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Susan McHenry

Still interested in attending? Contact Karen Zahaluk at or (469) 587-7855
to be placed on a wait list.


Friday, September 27, 2019
7:30AM – 5:00PM
The Pavilion at the Belo Mansion
2101 Ross Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75201


7:30AM - 8:30AM

Registration and Breakfast

8:15AM - 8:30AM


8:30AM – 9:45AM

Criminal Justice Outcomes from the 86th Legislative Session

Receive a comprehensive overview of criminal justice actions taken
during the past Texas Legislative Session

Confirmed Speakers

Jason Whitely
Senior News Reporter, WFAA (Dallas)
Host of Inside Texas Politics

Bryan Collier
Executive Director
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

John Colyandro
Senior Advisor and Policy Director
Office of the Texas Governor

Honorable James White
Texas State Representative
Chair, House Corrections Committee

10:00AM – 11:30AM

The Ever-Changing Face of Criminal Justice in Our Society

Courtney Collins
Lead Reporter
"One Crisis Away" series, KERA

Honorable Marian Brown
Dallas County Sheriff

Honorable John Creuzot
Dallas County District Attorney

Chief Renee' Hall
Dallas Police Chief

11:30AM – 1:00PM

Luncheon Awards Presentation

2019 Westcott Foundation Client Achievement Awards
Unlocking DOORS®; 2019 Golden Key Awards
Unlocking DOORS® 2019 Jan Hart Black Volunteer of the Year Award

Returning Citizen Panel

Hear the stories, struggles, and successes of Returning Citizens

Pamela Bryant
Andrew Lott
Antong Lucky

1:00PM – 1:30PM

Break — Networking

1:30PM – 3:00PM

What is a Reentry Peer Specialist and How Do I Become One?

"Reentry Peer Specialists" are people with shared lived experience around incarceration and mental health and/or substance use challenges who work in a variety of settings to provide support to other people with criminal justice involvement who are seeking to find or maintain their own personal healing and recovery. Dr. Sandra Smith of Via Hope (who was formerly incarcerated herself) will outline the new Via Hope Reentry Peer Specialist training and certification which she helped develop with assistance from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

Dr. Sandra Smith, Ph.D, PRS, LCDCI -
Peer Leadership Manager, Via Hope; Author of "Choices"; Developer of the Via Hope Reentry Peer Specialist training and certification

Amanda Jones -
Pre-Release Reentry Specialist, Unlocking DOORS®;

Dorsen “Red” Gilbert, MHPS, RPS -
Mental Health Peer Specialist, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.

Jack Brown, MHPS, PRS, RPS -
Peer Support Specialist, Peer 2 Peer Whole Wellness; Army Veteran

Jessica “Jai” Regalado, MHPS, LCDCII, RSPS, RPS -
Former Chairperson, Dallas ROSC; Candidate for LSMW

3:00PM – 5:00PM

Unlocking the DOORS to Key Reentry Resources

Listen and learn from key Unlocking DOORS’® Community Network Partners/Providers during this interactive experience

Career Opportunities
Drug Addiction Treatment Options
Expungement of Criminal Records
Gender-Based Services
Pre-Trial Process/Services
Sex Offender Resources

Confirmed Speakers

Rex Gerstner — Pre-Release Reentry Specialist, Unlocking DOORS®
Bishop Omar Jahwar — Founder and CEO, Urban Specialists
Yousef Kassim — Co-Founder and CEO, Easy Expunctions
Alethea Robinson — Region Director, Region II, TDCJ Parole Division
Jeff Segura — Pretrial Services Manager, Dallas County Pretrial Services

Closing Remarks

17.5 Texas Continuing Educational Credits available for licensed professional counselors, marriage and family counselors, as well as licensed social workers

Ticket Levels
Partners/Providers Price
(Must be an official Unlocking DOORS'® Partner/Provider to receive this price)
Early Bird Ticket Price
(Ends at 11PM Friday, September 6, 2019)
$80.00 Regular Ticket Price
(September 7 through September 27, 2019)
Student Ticket Price
(Must include school enrollment information at checkout to qualify for this price)
$20.00 Returned Citizen Ticket Price
$50.00 Exhibit Tables
Donate/purchase a ticket for a Returned Citizen to attend the symposium

Sponsorship Levels
$100 Friend Of Unlocking Doors®
$250 Supporter
$500 Client Intervention Sponsor
$1,000 Network Collaborator
$2,500 Community Engagement Sponsor
$5,000 Smart On Crime Sponsor



Simply click the button below to pay online via credit card or PayPal


Detailed information on sponsorship levels and purchasing options for
tickets/sponsorships is provided within this link.


Make check(s) payable to "Unlocking DOORS" and send to:
Unlocking DOORS®
c/o 2019 Symposium
12225 Greenville Avenue, Suite 850, Dallas, Texas 75243


Please contact Suzanne LaRash at
slarash@unlockingdoors.orgor (469) 587-7851

Are you a returned citizen wishing to attend the symposium
but cannot afford to do so?

Please contact Christina Melton Crain at

Would you like to volunteer to assist with the symposium?
Have questions or need assistance?

Please contact Karen Zahaluk at or (469) 587-7855

Have questions about Unlocking DOORS® 2019 Texas Reentry Symposium?
Contact unlocking doors.

Super Charge Your Talent Acquisition Plan by Hiring
Those with Criminal Backgrounds
By Christina Melton Crain, Esq. / The SHRM Blog

There is no doubt that the success of a company is determined by those it employs; thereby making acquisition of the appropriate and necessary talent a key priority for any business. However, with the job market tightening, employers are experiencing more difficulty in recruiting and hiring qualified employees; requiring companies to become creative with their hiring practices.

My suggestion – hire former offenders!

On a national scale, one in three American adults has some type of criminal record. More than 2 million Americans are in state and federal prisons. More than 95 percent of these individuals – nearly 700,000 each year – will one day be released from prison and face the challenges of reintegrating into our communities.

As an attorney who has founded/owned several businesses, I understand the reluctance a company may have in hiring such individuals – the fear of potential liability tops the list. But, according a national poll, the primary reason employers conduct applicant background checks is to reduce legal liability rather than to ensure a safe work environment (49 percent) or to assess trustworthiness (17 percent). These concerns lead employers to pass over qualified employees for less competent ones. A criminal record does not disqualify a candidate categorically; it simply limits a candidate’s ability to attain certain positions that may be the best match for his/her skillset.

Since nearly one-third of “working-age” Americans have a criminal record, dismissing those with a record means that companies are eliminating a big portion of the labor pool in their hiring processes. Employers are absolutely justified in wanting to hire trustworthy, responsible workers; however, with so many people with criminal records, it stands to reason that potentially valuable employees are being overlooked (Brennan Center for Justice).

My personal experience in working with former offenders has shown them to be highly motivated to excel in large part due to the gratefulness they feel towards the employer for giving them a chance. They are committed to working hard, driven by the need for a steady paycheck – the key to securing sustainable housing, transportation and other necessities. Felons can be brilliant and caring people; they just made a mistake. Employers should ask the person why he or she was incarcerated. If they committed a drug-related offense to feed their family, perhaps this is forgivable.

How can a business take advantage of this talent pool while limiting its risk?

One very simple but important way – work with a reentry program that will appropriately vet potential employee applicants and will be there to assist the company with any issues that may arise with the individual post-hiring.

Unlocking DOORS®, the nonprofit organization that I founded and run, is a nationally-unique reentry network platform that provides such services to any employer who agrees to offer employment to our clients. Through a one-of-a-kind process called Reentry Brokerage®, Unlocking DOORS® approaches the client and his/her needs in a holistic manner to assure best chances for a future of self-sufficiency that is crime free.

The key to this process is ensuring that the client has the four key barriers to successful reintegration satisfied – employment, housing, transportation and medical/mental health. These needs are intertwined and affect each other: a client may secure a job; however, without a place to sleep, a means of transport and good health, the individual will have a very difficult time sustaining the job. Working with a reentry organization, such as Unlocking DOORS®, will help ensure that a company receives appropriate client referrals that match the company’s needs, while providing an ongoing support system for the employer.

To maximize full impact when hiring former offenders, an employer should work closely with the reentry organization as follows:

  1. Provide the reentry organization with all specifics regarding the position you wish to fill – i.e., complete job description; uniform/equipment requirements; certification/training requirements.
  2. Provide the reentry organization with the company’s criminal justice guidelines – i.e., crimes that are prohibited.
  3. Provide the reentry organization complete salary/hourly pay/benefits information to pass along to the potential employee.
  4. Conduct a “national” criminal background check on the potential employee even if the reentry organization provides one. (Verification is always in style!)
  5. During the interview with a potential employee, focus your time on getting to know the individual as a whole – i.e., certifications, credentials, skills sets, training, work history, future desires, and aptitudes.
  6. Use “reasonable” as your standard in determining whether to hire or pass on a particular applicant. (No one can live up to “perfect” – criminal background or not!)
  7. Upon hiring a former offender, sign up for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and determine if your state also has a tax credit program though the National HIRE Network.
  8. Determine if the employer is eligible for the Federal Bonding Program.

So, hire a former offender – you might just find an excellent employee! Done the right way, the benefits your company will reap more than outweigh any perceived risk that may exist.

DART and Unlocking DOORS

Unlocking DOORS is now on DART! Save time and money using DART's interactive map! Follow the directions below for an easy way to plan your trip to our new headquarters.
• Click "Charitable Organizations"
• Scroll to the bottom of the "Charitable Organizations"; you will see "Unlocking DOORS"; click it
• You will see a rectangle appear with "Landmark" at the top
• You can click the following within the "Landmark" rectangle to assist in your trip planning:

"Find Nearby Stops" - pulls up every DART line (both rail and bus) that is near our location
"From Here" - allows the traveler to plan his/her trip back from our location to their ultimate destination
"To Here" - allows the traveler to plan his/her trip to our location from their originating location

Dallas County Reentry Brokerage Center
Tarrant County Seal and the Cornerstone Assistance Network logo

Unlocking DOORS® Headquarters
12225 Greenville Ave., Ste 850
Dallas, Texas 75243

Hours: M-F 8:30am-5:30pm

Call or email for an appointment
Rex Gerstner - Director of Reentry Brokerage
Main Number - 214-296-9258

Tarrant County Reentry Brokerage Center
Tarrant County Seal and the Cornerstone Assistance Network logo

Cornerstone Assistance Network
3500 Noble Avenue
Fort Worth, Texas 76111

Hours: M-F 8:30am-5:30pm

Call or email for an appointment
Christi Bell - Reentry Broker, Tarrant County
Direct Line - 817-632-6023 or 469-587-7860
Main Number - 817-632-6000 X163

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