written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Julie Magers grew up in Frederick County and has lived in Maryland for most of her life. She attended Jacksonville University in Florida and graduated from UMBC in Baltimore with a Bachelor’s Degree in English.
She was contracted as a criminal background investigator for about thirteen years. “I ran background checks of all kinds. Employment. Daycare. All different reasons.”
She started the non-profit Justice And Recovery about one year ago. “It takes up about 80 hours a week.”
She has a daughter and a son. And, she has a dog. As for spare time, she doesn’t think she has any of that with the work she does. “I kind of work incessantly because it requires it.”
When she does manage to find some free moments, it’s spent with her family and her friends. “My friends are probably my biggest support system.”
Justice And Recovery.org Does What Others Don’t Do
* “We’re here to do a job that not many people would do. There aren’t a lot of people or organizations in this area that support that demographic. Maybe because it’s controversial. I don’t know. But, typically, you’re not going to find a whole lot of us. We’re kind of the only one.
* “We give very specific attention to each of our clients. We follow them for a much longer time than anyone else does. We take each case extraordinarily seriously.
* “We touch on every single thing that they would need which is also a little different from others. Having an advocate in this situation is critical and key to anyone who is inside. It can mean the difference between succeeding at this or not because most people don’t have the knowledge or the resources.
* “We create a sense of empowerment with our clients. We teach them how to advocate for themselves and how to stand on their own feet. That’s vital.
* “We do more than direct services. We work with public policy and awareness so we touch on all aspects of the problem. So, we’re kind of bringing the entire circle together working with the families, the children, the incarcerated and the community.”
The Road From Criminal Background Investigator To Justice And Recovery
Julie confides that she’s been involved in the criminal justice system for about a decade “because I have a family member who has a pretty extensive history of being involved in the criminal justice system. He’s also currently incarcerated.
“That person is serving a twenty-year sentence for a non-violent crime. What led up to all of that and what transpired during that particular situation is what caused me to start this.”
She’s been an independent advocate since going through the family member’s issues with the system starting in 2006. “I’ve kind of seen the devastation that happens and what it does to people.
“There are all of the inconsistencies within the system, the issues that arise basically because the system does not work and how much we, as a society, don’t understand the issues that cause somebody to be incarcerated or the damage that it does to our families.”
Julie adds, “There seems to be a major lack of empathy in this area. Knowing someone personally who’s been involved in the system, I had that personal experience with the lack of empathy.
“Through my experience, I’ve also seen how addiction and mental health are the major contributors to the issues and they’re profoundly responsible for the majority of people who are incarcerated. The sad part is that it’s not necessary.
“I’ve seen the system fail to resolve it, over and over, when it’s possible to resolve the issue before they’re incarcerated. And, I’ve basically seen society simply be unaware — or refuse to listen.”
It was after hearing the stories from those who had been incarcerated and the stories of their families that Julie decided to step up and do something about it. “The families are so broken and they’re confused. They don’t know what to do.”
Julie knows that people aren’t reaching out for help because of the horrible stigma that’s associated with the mental health and addiction issues and the added stigma of being incarcerated. They feel hopeless.
“Technically, it affects everybody in a community. Whether it’s somebody who is directly impacted or indirectly impacted, all of our community members can benefit from better treatment and from resolving the problems that are causing the criminality to begin with.”
Julie continues, “That’s how everything got started. I just wanted the families to have somewhere to go to be able to have support. And, I wanted that for their children, too. And, programs that could help them get through the situation.”
She also wanted to bring a voice to the people who were inside — who currently do not have a voice — and to be a support system for them both inside and when they’re released.
In less than a year, Julie has seen tremendous growth. “We keep adding things that we do. The problem is so overwhelmingly large. It affects so many different aspects that what started out as a support group is now a full-blown organization.”
Here’s just a partial list of what Justice And Recovery offers:
* Adult support groups in a peer environment.
* Referrals to various behavioral health therapists if needed.
* Substance abuse treatment referrals for substance abuse.
* Health and wellness programs that utilize yoga, meditation and art therapy that’s available to adults, children and those who are returning.
* Support for those being released. “We find them housing, food and, hopefully, employment.
* Treatment programs for the released when indicated.
And, it’s not just for one area of Maryland. Thanks to networking, it’s far reaching!
The Biggest Challenge of Operating Justice And Recovery
“Teaching people to have empathy and teaching people to end the stigma that’s causing most of these problems.
Even bigger than that is getting the system to understand that the way they’re doing things is wrong and getting them to make meaningful changes.”
Advice Julie Would Give Herself If She Could Go Back In Time
“Make sure to take time for myself no matter what. In this type of work, you can focus so much on helping other people that you can lose yourself. It’s a terribly emotional and challenging job.
“You have to learn to separate yourself from what you do — which is hard. I also remind myself every day that I’m doing the right things and for the right reasons.”
Julie Is Making A Difference Each And Every Day
“I think I do that every day. Every single day, there’s a moment of clarity where I know I’ve done something.
“Every week when we do our group, I have somebody say that they’re grateful for being able to be there and that they look forward to it every week. I’m changing the way they feel. I’m changing the way they think and giving them that current solace and that peace.
“Even more so than that, when I get somebody into a treatment program that saves their life or I get someone back on their feet after they’ve been incarcerated — their gratitude is everything to me.
“I had a person who had been gone for over thirty years for a crime he didn’t commit. He knew nothing when he came out. I had to teach him how to use a phone and how to pretty much do everything.
She said, “After several months of helping him, the gratitude from his family and from him was enough to last me for a lifetime. It was an amazing feeling.”
Julie’s Favorite Resource Or App
“I would not survive without my phone. I’d have a panic attack. Everything comes through my phone. It’s literally like another appendage to me. I don’t even put it down when I eat.”
Book or Quote?
[If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.]
“I strive every day to be part of the solution. That’s why I do what I do.”
Justice And Recovery. org currently relies on unpaid volunteers and Julie’s personal funding to support its rapid growth. Why is it growing so fast? Because it’s desperately needed by those it serves. Families. Children. The incarcerated. The released. The community.
Want to be counted as part of the solution? Got a few hours to spare as a volunteer? Would you like to make a much welcomed and appreciated donation? Give Julie Magers a call to offer your support. She’ll answer — you can rely on it!
Justice And Recovery
PO Box 386
Thurmont, MD 21788
Contents Provided by Frederick Advice Givers Episode #094: Eric Verdi Interviews Julie Magers