Who Should Come
REAL TALK consists of group discussions for ex-offenders.* Basically, anyone who’s been arrested and/or locked up is welcome. No judgment. Just real talk about real change. Participants are welcome to bring guests, but those guests must also meet the definition of “ex-offender” (see the bottom of this listing for definitions). There’s a saying that goes, “If nothing changes then nothing changes.” If you want to see some changes in your life but you’re unsure how, or if you know you need to start associating with new people (because your current circle is holding you back), this group is for you. You’ll need to get outside your comfort zone now and then, but your life will start changing for the better, guaranteed.
What We Talk About
REAL TALK facilitators are open to discussing anything the participants bring up. In addition, topics can range from light to serious, but generally, topics should relate to readjusting to life after incarceration. Topics that may be discussed include making (and losing) friends, depression, finding a place to live, social injustice, substance misuse, mental health and wellness, and self-harm. A variety of views may be shared in the informal, open chat forum. Consequently, participants will have an opportunity to air their concerns and ask questions of facilitators in a safe, accepting and nonjudgmental environment.
No Excuse Zone
REAL TALK isn’t about blowing smoke and making people feel good about the negative choices they’re making. On the contrary. Just like the name implies, our group discussions are “real talk about making real change.” We call the space in which our programs run the “No Excuse Zone.” We provide every opportunity, tool, and resource we can to eliminate the excuses people often use for failure. We’re not about trying. We’re about growing. So when you step into the No Excuse Zone, bring an open mind. Understand that everything you know got you to where you are but be open to the possibility that to move forward you might need to learn something new. This doesn’t mean that any of our staff or volunteers are better than anyone else. We’re just people showing other hungry people where the food’s at.
About Our Facilitators
Feedback from the REAL TALK facilitators will be genuine (we “keep it real”), and participants will be encouraged to consider new ideas. Some participants’ beliefs may be challenged, not as disrespect but as a way to expand their thinking and develop new coping tools. Many of our staff and volunteers have personal experience in the criminal justice system, as formerly incarcerated individuals, criminal justice staff, or civilian contract staff. Every one of our staff and volunteers are dedicated to helping others adjust to a non-criminal lifestyle by offering the training, mentorship, and moral support to do so.
REAL TALK group discussions should be treated as confidential. In other words, don’t share information about group participants with others outside the group (without their permission). Because this isn’t formal counseling, however, there’s no legal “counselor-client confidentiality” in place. In addition, some of our staff and volunteers are state-mandated reporters.
Why Should You Participate?
Joining a group of people that you don’t know may sound intimidating at first, but group discussions provide many benefits to participants. People who participate in group discussions are usually surprised by how rewarding the experience can be. People can benefit from participating in On the Outs discussions in several ways. It encourages dialogue among and between participants; it provides a support network and a sounding board; it increases understanding and empathy, and it improves social and emotional well-being.
Register for an event
To register for one of our REAL TALK events, click on the link.
* Definitions: We define “ex-offenders” as anyone who is 13 years old or older, resides in one of the Areas We Serve, and Is criminal justice-involved. We define “criminal justice-involved” as anyone who is formerly incarcerated (people on probation, parole, or PRCS accepted but is not required), is currently incarcerated with a projected release date within 2 years), or has been convicted and fully sentenced (i.e., cannot be in pre-trial status).