Program helps transition inmates back into communities

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News Rock County Jail Re-entry Case Manager Amy Evans oversees the key phase of some inmates' time in the justice system: their release. She moved over from Child Protective Services just over six months ago and has hit the ground running, connecting former inmates with community resources.

BELOIT - Rock County Jail Re-entry Services Case Manager Amy Evans has one goal, and that's to help inmates transition from life behind bars to life back in their respective communities.

Evans came over from Child Protective Services about six months ago and she's hit the ground running. In the last quarter, she helped 84 clients and earlier this month her tally was already up to 30 former inmates served.

"Due to my CPS experience, it's really easy for me to engage with people that are sometimes pretty upset with me," Evans said. "I can build rapport with people so it's easy to figure out what their needs are based on a conversation."

Through case management, individuals are offered direct hands-on assistance to getting in touch with area providers, benefits and services that are in line with completing their treatment plans.

Evans says she often gets referrals from inmates, probation agents and family members asking for help overcoming the daunting task of exiting the criminal justice system.

The hardest service to coordinate, Evans says, is finding transitional and temporary living space for inmates still in treatment programs for alcohol or substance misuse.

Cassandra Leon, 21, of Beloit, was connected with Evans after she was placed on a long wait list of a Madison-area women's shelter. Leon pleaded guilty in September to fleeing an officer and she pleaded no contest to resisting an officer and bail jumping, both misdemeanors, from a March 6 traffic crash in Beloit.

Fast forward to today and Leon says she's sober and happy to be out of jail after receiving a withheld jail sentence with 18 months probation. She's currently finishing her treatment program at the Micah Project temporary living facility in Janesville.

She says Evans helped her when she had nothing.

"I had no clothes and Amy took me and helped me get some things from the PATH program (Projects for Assistance in Transitional Housing)," Leon said. "It was amazing. This has all given me a whole different perspective on life and it feels like I have a purpose now."

Just last week Leon started working at Diversified Personnel Services (DPS) in Fort Atkinson.

She urged others in a similar position to consider reaching out to Evans.

"She helps you get your life together," Leon said. "She helps go above and beyond. It's a blessing. I would still be in jail if it wasn't for her."

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