Locked up at Rikers Island, Rafael U. engaged in Osborne’s programs, not just as a means of education but as a lifeline to a better future.
Prior to the $17 million budget cut that slashed Rikers programming, Osborne’s healthy relationships and parenting sessions left an indelible mark on Rafael. With a family awaiting his return from incarceration, Rafael appreciated the group sessions that provided him with a roadmap to navigate the complexities of family life.
“I was able to take little bits of everything from everybody and learn something and apply it to my life, which has changed me because now I understand more,” says Rafael.
Osborne’s support didn’t end within the jail walls. Verdell Sims, Community Coordinator for Osborne’s Jails to Jobs program and a key figure in his journey, ensured Rafael’s smooth reentry by helping connect him to housing and job opportunities. Rafael, his wife of 20 years, and his four children are on their way to moving into a 3-bedroom apartment. The promise of a new apartment symbolizes more than just a change of address. It represents a fresh start for Rafael and his family.
After taking advantage of the support that is helping him become a better dad and partner, Rafael is now looking forward to celebrating the holidays with his family in a new home. And he has big plans for the future: he wants to open his own barbershop. This dream of opening his own business would not only mean financial independence but also a chance to pass on his skills to his kids. While detained at Rikers, cutting hair was one of the ways Rafael could “escape all that madness.”
“I learned how to cut hair when I was about 10 years old,” he said. “One day, I borrowed my grandfather’s machine because I was tired of him cutting my hair in ways that he wanted. I’ve been practicing since I was a little kid.”
When asked about advice he would give to someone returning from incarceration, Rafael encourages others experiencing reentry challenges to trust their support systems. He acknowledges his wife always being in his corner, especially in his reentry journey. He says, “My wife would tell me what I’m doing wrong and help me do better. That was a breath of fresh air in my life.”
Rafael also recommends that people returning from jail or prison engage with services from organizations like Osborne: “I would definitely suggest Osborne for anybody who’s really trying to change their lives, trying to better their living situation, to better their mental health.”