READY Center paving way for those returning to civilian life

There's a brand-new resource for men and women who are getting out of prison, and trying to re-acclimate themselves to society.

Many are in need of housing - food to eat - and schooling or a job. And D.C.'s brand new READY Center is there to help smooth the transition.

Obbie English - a former inmate - was among those who attended Tuesday's ribbon cutting.

"While I was incarcerated both my mother and father passed so I knew I was going to come back to no support," English said.

Although the grand opening was Tuesday, many of the services have been up and running for the past few months.

"I was able to connect with the different agencies - had I not done that I don't know where I would be," English said.

English spent 10 years in federal prison, and finished out the last six months at the D.C. jail.

He was convicted of aggravated assault at the age of 22.

He says he's just glad to be moving on.

"I'm just thankful that chapter of my life is behind me," he said.

His motivation for a new beginning was fueled by the need to get his son back.

He had sole custody before he was arrested and, while English served his decade behind bars, his boy -- who was only three years old at the time -- bounced around in foster care.

"He's 13 now so I'm transitioning, he's transitioning. It's beautiful. I'm thankful for this opportunity," English said.

The opportunities will be even easier to access for future returning citizens thanks to the new center.

It's a one-stop shop with access to multiple city agencies that can help set people up with essentials - food, health care, jobs.

Before the READY Center, people transitioning from prison didn't necessarily have a safety net.

"No one was here to meet them as soon as they walked out the door," said Brian Ferguson, of the Mayor's Office on Returning Citizen Affairs.

"The difference with the ready center - there's direct engagement within the jail - and then once they're released there's an immediate contact," Ferguson said.

"There's research that shows people commit crimes because they may not have employment or housing and so we can meet the basic need," said D.C. Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth.

For English, the center gave him a way to immediately contribute working for the Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs.

"I was released on a Friday, had meeting on Monday, very next day I was in class," English said. "I'm currently working as we speak. I'm a program support specialist for DCRA."

English believes the READY Center is a game changer for those ready for a second chance.