Delivery alert

There may be an issue with the delivery of your newspaper. This alert will expire at NaN. Click here for more info.

Recover password

A better chance for success

Best Chance program director Barry Ore. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Best Chance typically does a lot with a little.

The Albuquerque nonprofit provides support to recently released prison inmates by offering such supplies as backpacks, clothes, personal hygiene items and bus passes; through peer case management by other former inmates who have been successful in reintegrating into life after prison; and through support groups. All of that with a tiny crew and a shoestring budget, said program director Barry Ore.

Delivering that service since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic has been tricky to say the least. Best Chance suspended its group meetings and switched to an appointment schedule where only one client and one peer case worker could meet at a time at the organization’s office.

“People miss it. This is people’s primary community … when they get out of prison,” Ore said. “They’ve been calling us asking when we can start doing the groups again.”

Ore said Best Chance leaders wanted to be extra cautious as recently incarcerated people tend to be “especially vulnerable.” Over the past few months, Best Chance staff and volunteers have learned to use video conferencing, to disinfect office spaces after one-on-one appointments, and to navigate complicated scheduling procedures to help clients get to appointments with Human Services Department or the Motor Vehicle Division.

Barry Ore, right, works with Rory Wolf, a peer support specialist, going over questionaires to be used during interviews with recently released inmates. Best Chance serves people recently released from prison through peer support groups and other resources. (Roberto E. Rosales)

But, as of this week, Ore said, it was time to bring back a key support element: group meetings where clients can talk through their experiences with others going through the same, often jarring, readjustment.

“I think we’re definitely ready to start phasing back in the community aspect of the groups,” Ore said in an interview Monday, adding that groups were scheduled to resume starting Tuesday.

It was a big step back for Best Chance’s clients, who Ore said are a segment of society too often forgotten.

“Formerly incarcerated individuals experience an almost insurmountable crisis of transition from prison to society,” Ore wrote in an email. “The personal, material and societal barriers they face are overwhelming, and our organization serves those who were otherwise forgotten and neglected. … Society demands that they reform, yet provides them with none of the resources and supports they need to do so. People complain about crime, but what are we doing to prevent it?”

Best Chance, which started offering direct services in 2017, offers help to anybody coming out of state or federal prison, and accepts former inmates from outside the state, as well. With three years of information on the more than 600 people the nonprofit has served, Ore said he’s currently in the process of gathering and analyzing data about how well the program is working, including the comparative rate at which Best Chance clients reoffend compared to the general prison population.

“It looks pretty promising,” Ore said.

Finances are a major issue for the nonprofit. In fact, Ore said the annual budget for Best Chance comes largely from two individual donors, one of whom is the organization’s volunteer executive director, Stanley Weinstein.

“I would say we’re in desperate need of sustainable funding,” he said.

Subscribe now! Albuquerque Journal limited-time offer

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email or Contact the writer.