70 mile 'Run for Re-Entry' to highlight need for mediation services for released inmates

A 70-mile run from Hagerstown to Baltimore symbolizes the need for mediation services for released inmates.

As her brother's release from prison neared, Rita Doran couldn't help feeling uneasy.

Ricky Mannen, 31, had been in and out of correctional facilities on a variety of charges "for probably 13 years of my life," the 22-year-old said. Doran felt as if she hardly knew him.

"I was going through a lot of stress and anxiety of, 'What's going to happen when he comes home?'" she said.

To help smooth the transition, the family turned to an organization called Community Mediation Maryland. The nonprofit offers free mediation services to all inmates within two years of release in every state prison facility, said co-founder Lorig Charkoudian.

"We look at social challenges in which relationships matter and where mediation can help address a broader societal issue, and we apply it there," Charkoudian said.

On Sunday, Charkoudian began her third annual "Run for Re-Entry," a two-day, 70-mile run from Hagerstown to Baltimore, symbolizing the journey inmates and their families face as they leave prison, to bring attention to the benefits of re-entry services.

Studies have found that re-entry mediation reduces recidivism by 10 percent for the first session, and by an additional 7 percent for each subsequent session, Charkoudian said.

"The metaphor is about all the hurdles you have to get across to successfully reintegrate," she said. "As hard as the run is, I don't imagine I'm experiencing anything like the kind of hardships someone being released from prison does.

"You can do all the preparation, but you still have to make it work one step at a time."

Charkoudian earned her doctorate in economics from the Johns Hopkins University studying the public cost of conflict and the savings mediation could offer to the Baltimore Police Department. She serves as an adjunct professor in the University of Baltimore's Negotiations and Conflict Management program.

In addition to doing the run twice before, she also has run marathons and ultra-marathons.

State Delegates Erek Barron, of Prince George's County, and William C. Smith, of Montgomery County, and City Councilmembers Brandon Scott and Mary Pat Clarke are scheduled to attend a 1 p.m. news conference Monday at the end of the run at the nonprofit's center on Greenmount Avenue in Waverly.

Barron, Smith and Scott plan to run the last five miles with Charkoudian.

Doran was skeptical when Mannen requested that she and their mother, Barbara Doran, attend the mediation sessions with him earlier this year. But they agreed to try it.

They met him and the two volunteer counselors in a quiet room used for church services and a computer lab at the Baltimore Pre-Release Unit. The group pulled up chairs around a long table and for two hours re-hashed what happened, beginning the complex process of mending their damaged relationships.

No prison guards stood watch; no glass wall separated them.

The trained mediators took detailed notes and mostly stayed silent, although they'd occasionally chime in to help the estranged family members communicate a difficult thought, Doran said.

"It felt like you were talking at the kitchen table," Doran said. "There was someone there who could get your point across if you were too afraid to say it, if you didn't know how to say it."

Doran said she and her mother and brother have attended about seven or eight of the sessions.

The program isn't limited to prisons. Community Mediation Maryland has 18 centers across the state that provide free mediation services for use in schools, business settings, interpersonal settings, religious settings and for use regarding conflict in the community.

Doran and her mother, Barbara, said they will attend the event Monday afternoon.

"We're going to go support them, because they supported us," Barbara Doran said.

Now, all three are looking forward to Mannen's scheduled Nov. 4 release date. They've had a chance to clear the air, to address their concerns and to make amends.



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