And be glad for what does not hurt.
The art is in compressing attention to each little and big blossom of the tree of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit, its savor, its aroma and its use.
Attention is love, what we must give children, mothers, fathers our friends, the news, the woes of others. What we want to change we curse and then pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can with eyes and hands and tongue. If you can’t bless it get ready to make it new.”
Today, in our lives, in our families, in our work, we are both blessing, and getting ready to make new.
The Way Home is always looking for individuals would be
~be mentors to a participant
~visit someone in prison who receives few visits
~be a pen pal to a participant
~help with transportation
~help organize a clothing/coat/
~work with your church or civic organization to hold an annual fundraiser or give an annual pledge to The Way Home
~serve on one of our committees
~ help with job search/job contacts
for Way Home Participants
~pray for prisoners, ex-offenders, all work in our correctional institutions, and the community
The Way Home, Inc.
1 East Laurel Street
P.O. Box 1103
Barbara Del Mastro, Director
Lead Case Manager
June 11, 2008
Life after lockup
By Andrew Ostroski
MILLSBORO -- Jim Sivley and Arthur White could pass for typical blue-collar workers, their shoulders broad and their hands weathered from years of hard labor.
In fact, most who passed them on the street probably wouldn't give them a second thought. And that's what they want: To be just like everyone else.
But in many ways, they're not. Both White and Sivley are convicted felons. Both men spent time in multiple state correctional institutions, both were released on parole, and now both are living under the same roof while they try to adapt to their newfound freedom.
With the aid of a Georgetown-based group called The Way Home, White and Sivley are working to turn their lives around. The two men are occupants of a transitional home in Millsboro where, through support from their group and each other, they strive to put their past behind them and create a new life for themselves.
But they have come to find that starting anew in a society that often shuns former inmates, no matter how intent on recovery they are, is no easy task. But White is intent to overcome the stereotypes.
"The best way to look at it is to think about something that's been said for years," he said. "You just can't judge a book by its cover."
'Anger was a drug to me'
Jim Sivley, or "Cap" as most call him, is a Washington, D.C. native who came to Delaware through the U.S. Air Force in 1975. Going through a rough divorce, Sivley described himself in the early 1980s as "a very angry individual." His downward spiral brought him to a life of crime. One night, Sivley said, he broke into a warehouse and encountered a security guard.
"I hurt him terribly," he said. "To this day, I still think about it and I'm ashamed of it."
Sivley, 52, who was 28 at the time, was sentenced to life in prison in 1983 for attempted murder, with additional time tacked on for burglary. His first years in the state correctional facilities at Smyrna and Georgetown, he said, were fraught with aggressive behavior.
"I think anger was a drug to me," he said. "It was something that I could control people with. Unfortunately, I hurt a few people while I was in prison. It took me about seven years to finally wake up and realize that I just hated the individual I was."
Sivley spent his later years in the corrections system in work release, which he participated in until his parole in January. Since then, he has been living at The Way Home's transitional house in Millsboro. Sivley considers himself lucky; he had steady employment waiting for him after his release and a strong support base in family members and folks at The Way Home who were willing to lend a hand.
White's story is still in development. A father of two and a native of South Carolina, White, 45, was working in Smyrna and going through a separation from his wife of 15 years when he got behind the wheel of his truck while intoxicated. Passing another motorist on a two-lane highway, he struck an oncoming car, causing fatal injuries to the vehicle's driver. White was convicted of vehicular homicide in 2002 and spent time in Smyrna and Georgetown before being paroled last year. However, he broke parole and was re-incarcerated. He was released again just over a week ago and has been in the Millsboro house since then. Coming to The Way Home upon his release, White said, was a great help to him in the days leading up to his release, as many inmates are released homeless and penniless.
"It was like a big weight was lifted off of me," he said. "I knew that I was going to have this stability and I was going to be able to talk to people who understand me."
Getting used to life back on the outside, White said, has been a challenge.
"It's hard just getting used to not having people controlling what you do," he said. "When you're incarcerated, you know what the program is. It's the same thing every day. Once you get out, there's so much other stuff going on. For me, it's a little tough to get used to it again."
Re-adjusting to life in society, Sivley said, is one of the biggest challenges for former offenders.
"It's difficult -- just trying to get used to the daily grind of normal stuff," he said. "We would have people telling us when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to the bathroom, when to go shower, when to go play, when to study, when to work. Now, I'm telling myself those things."
The most minor acts -- including choosing new outfits to wear just after being released --proved difficult, he said.
"The only matching that I'd had to do for the last 15 years was putting white with white," he said. "It's just small, little things, but after getting out of prison after that amount of time, it's huge."
'Not the animal that everyone thinks'
Both men are quick to admit that life beyond the steel bars of a jail cell is difficult and finding gainful employment after a stretch in prison is nearly impossible.
"There's always at least one question on a job application that affects someone who's been arrested or done time," White said. "It's difficult when you check 'yes' on there, and go in there for the interview and they ask you what you've done. You try to tell them without shedding a whole lot of light on it, but I never lie about it."
White said he has already tried to get work in the week he's been out of jail, but so far the results have not been promising.
"At one interview I had the gentleman seemed like he was ready to hire me," he said. "Until he asked me if I was on probation, and I said 'yes.' I told him I have to go every one or two weeks (to see a probation officer) and he said 'I won't be able to hire you because we can't have someone working for us that has to take off time to go to a probation.'"
Sivley, who had work lined up through a friend before he was released, had to deal with the burden that comes with being a former inmate.
"There was one person who was kind of hesitant about me coming to work there," he said. "Once that person had time to see who I am and how I carry myself and that I'm not the animal that everyone thinks, everything was good."
But not everyone who is released from prison is as willing to reform as White and Sivley are, and Sivley said he knows there are those who should be carefully watched.
"I have friends who are running that stigma in such very terrible ways," he said. "You can't get jobs because nobody trusts you. You can't live in certain areas because nobody trusts you."
Finding The Way Home
To help former inmates ease back into society, The Way Home reaches out to prisoners.
The program, which began as a prison bible study program out of St. Martha's Episcopal Church in Bethany Beach, has grown into a private non-profit organization assisting prisoners upon their release.
According to The Way Home, more than 20,000 inmates are released from Delaware prisons each year. Within three years, half of those released find themselves back in prison. In a 2007 study, the New England Journal of Medicine determined inmates, in their first two weeks after release, are 12 times more likely to die than people of similar age, gender and race. Causes of death are typically related to drug overdoses, cardiovascular diseases, homicide and suicide.
Barbara Del Mastro, executive director and case manager for The Way Home, said finding work right out of prison is difficult for most, so their program steps in for those who seek them out.
"A lot of times, their records are held against them," she said. "The majority of people we see are felons and often certain jobs are closed to them. We often pay their beginning rent, we get them out on job searches and we get them to their jobs initially. It can be very tough."
White and Sivley have so far proven to be two of The Way Home's successes. Both are looking forward to futures where they can live life as they want, not as the state dictates.
"I've always been the kind of guy that if there's something that needs to be done, I get it done," White said. "I want to get all this behind me and over with. If I want to leave and go out of the state, I want to do it without asking somebody."
Sivley is also putting his life in order. He said he currently has a girlfriend who he has been open with about his past and she has accepted him with open arms. Sivley is also passionate about helping others stay out of prison and conduct themselves the right way.
While wanting to assist those who come to the transitional home, Sivley said there are still things he wants to do for himself as well.
"I want to watch my grandkids grow up from out here, instead of watching them grow up from prison like I did with my son," he said.
But for those who believe the stereotypes that surround former offenders, Sivley has a few words of advice: Don't pass judgement.
"You can't just go through life grouping everybody together," he said. "You have to look at people as individuals. There are a lot of people who come out (of prison) who are just beautiful people."
302-537-1881, Ext. 204
Former inmates Jim Sivley, left, and Arthur White were recently released from correctional facilities. Above, the pair takes advantage of computers in their transitional home to search for jobs on the Internet. (John King photo)
Thank you to everyone who is playing such a vital role in helping The Way Home
keep reaching out to those leaving the prisons!
This list cannot name everyone. Please know that you are truly appreciated.
The many individuals who give of their time, talent, and treasure!
Churches, Synagogues, and centers of Worship across
The State of Delaware
Episcopal Diocese of Delaware
Our anonymous Patron
Lewes/Rehoboth Association of Churches
Speer Trust Foundation
The Southeast Sussex Ministerium
Good Samaritan, Inc.
The Christian Storehouse
All Saints’ Church &
St. Georges Chapel
St .Mark’s and St. Martin’s Churches
Georgetown Presbyterian Church
Sussex County Council
Booker Street Church of God
Dagsboro Church of God
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Georgetown
St. Martha’s Episcopal Church, Bethany Beach
St. Vincent de Paul Society
Milton & Hattie Kutz Foundation
Female Benevolent Society
Village Improvement Association
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Children &Families First
Episcopal Church Women of Delaware
Dept. of Corrections
The Office of Probation
Criminal Justice Council
RSVP Georgetown/Millsboro Rotary Club
Our dedicated Board, staff, volunteers, and mentors!
We cannot thank you enough!!!
The Way Home is
sponsoring an art project
for individuals at the
Facility that are
participating in their art classes. Individuals will
submit original drawings
for the official Way
Home Christmas card
and Thank you card for 2008.
Look for the winning
~None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power the hope of freedom to those who are not free
~Pearl S. Buck
April Quarterly Dinner
Our participants of the quarter!!
Enjoying new friends
Good food, good friends
Save The Date!!!
July 17, 2008
Bring your favorite
Come celebrate with the Participant of the Quarter!
North Bedford Street
Hope to see you there!!
Ongoing support groups
Church Of God
Bridges to the Future
4th Monday of each month
North Bedford Street
Way Home Women’s
2nd and 4th Sundays
All Saints Episcopal
18 Olive Street
Serving, Learning and Connecting with the Way Home
St. Paul’s School, a K-12 Episcopal school located outside of Baltimore, Maryland, recently completed a week-long Service Learning Trip that was hosted by The Way Home. Twenty-five high school students and four adult chaperones lived and worked on the Eastern Shore fixing up The Way Home’s male transitional house, working with Tony Neal, hearing about prison from ex-inmates, learning about the poultry industry, and making significant relationships with a number of people involved in The Way Home ministry. The School has been running
trips hosted by The Way Home for many years and it
has developed into a staple of the School’s summer programming. “I love working with Tony and hearing the stories of people like CAP (a Way Home participant)” reports Colin, an eleventh grader who has participated in this trip for two years in a row. “Students often come on this trip not knowing what to expect, but leave having been transformed by the acts of service, there relationships established, and the new knowledge gained” comments Sanford Groff, Chaplain at St. Paul’s. “There is no substitute for the experiential, hands-on learning that we do on this trip.” Over the course of the week, students built a vegetable and flower garden at the male transitional home, gave the house a good spring
cleaning, washed the vehicles, helped at Ruth House, heard Tony’s testimony as well as that of other Way Home participants, visited a poultry factory, toured the Sussex County Work Release Program and Violations of Probation unit, and concluded with a group dinner and closing service held at St. Martha’s in Bethany Beach. The week was incredibly busy but everyone involved, from students to participants to chaperones, found the trip to be important, beneficial and fun. As Courtney, a twelfth grade students said, “I’ve had an amazing week that I’ll never forget!”