The Muscogee Creek Nation has received $3.78 million from the U.S. Department of Justice for the tribe’s Reintegration Program (RIP), which assists tribal citizens who have served time in a correctional facility and are ready to be welcomed back into society.
The grant will go towards the construction and renovation of a regional, Henryetta, Oklahoma-based transitional living facility for these citizens, designed to help address public safety issues. It will also provide a positive and structured environment for clients to receive educational and vocational training by teaching valuable life and job skills and providing core classes.
“Here at the Reintegration Program, we believe every citizen is important—even an ex prisoner. We believe every citizen is capable of change and through our efforts we can reclaim our citizens back into an atmosphere of healing and forgiveness. We strengthen our sovereignty by addressing the needs of a population that often times are denied basic services because of a felony conviction,” Reintegration Program Director Tony Fish said.
Construction of the transitional facility is projected to begin by mid-2014. The facility will feature on-site apartment style living for clients, a new administration building/multi-purpose center and vocational training facility. The program will offer on-site housing to 27 male and nine female clients, none of which will be sex offenders. Clients who are sex offenders will be housed in a different location.
The new administration building and multi-purpose center will provide: a kitchen, conference room and office space for RIP staff, classrooms to train and educate clients and a security area, laundry facility, fitness room and lobby, as well as much needed storage space.
The vocational training facility will include two training areas where clients can participate in a hands-on learning experience, which will enhance their ability to gain a valuable career.
In 2004, the Muscogee Creek Nation made history by creating the first tribal re-entry program for its citizens. The tribe felt that it was necessary to reintegrate tribal members back into society to help them become worthy citizens who are valuable to the tribe, the public and themselves.
RIP was placed under the Muscogee Creek Nation Department of Health in 2005 where the program flourished until being moved to the Department of Education and Training in 2008. Under this new placement, the program received national recognition from Harvard University’s Honoring Nations Program.
According to the Honoring Nations website: www.hpaied.org, the program: identifies, celebrates and shares excellence in American Indian tribal governance.
Shortly thereafter, RIP received additional recognition from the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center and calls from the U.S. Office of the Vice President seeking information on best practices.
Recently, RIP received an honorable mention from the 2013 Awards Cycle for the Harvard Project Honoring Nations Program.
RIP has serviced more than 500 clients to date. In previous years, RIP has successfully reintegrated 90 percent or more of clients who have gone through the program.
“The program is truly a blessing,” former client Jared Lowe said.
Muscogee Creek Nation RIP is unique because the program practices cutting edge justice techniques while embracing Native American cultural values. Many tribal, federal and other entities throughout the U.S. have acknowledged the great work the program continues to do and view RIP as a model.
Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief George Tiger believes this is a venture not only for our community, but more importantly, an investment in our people.
“The program was established to help citizens facing hopelessness and despair. This gives them confidence and optimism as law abiding (and tax-paying) citizens,” said Tiger.
To learn more about the Muscogee Creek Nation Reintegration Program or obtain assistance for a loved one contact the RIP office locally at: 918-652-2676, toll-free at: 1-800-259-1059 or by mail at: 615 E. Corporation St. Henryetta, Oklahoma, 74437. Visit the program website at: www.mcnrip.com and Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/MCNRip.