Birmingham DRC Graduates: Real People Celebrating Real Success

Program graduates 28 parolees and probationers

440

Opinion By Matthew Estes, Communications Director

Birmingham, Ala. – On Wednesday, Aug. 30, at St. Paul United Methodist Church in downtown, the Birmingham Day Reporting Center celebrated the graduation of 28 probationers and parolees from the program. That’s the largest class in recent memory, caused by both a surge in successful participants and pandemic-related delays.

 

When the Bureau’s DRC District Manager Stephanie Stewart took the podium, the spirited auditorium fell completely silent. Everyone in the room could tell she had something to say to the graduates, and she delivered a memorable address. “Don’t come back,” she told them, urging the graduates “even when trouble comes, be the peace in the storm.”

 

An inspiring speech from Offender Alumni Association Program Director Carmone Owen, testimonials from the graduates, words from program partners, and a powerful benediction from Rev. Richard Lane Stryker III accentuated this rousing event.

 

Despite being in Alabama’s largest city, the event felt in many ways like a hometown family get-together crossed with a church potluck. Lively conversation filled the halls and sanctuary of the church. In every corner, complete strangers met and shared stories. I even had a chance to have an extended conversation with Coseen J. Smith, a previously featured DRC participant, about our mutual interest in DSLR photography.

 

The graduation had all the hallmarks of a church event you might remember from childhood, from food in the fellowship hall, to a mistimed music processional (on us, not the St. Paul staff), to a slight disarray in the speaking schedule (also on us). Too many times, communications folks like me get caught up in polishing events with a sheen of production value, pouring over schedules and designs to ensure nothing can possibly go wrong. Spoiler: things still go wrong. It’s refreshing to sit back and revel in what’s real. Things don’t always go according to plan. That’s real life.

 

Real, indeed, are the accomplishments of those celebrated, who put in the often messy and chaotic, but very real, work to succeed. I’ve talked to many DRC participants, and a common thread is finding their real self at a point in their life beyond the crime and the negative influences they’ve previously associated with. These 28 people came into the program every day ready to work and learn about who they are. The reward: becoming a great person.

 

DRCs provide counseling, educational training and supervision for probationers and parolees. With a focus on employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, mental health, and cognitive restructuring needs, DRC staff is committed to reducing recidivism rates and improving public safety through behavior change. Currently, full Day Reporting Centers are located in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. Day Reporting Center Lites, condensed versions of DRCs offering similar treatment, are located in Albertville, Bay Minette, Fort Payne, Opelika and Jasper.