Sharika Townsend and Phyllis Eidel are both Offender Workforce Development Specialists who met while working together at Occupational Skills Training Center teaching Employment Readiness Skills, computer literacy, and working on transition issues for those about to leave prison. After retiring, Phyllis continued to be contacted by students who had been recently released, asking for help on various issues associated with their reentry. It became apparent that reentry was not only a very difficult process, but the information needed to navigate the process was often difficult to find.
Collaborating with Blake Trettien, founding attorney of Baltimore Resilience, a civil rights organization, Sharika and Phyllis began to assist women in various stages of reentry. Later, surveys were created for both women in transition and other Offender Workforce Development Specialists working with people in reentry. Responses from these surveys were used to guide this work. Some of the work that led to this project can be found at www.themarigoldproject.org. Several years later, Phyllis and Sharika came back together to create that envisioned resource.
Phyllis Eidel, M.Ed., OWDS, is Program Manager and co-founder of the Center for Sustainable and Just Communities, a 501(c)(3) whose work is centered on sustainability and social justice issues, and the sponsor of this program. She is retired from the State of Maryland where she spent 18 years working in Maryland prisons throughout the state as well as juvenile justice as a special education teacher, adult basic education teacher, employment readiness teacher, and supervising teacher. Phyllis holds a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University where she focused her work on educational leadership and leadership in technology. She is certified by the National Institute of Corrections as an Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) and is passionate about social and economic justice for reentering citizens.
Althea Parker, M.A. is Assistant Program Manager and Community Laison and presents this resource to community organizations and groups of citizens interested in advocacy and self-advocacy for reentry barriers. She has 12 years of experience teaching both inside adult correctional education and juvenile justice education. She is currently employed as an adult basic education teacher at the Maryland Metropolitan Transition Center where she works with pre-trial inmates aged 18 – 21 who have had special education services in the past. Before working in adult corrections, she spent 9 years in juvenile justice as a special educator and lead special education teacher where she worked with justice involved youth with special needs primarily from Baltimore City. Althea spent seven years in Baltimore City Public Schools as a special education teacher and a tutor and understands the challenges that the youth of Baltimore face. She holds a Masters degree in Leadership in Teaching with an Administrative Certification, as well as a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Education as a Math Instructional Leader from the Notre Dame of Maryland University. Althea brings a broad knowledge and understanding of the special needs population to this project.
Blake Trettien is a human rights lawyer and founder of the Baltimore Resilience Project. He has been with us since we began The Marigold Project – a video-documentation of the journey of women reentering their communities and reuniting with families in an effort to better understand the unique challenges they face. He has interviewed women in various stages of reentry from pre-release to 25 years post release and has assisted them with multiple issues ranging from expungement to employment and housing issues – often taking his computer to them in order to help. He presented this work to the 2015 International Correctional Education Conference to an audience of correctional educators, workforce development and transition specialists and policy makers. It is that work that launched and informed this project.
Blake graduated from New York University School of Law, where he focused his studies on indigent criminal defense and international law. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in economics and worked as a community organizer in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Rosemont while in school there. Blake has volunteered to provide representation to criminal appeals defendants in New York, assisted with reentry housing issues with returning citizens from Rikers, assisted with legal aid in Cambodia, and investigated death penalty cases in Alabama. He has worked for an international NGO that established public defender systems in post-conflict countries, focusing on Afghanistan, Nepal and the West Bank. Blake brings a deep understanding of the collateral consequences of people affected by incarceration and the economic impacts to their communities to this project.
Read more about The Marigold Project here.
Sharika Townsend, B.S., OWDS, is Curriculum Project Manager of this project and is currently employed through Ann Arundel Community College as an employment readiness teacher at Central Maryland Correctional facility. She has also taught Employment Readiness and computer literacy at the Metropolitan Transition Center, Occupational Skills Training Center, and the former Baltimore Pre-Release Unit. Sharika holds a degree in Criminal Justice from University of Maryland Eastern Shore; is a graduate of the University of Baltimore and Coppin State University’s collaborative Human Services Administration graduate program concentrating in Negotiation and Conflict Management; is a graduate of the Professional Coaching AAS program at Howard Community College; and is certified by the National Institute of Corrections as an Offender Workforce Development Specialist. She is also a trained and experienced mediator through Community MediationMaryland.
Mr. Curtis Moore is our Program Ambassador and actively works to take this resource to community groups and organizations working with reentry. Mr. Moore earned his Maryland High School Diploma and Masonry Certificate while incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution. He understands the challenges and barriers of reentry and believes that incarceration should not define the rest of your life. He is particularly focused on the youth and would like his story to help youth understand the consequences of poor decisions. He is currently working on a project to help youth in his home neighborhood of Park Heights understand the arrest process, the language of the court, and probation. He feels that if he had had a better understanding, he would have made better choices. We are excited to have his compassionate outlook help to guide this project.
Kendra Gatling is our “Transition Woman”. She is has been with us since the Marigold Project and was one of the first to courageously share her story and the many transitions she has experienced in her life with us. Kendra is currently employed as a manager at a large retail chain – but her list of accomplishments is long – owning several of her own businesses and holding management level positions in large retail companies over the years. She has been a productive and valued member of her community post-incarceration for the past 25 years. During our interviews with her, Kendra was applying for a management position with a large grocery chain and found that her criminal background of 25 years ago came back to haunt her. Baltimore Resilience helped her respond by simply validating what Kendra already knew about herself, but was questioning due to the employer inquiry. You can view her story at www.marigoldproject.org
Kendra has completed web page development courses at Johns Hopkins University, A+ computer programming at University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Business Administration at Baltimore City College. She is an outstanding example of strength, determination and the attitude necessary for successful reentry.
Keith Page earned his Maryland High School diploma while incarcerated at Baltimore City Detention Center and used the motivational skills needed to achieve this goal to change direction in his life. He has been a productive citizen for over 20 years and continues to be a reliable, quality-focused worker in the labor industry and understands the commitment needed to face reentry challenges. Keith currentlyworks for Baltimore City Public Schools. He has worked for Baltimore City Parks and Recreation where he performed ground keeping duties. Keith feels a positive attitude is needed to problem solve when issues arise and states that one thing he is most proud of is being an election judge helping others exercise their right to vote. Keith understands the mind-set that is needed for successful reentry and brings his wealth of experience to this project. He is currently working to organize his neighborhood around community building and safety and has recently started his own organization – Justice for ALL.
Chantel La’Toya Brown, MBA, has designed and guided the technological side of this project – for which we are ever grateful. She currently works full time as an Office Manager for a Mental Health Agency, however, her passion and drive is dedicated to her graphic design business – Maxxtell Creations, LLC, a business that was formulated by and named for her mother, Maxine Brown. Chantel received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Information Systems from Virginia State University, the most prestigious Historical Black College and University. She went on to receive her Master of Science in Information Systems as well as an MBA in Information Systems Management from Strayer University. Chantel is the proud mother of a 4 year old son and a dedicated fiance, looking forward to an August wedding. In her spare time she loves to write poetry, research, and attend business development workshops to expand her knowledge and business mindset. Her motto is, “As technology changes, so must we.” Chantel’s careful listening and attention to our needs and vision for this project, along with her knowledge of computer systems, has brought this resource to fruition.