Omaha nonprofit gets smartphones to inmates nearing release

Reconnect Inc. helps those who have served their time establish a lifeline to success, independence
The phones help those who have served their time find work and gain independence.
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 6:23 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Nonprofit Reconnect Inc. is working adults transitioning out of prison. One big way to help them: Give them a prepaid smartphone.

These prepaid smartphones allow them to look for jobs and other resources to connect back to the community.

“Looking for employment in our situation is hard because when we’re looking for employment we don’t always get the message,” Belt said.

It’s been a while since Cornell Belt has had a phone since he was convicted of first-degree arson back in 2020. During his time in prison, he’s thought about turning his life around by looking for a job, since his time in prison is done in May 2023. However, he’s had to depend on his family to get by.

“Having our own phones would be awesome. When we get out, the service helps extremely in our search,” Belt said.

Barry McCroy is also leaving prison in May 2023. He was convicted of theft. He said having a phone will help him feel more independent than relying on resource centers for communication.

“It detours and hinders us from actually applying to jobs and contacting institutions and we have to go to a second source,” McCroy said.

Justin Gifford gets done with his time in prison in March 2023. He is eager to look for a job in construction, but looking for a job without a phone has been stressful for him.

“Accessing emails and indeed accounts and reaching out to employers has been stressful only being able to go certain times a week,” Gifford said.

Now with a phone in the future things will be different.

LaVon Stennis-Williams is the CEO of Reconnect Inc. behind the initiative. She said giving people a phone helps give them back a bit of independence.

“By helping them with smartphones they are able to look for jobs return phone calls, and return emails,” Stennis-Williams said. “Oftentimes, when they just rely on programs like ours they only have a window from nine to five to do this.”