A BRIEF HISTORY
During his studies at Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Theology, Curtis Alexander King wrote a research paper in which he described ways to improve information and resource sharing to people who were choosing to make a home for themselves in Abilene, Texas, following incarceration.
As a minister and friend to several returning citizens, Curtis had developed a great appreciation for the challenges that individuals often face attempting to reacclimate to society after their release. For well over a year, no action was taken to bring this idea to fruition. However, the thought of finding a way to make the “assignment” a reality remained in his heart, and he eventually began reaching out to like-minded people in the area who were interested in collaborating to improve the reentry experience in the Big Country. So on November 2, 2015, the first community meeting was held at the Abilene District Parole Office including the founding members of the Coalition:
Philip Robinson, Director at the Abilene District Parole Office;
Gary Redwine, Chaplain of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ);
Dr. Greg Brooks, Director of the Marriage and Family Institute, Abilene Christian University;
Derrick Neal, Director at the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District;
Johnnie Hatton, Peer Support Specialist with the Abilene Recovery Council (formerly the Abilene Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (ARCADA) and returning citizen;
and Curtis Alexander King, student at Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Theology
After that, the first community meeting occurred in early 2016 and has been consistently recurring ever since. Initially called the Abilene Reentry Coalition, the name was later changed to the Big Country Reentry Coalition to reflect a commitment to serve counties throughout the West Texas region. The BCRC has been consistently blessed to have a strong blend of persons with lived experience and of committed allies since its inception.
With the arrival of the Coronavirus in 2020, the monthly meetings moved completely online. This move allowed the Coalition to extend its reach throughout Texas and occasionally across state lines. In 2021, the BCRC established an executive team of seven passionate advocates, and named Shelby Garfield as the first Coalition Coordinator in a volunteer capacity.
Through the ongoing networking of the BCRC members, a strong sense of shared purpose around making reentry a priority in the Big Country region has emerged and a growing number of individuals have directly benefited from the cooperative spirit that exists in the area.
The BCRC seeks to obtain 501(c)3 Nonprofit status in 2023 and will continue to expand its reach into rural communities within the 19-county area it serves, while hosting events to overcome the barriers that returning citizens and their families face.
The mission of the Big Country Reentry Coalition is to facilitate and support the successful return of formerly incarcerated individuals to the community.
We want to provide every person returning from incarceration with the support, tools, and information needed to successfully and safely reintegrate themselves into the community through their own initiative and to remain offense free.
In collaboration with local resource providers, community and faith-based organizations, and government entities, the Reentry Coalition will utilize a person-centered holistic approach that includes an emphasis on education, families, health services, treatment, mental health, employment, mentorship and housing.
In pursuing this mission, we will foster an increase in public safety through the reduction of recidivism, while seeking to improve the lives of the individuals we serve, their families, and our shared communities.