Aftercare Home Would Help Former Inmates In Transition
By: Brent Runyon
Chaplain David E. Robbins has ministered to inmates inside the Barnstable County Correctional Facility for the past six years. Now he has plans to provide a stable living situation for the men to stay when they are released.
Mr. Robbins, founder of Solid Rock Ministries, said he and the members of his board of directors are looking for a home in Falmouth, Mashpee or Hyannis that they can rent to create an aftercare facility, where as many as a dozen men can get back on their feet after getting out of jail.
“Most of the ministry is inside the jail, but we’re going to expand before we know it,” Mr. Robbins, a resident of Mashpee, said. “It’s already starting to mushroom a little bit.”
Solid Rock Ministries is looking for a rental home big enough to accommodate a dozen men, and a house manager who would help them adjust to life after they complete their sentences.
If they found the right home, Mr. Robbins said, the program could open within a month. There is already a house manager in place, and “there’s plenty of bodies that we could put in there,” he said.
The location must be close to public transportation, because many of the men do not have driver’s licenses after being convicted of drug- or alcohol-related offenses.
The home would be similar to a sober house but would be operated differently, Mr. Robbins said. “I know there’s a lot of sober houses in Falmouth, but there’s not a lot of structure to them,” Mr. Robbins said. “We’re looking at setting up a full-blown program.”
The program is to be modeled after Compass Point Ministries in Brockton, a transitional home where eight former inmates live with a house manager. The men generally have no support system, job, money or home, when they get out of prison.
The home allows the men to get back on their feet by providing a place to live and work.
At Compass Point, men have a place to live and a job painting or roofing houses through a contract secured through the house manager.
Payment for the jobs goes through the house manager for the rent and food, and the men get a small stipend. As they get back on their feet, the men can find their own jobs and eventually move out. The program also includes regular Bible studies and drug testing.
The Solid Rock Ministries board of directors decided last week to find a rental home to start the program, rather than purchase a home. A yearlong lease should be enough time to make sure the program is successful, Mr. Robbins said, without investing a large amount of money.
Eventually, there could be a number of Solid Rock Ministries homes to help the largest possible number of men adjust back to life on the outside.
At the Barnstable County facility, all of the inmates have prison terms of less than three years, Mr. Robbins said. “We’re dealing with the short-timers,” he said.
He works with the inmates who want his help and he tries to provide them with spiritual guidance. One of the ways he relates to the inmates is by telling them his own story.
Mr. Robbins is one of 11 children, “third from the top,” he said. He grew up in Weymouth. After his father died when Mr. Robbins was 12, he began to get in trouble.
“I started with drugs and dropped out of school,” he said. “I started breaking into houses and that kind of thing.”
He was arrested with one of his brothers for armed robbery when he was still a teenager and given a two-year suspended sentence.
He ran away to Florida, but only “the weather changed; that was it,” he said. “I was the same person down there as I was up here.”
In Florida, he was arrested again for armed robbery and sentenced to five years in prison. It was in prison that he started to change by building a relationship with God.
“I had grown up with this picture of God, that he was angry,” Mr. Robbins said. “It turns out that was not the truth.”
When he got out of prison, he completed a master’s degree at Miami Christian College. He moved to Mashpee with his wife, Diane, and four children in 1999.
He worked at the Plymouth Correctional Facility until 2006, when he came to work at the Barnstable facility through an arrangement with the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry.
“My philosophy is they are just people who made bad choices,” he said. “They’re not weird, odd, or strange. They’re just regular people.”
Last year, the funding for the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry ended, and Mr. Robbins chose to form his own nonprofit corporation to continue the work. Solid Rock Ministries was formed in March.
“It’s kind of thrilling where this could go and where it’s headed,” Mr. Robbins said. “Who knows? God does, and so we trust him.”