A New Day 1: Supporting Successful Reentry in your Community

Panelists & Resources

This panel of experts will discuss the reentry process, associated barriers, and tangible ways you can help returning citizens in your community.

Jerry Blassingame

Executive Director of Soteria Community Development Corporation

Jerry Blassingame is the Founder and CEO of Soteria Community Development Corporation. He endeavors to empower individuals and the community through education, affordable housing, financial literacy, community and economic development, and entrepreneurship. His passion is assisting individuals who have been incarcerated through reentry and helping them to become productive citizens.

Blassingame attended Columbia International University and studied architectural engineering at Greenville Technical College.  Blassingame received a 20-year prison sentence in 1995 and only served 3 and a half years after being paroled in 1999.  He is also a Social Entrepreneur who believes in social enterprise for the non-profit sector.  Blassingame has continued to fight for change in legislation since he was granted a pardon in 2004.  After 14 years of advocacy, South Carolina passed its first legislation to expunge felony drug charges in December of 2018.

In 2018, Blassingame published his first book, Reclaimed, a memoir that details his story from tragedy to triumph.

Blassingame lives in Greenville, South Carolina with his wife, Stephanie of 20 years and 3 of their 6 kids.  He is an active part of the community and an advocate for economic and social justice.

Vanessa Gardner

Founder of Reentry Consultants of America, LLC (RECOA)
Consultant for Discipleship Unlimited

Vanessa Gardner has two adult daughters and resides in Texas. Gardner has an enact ability to take a vision and make it a reality through sound strategic development, program planning, and as a curriculum developer.  She intuitively sees the threads of opportunity that wind through an organization, ministry, or correctional facility by bringing them together into a coherent whole that helps others extend their thinking and drives collaborative efforts of non-profit/community organizations, churches, and community leaders.  She is an inspirational leader and motivational public speaker who tells stories that inspire action while at the same time is grounded in practical applications that promote change.  Gardner has a wealth of knowledge and experience in Correctional Ministry and as a Community Liaison which helps her to oversee 7 Faith Base Dorms and 2 Reentry Dorms within prisons for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Quintin Williams

Program Officer, The Joyce Foundation

Quintin Williams comes to Joyce from the Heartland Alliance, where he led its campaign for criminal justice reform in Illinois as a policy advocate, researcher, coalition builder and community organizer. His work included testifying before lawmakers in Springfield and mediating between business and community leaders after the recent racial unrest in downtown Chicago.

Williams is currently completing his doctoral thesis in sociology at Loyola University, examining how housing insecurity affects formerly incarcerated people as they re-enter society. He holds a master’s degree in sociology from Loyola and a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University.

He also has campaigned for ending “permanent punishments” and restoring rights to people with criminal records.

Williams works to refine the Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform Program’s reform initiatives to address the issues and ideas that have surfaced in the current reckoning over racial disparities and police reforms.

Heather Rice-Minus

Senior Vice President of Advocacy & Church Mobilization, Prison Fellowship

Heather Rice-Minus serves as senior vice president of advocacy and church mobilization at Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families. She is a powerful, knowledgeable voice articulating the case for restorative criminal justice solutions and how churches play a critical role in meeting the needs of those impacted by crime and incarceration.

Rice-Minus provides strategic leadership to several teams at Prison Fellowship, including grassroots and policy staff, to advance campaigns on pivotal criminal justice issues. She spearheads Prison Fellowship’s efforts to build new church resources and deepen church partnerships through programs like Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree.

A valued shaper of the criminal justice reform debate because of her wide-ranging policy expertise, Rice-Minus has contributed to Christianity Today, Slate, CBN News, the Marshall Project, PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, and WORLD Magazine, among others.

A native of Virginia, Rice-Minus resides in Washington, D.C., with her husband and daughter. They welcomed another child as foster parents in 2020. She is a graduate of Colorado State University and George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. She is a member of the Virginia State Bar and a Colson Fellow.