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Justice Reform

Having access to an education is vital for youth when it comes to learning skills and being able to succeed in the world. Education has become very expensive, limiting who is able to attend schools. With many limitations already placed on who can afford and receive an education, there are other factors that affect children’s ability to attend school, one being the inability to receive scholarships if previously incarcerated. 

However, The Denver Post published an article outlining how Colorado will be the first state to award college scholarships to previously incarcerated youth. They could be eligible for scholarships up to $10,000 annually toward the cost of a state college, university or other post secondary institution according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education. To apply for the scholarships, participants need to complete the scholarship application, obtain three letters of recommendation and finally if invited, participate in an interview with the selection committee. The center is working to knock down barriers that prevent youth from pursuing their dreams and passions that are affected by affordability.

The scholarship was created by Senate Bill 19-231, a second chance scholarship program, in the hopes of giving previously incarcerate youth a fair chance at receiving an education. Many have made mistakes but wish to fix them and have a second chance at a successful life, away from crime. It is important that they be able to do this and be awarded the same opportunities as others to receive an education. This will help them learn necessary skills and set them up better to succeed in life and reduce recidivism rates. Supplying access to an education for all youth is a very powerful deterrent to recidivism and previously incarcerated youth should not be deterred because of limitations set on being able to afford an education.

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Community Supervision

TRACKtech is proud to announce our partnership as Cisco’s first and only mobile technology solution partner connecting organizations serving the needs of at-risk populations with other agencies, departments, and clients they serve.  As a Cisco Solutions Plus Partner, TRACKtech utilizes Cisco’s Webex Teams and Meetings platforms to virtually connect probation and parole officers with their clients, as well as better manage their caseloads through providing a constant means of communication.

Cisco’s Connected Justice solution is the first standards-based video solution to deliver comprehensive, connected professional services to the entire justice system; public safety departments, courts, correctional facilities and community corrections agencies. Covid-19 made delivering critical services without physical contact essential. TRACKtech is proud to be a part of Cisco’s Connected Justice solution along with other partners, TeleSpace and Cloverhound

“I am delighted to partner with Cisco for our Connected Justice Solution,” said TRACKtech CEO, Michael Hirschman. “This partnership is an essential step towards improving public safety and modernizing the criminal justice system.”

TRACKtech has recently joined Cisco’s Toronto Innovation Center, where solutions for real-world business challenges are brought to reality. As a key touchpoint within Cisco’s global network of partners, researchers and subject matter experts, the Toronto Innovation Center allows TRACKtech to make a greater impact in connected justice.

TRACKtech’s platform can help agencies meet new challenges propelled by the COVID crisis and offers the solution for post-pandemic community supervision and the delivery of rehabilitative tele-services. TRACKtech, a proud Cisco Solutions Plus Partner, works tirelessly with government agencies and non-profit organizations to provide mobile solutions to enable successful client outcomes. Learn more through Cisco’s collaboration blog and press release

About
TRACKtech is a technology company focused on providing modern day solutions to social issues including probation, parole, homelessness, addiction, and other overlooked, at-risk groups in our communities. Our software combines cognitive behavioral therapy and secure, fully customizable technology to support seamless “Entry to Re-entry” supervision and rehabilitation. As both an evidence-based and evidence-generating platform, TRACKtech provides cutting-edge solutions to help individuals follow the right track to make better choices and receive timely and targeted resources for their rehabilitation. For more information, please visit https://tracktechllc.com/.

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Recidivism

ABC released an article following the story of a convicted man, Micah Turner, and his hopes to reduce recidivism. He was convicted of three charges of manslaughter of his daughter, son and brother-in-law in after rolling his car. He originally was only sentenced to ten years’ probation with two years of house arrest, but then served eight years in prison after breaking his probation. He eventually came to terms with himself and what he had done while being incarcerated. He had a lot of time to reflect and when he was released realized how hard it is to return to society.

From his experience, He said the prison facility gives you a bus ticket and $50 upon release but offer no other programs or help once inmates are released. It makes life very difficult for individuals and leads to higher rates of recidivism. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, one-third of inmates released return to Florida prisons within five years of their prison release date. In order to help fight this number and offer assistance to inmates being released from prison, Turner came up with a solution.

Turner and his wife started collecting items such as  clothing and toiletries to give to men and women when they get out of prison. They create small care packages for people to help their transition back into society. With these packages people have a better chance of providing for themselves leading to less recidivism. They are hoping to continue to be able to provide for those and help rehabilitate former inmates into society.

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Justice Reform

The United States has come a long way to ensure equal voting rights for all Americans. However, one population that has been neglected is those previously incarcerated. Many have been unable to vote in the United States until a few years ago, when some states started reforming this law.

The National Conference of State Legislatures published an article detailing felon voting rights. The general trend recently has been towards reinstating voting rights for convicted fellows, but this does vary by state policy. Some states have fallen under the automatic restoration category, but this does not mean that voting rights and registration happen that quickly. First, prison officials inform election officials that an individual’s rights have been restored, then it is that person’s responsibility to re-register to vote. 

Some states never took away an individual’s right to vote once convicted or after serving their time including the District of Colombia, Maine and Vermont. In 16 states, felons lose their voting rights only while incarcerated and then when released have the ability to vote again. These states include Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Utah. In 21 states, individuals incarcerated lose their voting rights during incarceration and typically while on parole and/or probation or for some period of time after release. Usually, many have outstanding fines, fees or restitution that they must pay before their voting rights are restored. Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin are all states that enforce this. Finally, in 11 states, felons lost their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes or require a governor’s pardon to have their voting rights restored, have additional time periods to wait before they’re restored or require additional actions. These last few states are Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.

Individuals deserve the chance to have their voice heard and representation in each state. especially after they have completed their sentences and are working hard to be a productive member of society. Without the right to vote, the system cannot provide adequate care or change for those previously convicted who do not have voting rights. States are slowly changing laws to allow voting rights to those previously incarcerated to be restored so if you live in one of the states that allows you to vote, take advantage.

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Recidivism

A program aimed at decreasing juvenile recidivism and conviction of crimes was created a year ago in Southwest Virginia, according to an article published by the SWVA Today. The program is called Functional Family Therapy services and was created to intervene with youth before they get too involved in the criminal justice system. The program offers family-based treatment and diversion services by working with juveniles who suffer from substance use and behavioral or emotional issues. However, this program is working on trying to intervene in a different way than the usual standard. It requires that all of the child’s family participate in the program, as it makes therapy for the child more effective and for their siblings as well if they have any. This helps reduce the risk of their siblings becoming involved in crimes as well.

The program was finally able to launch after receiving the funding it needed. It focuses on youth in the age ranges of 11 to 18, who are referred by their probation officers. The therapy providers also travel to the children’s homes to eliminate and help with transportation issues. It also helps the families and children feel more comfortable and willing to participate as it is in a place where they feel safe and welcomed. “The 29th Judicial District already has a handful of youth enrolled in the program” and are hoping to expand the program even more. They feel it is working and helping reduce recidivism rates in juveniles. Also, it is helping keep their siblings out of jail by providing the services in home and looking to educate youth to keep them off the streets.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

A 2019 article published by Gallup highlights the struggles of substance abuse for Americans. According to the article, “close to half of U.S. adults, 46% have dealt with substance abuse problems in their families.” Broken down, 18% of this 46% have just alcohol related abuse issues, 10% have drug related abuse and 18% have experienced both alcohol and drug problems. The survey given reported that 36% of Americans have had alcohol and drug abuse cause issues in their families and affect their lives. There were also alarming conclusions that the percentage of users affected by these numbers are under the age of 55 and have higher rates of alcohol abuse and drug abuse than those over the age of 55, which is what would have been expected given that adults in these ages are more likely to abuse substances.

The article also touched on who was more likely to report family problems due to these issues. Women were more likely than men to report drug problems, but adults without college degrees, 39%, were more likely to report family drinking problems than those with a degree. Religion also was mentioned as an influence on whether or not people suffer from problems with drinking and drugs. Those who rarely attend religious services had higher rates of family problems due to these substance abuses. As time goes on, there are more reported drinking problems higher than any other decades now, which has now reached 36%. These drug and abuse problems are affecting families country wide and causing issues that are inflicting damage in families.

Individuals who are behind bars and struggling with a substance abuse add more stress to their families. They are already away from them and then they still suffer from substance use, putting even more pressure on themselves and their families. In the criminal justice system, many inmates do not get the proper care or programming they need to overcome substance abuse. More programs should be made available in prisons to help them overcome addiction and start over. It will reduce recidivism rates and help keep families together.

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Community Supervision

The term parole has had a long-standing pessimistic view from people as many believe that individuals serving parole will reoffend. They also have the stigma that every criminal is violent and that people on parole should not be released as they are dangerous or criminal. According to an article by the Justice Center, The Council of State Governments, “with data to back them up, some states have started to challenge that way of thinking and turn pessimistic parole into “presumptive parole.”

For example, Vermont recently passed legislation that requires a growing approach in state corrections systems related to parole. They are using a form of reverse psychology where they assume parole-eligible people should be released unless there is a good reason not to. The reasoning behind this leads others that are incarcerated to participate in and finish required programming so that they are eligible for parole. Vermont’s legislation requires people to meet their minimum sentence requirement and key criteria related to good behavior while incarcerated, and then reviews parole candidates within 30 days of the individuals parole eligibility date.

For now, there are two stages of presumptive parole, first in 2021 where parole for people convicted of nonviolent offenses is established and then in 2023 parole will expand to include more types of eligible offenses. Vermont is just one of a few states that has been changing parole policies and redefining it to improve public safety, reduce corrections spending and reinvest in strategies to reduce recidivism. It is a step in the right direction regarding justice reform and helping individuals be less stigmatized when released. Most individuals on parole are working very hard to change their lives around and take advantage of their second chance. 

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Public Safety

An article published by the Baltimore Sun earlier this year highlights how locking young people up will not result in less crime. New legislation and initiatives are being created in the hopes of addressing crime and violence in Baltimore. The crime rates among youth are due to many of them living in poverty conditions and having experienced trauma. These factors are hard ones to deal with when it comes to addressing crime rates and violence. A program was created named the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success that successfully looks at coordinating with city and community partners to address youth crime. The office launched BmoreLive to provide meaningful and entertaining programming for youth to enhance public safety and keep them occupied off the streets.

This programming helped keep crime rates down in juveniles and has shown to be effective. With identifying gaps in services and partnering with community actors, the BmoreLive is working to reduce youth crime and promoting better youth development. A punitive system is not helpful when fighting against crime in youth. Incarcerating youth does not teach them right from wrong when it comes to crime and does reduce their mentality surrounding the issue. When a child is incarcerated at a young age, it is very likely that they will commit another crime and end up in prison as an adult. Further, locking children up can lead to suffrage from trauma sustained in prison or mental health issues.

Because of these issues surrounding young incarceration, policy-makers are investing in more community-based services and programs that work on reducing incarceration and recidivism in youth populations. Putting juveniles behind bars does not solve public safety issues and does not result in less crime. Prevention efforts and justice reform for youth is necessary when it comes to keeping them occupied and committing less crime.  

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Justice Reform

Many individuals sitting in jail waiting for trial are simply there because they cannot afford to post bail. It is an issue statewide that many struggle with, as the United States is the only country that uses a cash bail system. Currently, there are more than 470,000 pretrial detainees simply because they cannot afford to post bail, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. “The median bail amount for felonies is $10,000, which represents 8 months of income for a typical person detained”, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. These individuals have not been convicted of a crime but are still sitting in jail, which is unfair to those who cannot afford it. Those who can are comfortably at home awaiting their trial.

An article was published about how one attorney for Chittenden County State, Attorney Sarah George, has not been requesting cash bail in pretrial cases since January. She believes it is unjust that some people are in jail only because they cannot afford bail. She is making a difference for those who cannot post bail by not requiring it, allowing less people to sit in jail while they await trial. “And that’s, you know, losing their jobs and losing their housing and potentially losing their kids and disrupting the stability of relationships within their community”, says Sarah George. Currently, Vermont allows individuals to post bail with 10% of the bail amount paid but even then, many struggle to come up with these funds. The system spends more on keeping individuals on pretrial than the cash bail system brings in.

States are starting to recognize the difficulty that a cash bail system has on individuals and have reduced the use of cash bail. It tears families apart and makes a difficult time even more challenging. All individuals deserve the same right and fair access to not sit in jail while awaiting pretrial and the diminishing of using a cash bail system is one step in this positive direction. 

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Recidivism

Recidivism has been a long-standing issue in the United States. Many are working to reduce recidivism rates and help people integrate better back into society after incarceration. Individuals struggle with having someplace to go and support when released from prison, which leads them to recidivate.

One solution to reducing recidivism is providing higher education as described in an article by the UCI. Since 2014, all 35 California state penitentiaries have partnered with community colleges to provide those incarcerated the chance to earn an associate degree. Further, UCI has launched an initiative, Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Education Degrees, that is the first in-prison B.A. completion program offered by the University of California . This will allow for those incarcerated to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

With “at least 95 percent of people in California prisons return[ing] to their communities”, most lack the skills and resources to be able to compete and succeed in today’s job market. With the help of the program, those who complete the program with at least a 3.5 GPA are automatically able to fully enroll in UCI once released. This breaks down the barrier of individuals lacking an education, not being able to get one and helping set them up for a better future and being part of a safer community for all.

The program is working hard to change the lives of those affected by incarceration in California and providing second, supportive chances at life. People deserve an education and to turn their lives around even if they have struggled in the past. Lowering recidivism rates through education makes the community safer and turns the lives around of people working hard to do so.

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