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Public Safety

In Charlotte, North Carolina an article was published by the Patch Staff in relation to a business robbery. The business reported two men entering the store mid-afternoon to steal money. The store owner confronted the two, trying to grab one suspect but they quickly made their escape. No one was injured in the process. After the incident, investigators were able to quickly identify one of the suspects, as he was wearing a court-ordered electronic monitoring device at the time of the robbery. The suspect had been arrested the previous month for being in possession of a stolen firearm and stolen vehicle, and then proceeding to discharge the firearm. Due to the electronic monitor on his ankle, police tracked him down and were able to convict him of the crime after a full confession. Without the tracking and pinpoints of the suspect’s whereabouts, the police would most likely not have been able to track him down.

TRACKtech, LLC is a platform designed for supervisors to be able to monitor and observe the locations of their program members. It pinpoints their location near-real time and allows for supervisors to check in with their program members remotely through the TRACKphone. More importantly than monitoring offender locations, the platform provides rehabilitative and life resources to those convicted in the hopes of reducing recidivism. Without reliable electronic monitoring devices and easy to use platforms, cases like these could go unsolved, and they also provide extra security in public safety concerns surrounding convicted felons on parole or probation. With rehabilitative resources available, ideally cases like this would not even occur. 

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Justice Reform

Those released from incarceration are faced with many struggles after their release. They hope for change and redemption, and fear that they will not be accepted back into society. These fears are compacted by the way they are portrayed in society. The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco intends to clean up the language used in the criminal justice system. The city and county of San Francisco received a proposal that would cause words such as “felon,” “offender,” “convict,” and “parolee” to be exchanged for more accepting language that does not emphasize the objectification of people, and focuses on more neutral and positive ways to describe these individuals.

Instances of more acceptable language is “returning resident” or “formerly imprisoned/incarcerated person”. Instead of calling someone a “parolee” they would be called a “supervised individual.” A “young offender” or “delinquent” would be described as a “young individual affected by the judicial system.”

With one in every five Californians having a criminal record, this change of language can make a drastic difference. There is a stigma attached to such language that can be incredibly dehumanizing. They want to return to their families and contribute to their communities, but are facing so many barriers hindering their rehabilitation. The Board of Supervisors believes wording with negative connotations should not be one of those barriers. The proposal stresses that “Language shapes the ideas, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and actions of individuals, societies and governments. People-first language places the individual before the criminal record by using neutral, objective, and non-pejorative language.”

The Sentencing Commission, the Reentry Council of the Bay Area, and the Youth Commission of San Francisco – a group of 17 youths aged 12 to 23 – passed resolutions supporting the altered language. However, the proposal has not yet been signed by Mayor London Breed.

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Recidivism

A new program in the Pinal County Jail has begun allowing inmates to use electronic tablets in an effort to reduce their likelihood of committing repeat crimes. The Sheriff’s Office is collaborating with Securus Technologies to provide this influential program, which supplied the equipment without charge. “With tablets, inmates can stay in touch with family and keep their minds preoccupied with educational and religious programming,” Sheriff Mark Lamb stated in the press release. “We expect that it will help with behavior.”

The SecureView tablets are intended to help prisoners maintain contact with their families, access the law library, apply for employment nearing their release date, and access educational and religious programming, such as books and podcasts. The tablets are incredibly intuitive and require no staff intervention. Additionally, utilizing these tablets will be instrumental in familiarizing prisoners with the technologies they will encounter after their release. The prisoners are able to message and call their loved ones through the tablets. This provides a much better opportunity to keep in touch with family and reduce the stress of life while incarcerated through the regular means of communication. Many studies show that regular communication and close relationships with loved ones while incarcerated can greatly reduce the risk of recidivism.

Games are also being introduced on the tablets, with the intent to keep inmates occupied and entertained, while reducing the likelihood that they will be disruptive and take part in arguments or fights. This is not only beneficial to the safety of the inmates but to the staff as well. 

Sheriff Mark Lamb states that they want to be the top jail in the state, or even the western region. “The community needs to see what we are providing for our inmates to help them get back on their feet to be the best citizens they can be.”

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Success Stories

Life after incarceration can be terrifying. Providing for families and acquiring necessities is extremely difficult without the proper resources, especially with a criminal history looming over your head. 76% of formerly incarcerated people believe the search for employment after being released is “very difficult or nearly impossible,” according to a study by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. After being released from incarceration, two-thirds are unemployed or underemployed, even after five years. Some very courageous and generous individuals have dedicated their lives to easing this burden, and provide valuable skills and experience to jump start the lives of these returning citizens through the culinary arts.

Drive Change has been moving towards improving the lives of troubled youth since 2014. Jordyn Lexton founded the New York City based nonprofit that hires formerly incarcerated youth and teaches them how to properly operate a food truck. They provide assistance with developing the necessary skills to retain a promising job in the culinary industry, while also offering year long paid fellowships to those ages 17 to 25. “We teach transferable skills, and social media, marketing, money management, and hospitality,” Lexton described. “Then we teach the actual application of the roles and responsibilities on the truck,” Lexton stated to Pix 11. “We believe that by having this really positive interaction at our truck, we might actually help to dispel some of the preconceived notions that people have about what is means to be formerly incarcerated.”

Café Momentum, a restaurant and culinary training facility based in Dallas, improves the lives of adolescents through a positive environment and educating at-risk youth on the extensive knowledge of culinary skills, job and life-skill training, and mentoring and support. Since June 2011, every month eight boys from the culinary program in the Youth Village work alongside a list of prominent Dallas chefs who teach them every aspect of a functioning restaurant, such as prep work, cooking, serving meals, and waiting tables. While providing knowledge in the culinary field, Café Momentum also assists these young individuals with preparing them for reintegrating into society in a safe and comfortable environment. Their goal is to teach adolescents that they no longer have to partake in the life of violence and crime that they have always known. Café Momentum provides a 12-month paid internship to individuals being released from juvenile detention. During this program, members are assigned case managers, who work with them closely to ensure they have a firm grasp of how to thrive outside of incarceration. They are taught parenting classes, financial literacy, career exploration, and are provided educational assistance. They also receive aid for issues that may be plaguing them as products of their criminal history, such as anger management, recovery from trauma, lack of parental figures, and abandonment. Upon completion of this 12-month program, successful participants are provided the opportunity to pursue a job with one of the community partners. These struggling youth, who would have most likely returned to a life of crime or toiled in unreliable employment circumstances, can now have a fulfilling career, save for their futures, and have a fresh start on the rest of their lives.

EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant, which we previously blogged about, is a fine french dining restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, that employs previously incarcerated individuals with the goal to reduce their risk of returning to prison by providing them with the training necessary to pursue and succeed in a career in the culinary field.

Providing employment in the culinary field for those who are recently released from incarceration is extremely effective in jump starting peoples futures, because these individuals are able to thrive in an environment where they can succeed purely on dedication and hard work, rather than needing years of training or degrees.

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Community Supervision

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article about the First Step Act that went into effect end of July 2019. Within hours, 3,100 inmates qualified for release from long federal prison sentences that at the time of sentencing were imposed as a punitive measure. The First Step Act was enacted to try a more constructive approach to rehabilitation and justice reform. This new act changed the way justice is served by allowing judges to no longer abide by the “three strikes” rule of imposing life sentences when previously incarcerated felons commit a third crime, as well as nonviolent drug offenders no longer facing harsh minimum-sentencing rules. The new focus of the act is reducing recidivism and rewarding prisoners who participate in anti-recidivism programs by cutting their prison terms. 

Focusing on recidivism programs and allowing people in prison to have a chance to better themselves will improve their rehabilitation. The next step for the inmates is to focus on working through the programs and changing their behavior. They will be monitored with the hopes of reducing their prison sentences and proving punishment is not the answer to lowering recidivism. The bill has reverted the old ways to new ones that focus on rehabilitation and not punitive ways, as this is ineffective in reducing recidivism.

TRACKtech, LLC was created to reduce recidivism through rehabilitating inmates once they are released from prison. The TRACKphone platform is designed to provide program members with rehabilitative and life resources, as well as allow supervisors to monitor them with biometric identification and remote check-ins. TRACKtech works to provide program members with resources they need to become a functioning member of society, in the hopes of reducing recidivism and keeping them out of prison. 

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Success Stories

The EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant, founded in 2007, believes that every human being has a right to a fair and equal future, regardless of their past.  EDWINS is well known not only for its delectable classic french dining and delicious desserts, but also for the lasting effect it has made on the lives of those recently released from incarceration in Ohio. The Washington PostFood and WineForbesThe City Journal, the Steve Harvey Show and CNN have all featured EDWINS. EDWINS hopes to reduce the risk of these individuals returning to prison by providing them with the training necessary to pursue and succeed in a career in the very lucrative culinary field. Every person who receives training at EDWINS, short for “education wins”, has a criminal history and has spent time in prison.  

Brandon Chrostowski, the leader of this growing restaurant empire, has had his own unfortunate brush with the justice system. When he was 18 years old, he was caught dealing drugs. Rather than being sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison, he was put on probation and received training at a kitchen in his hometown of Detroit. Over the years, he has received training at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in many of the top French restaurants in both New York and Paris. He was constantly reminded of the second chance at life he had when he received his lenient sentence, and has since developed a plan to provide the same chance for others who were not so lucky – to open the best French restaurant in the world, in Cleveland, and improve the lives of all who work there. “I just looked at where the worst high school graduation rate was, and Cleveland, Ohio, happened to be the number two city in the country where people in high school didn’t graduate,”Brandon said. “So I figured that’s a place that it’s needed.”

“We give formerly incarcerated adults a foundation in the culinary and hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary their long-term success. Our mission is three-fold: to teach a skilled and in-demand trade in the culinary arts, empower willing minds through passion for hospitality management, and prepare students for a successful transition home.”

The students participate in classes on various topics, such as champagne tasting and opening, and the proper use of knives. Only 30% of students make it through the rigorous training process, as classes go from noon until midnight. Not only are students trained on fundamental culinary skills, they are also provided aid in acquiring many basic needs to succeed in society outside of incarceration, such as finding employment, medical care, clothing, job coaching, legal services, literacy programs, access to free housing, and more.

According to the DOJ, the rate that inmates return to prison is up to 83% within 10 years from their release. EDWINS was established with the goal to reduce recidivism, and it has made astonishing strides to do so. Of the 350 graduates, Chrostowski stated that the recidivism rate is only 1.4%. Nearly 100 students graduate from EDWINS a year, and the graduates have acquired jobs in Cleveland’s best restaurants after completing the program.

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Justice Reform

Today, one out of every five Americans requires a professional license to perform their job, while 1 in 3 American adults have a criminal record. Vocations requiring a professional license, such as plumbers, repairmen, or electrical inspectors, were previously incredibly difficult for those with a criminal history to pursue, since the required wait time to be able to acquire these licenses was a mandatory five years if they had committed a crime against another person. This year, Delaware made strides towards easing the struggles these individuals face when applying for professional licenses. Delaware State News reported that Governor John Carney’s signed legislation greatly decreases the waiting period to just three years. 

Questions have arisen over whether previously incarcerated individuals with felony sexual assaults will have access to licenses as massage therapists. The licensing board, which accepts or denies applications for professional licenses, fully intends to retain its discretion and will deny licenses for the massage and bodywork industry to those with such crimes.

Melissa Minor-Brown, a State Representative, has supported the modifications to the criminal justice system in regards to licensing that she believes are crucial in reducing recidivism. “To believe that people can actually have second chances is so important. This legislation breaks down barriers and creates a pathway to sustainability,” she stated. The bills are essential to providing those with criminal records the possibility of good jobs with high paying wages. Employment has been proven to be a very prominent factor in reducing recidivism, and these criminal justice reforms are backed by state Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “Part of our job as policymakers and elected leaders is to help ensure that people who come out of prison stay out of prison. That’s good criminal justice policy, it’s good economic policy, and it’s a very good moral policy.”

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Success Stories

Between 60%-75% of ex-offenders remain unemployed one year after their release from prison. Employment is essential in keeping someone motivated to continue their rehabilitation and become a successful and functioning member of society. Without the income from employment, the chance of returning to prison is incredibly high. A non-profit by the name of 2 Fish Home Renovations hopes to improve these chances for formerly incarcerated young adults through the renovation of houses. 

The non-profit provides possibilities for jobs and work growth for formerly imprisoned young adults in need of a second chance at life. 2 Fish has been renovating homes for two-and-a-half years, and has successfully renovated nine homes so far. They have helped people like Frank Grazier, who has been calling 2 Fish a game-changer for those in jail. “Once they give ’em a chance [to] start, to actually build things and feel good about themselves, do something about themselves, then, man…they’re on their way,” said Grazier in an interview with WDEL News. Grazier, who after the death of his wife and son, was incarcerated for three years due to a conviction from driving under the influence , could not explain how grateful he was for a fresh start. “This is, this is, like, the best opportunity ever,” he exclaimed.

2 Fish purchases distressed houses at huge discounts and refurbishes them with crews of recently released young adults. The men undergo training from experienced foremen to grow their knowledge and understanding of the skills necessary to flip houses, such as painting, decking, tiling, remodeling, cleaning, and landscaping. The knowledge gained by the prior inmates prepare them for the possibility of a prosperous career in the home remodeling and construction industry. 

Chuck Wallace, a member of 2 Fish, believes that the men who participate in this non-profit are extremely grateful for the chance to make something of themselves. “You’re just giving them an opportunity that they’ve never even had before, and, I mean, the guys we have here are grabbing the bull by the horns, and they love the opportunity,” said Wallace.

These former inmates are given a fantastic opportunity to stay productive, gain skills, and improve their lives while gaining knowledge that is essential for a successful future outside of prison. 

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Recidivism

The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), has adopted a structured strategy to help prisoners find reliable employment when they are released from prison. The inmates are evaluated on their ability to perform particular vocations, and then provide the proper skills and training under the Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) framework. The WSQ is a national credential system that trains, assesses, develops, and certifies skills and abilities for the workforce.

In order to better prepare inmates for a real job setting when they are released, they are put through simulated job scenarios. When the inmates complete their training, they decide which jobs they would like to apply for, and are later interviewed by prospective employers. In special cases, employment offers may be provided before they are even released. In order to make these job prospects possible, SCORE coordinates with employers to guarantee that inmates, once released, are provided fair wages and partake in progressive work practices. SCORE provides assistance to former offenders for up to 12 months during the early phase of finding employment. SCORE coordinates with employers and case workers during this period to ensure that these recently released individuals are provided the necessary assistance to effectively re-integrate into their communities and become reliable members of the workforce.

Relationships with family members are also critical to the effectiveness of re-integrating into society. Research has shown that those with healthy familial bonds are less likely to recidivate. With the help of community partners, the Singapore Prison Service conducts programs that assist inmates with forming stronger bonds and relationships with their families. Former inmates who are motivated and hopeful are better prepared to rebuild their life and re-integrate into society. With employment prospects, stronger family bonds, and ties to their community, they have a much higher chance of succeeding in their new lives.

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Jail Overcrowding

More than 1,000 inmates are currently in Sullivan County Jail. They are at critical capacity and have received scrutiny for their handling of the situation. They only have 619 beds and are extremely understaffed. This lack of staff members makes it inherently difficult to properly care for inmates, and the jail is desperately in need of programs to alleviate the overcrowding dilemma. “It’s a very violent facility. We’re getting a lot of assaults, inmate on inmate assaults, inmate on officer assaults,” Sheriff Cassidy said. A new program has been developed for the jail with the intent to illuminate the reasons prisoners ended up incarcerated in the first place and provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to be productive citizens. 

David Stanley once served 17 months in this same jail for securities fraud and is now certified to lead the cognitive therapy program. The program takes place twice a week. Moral Reconation Therapy, or MRT, is a systematic therapy approach that aims to reduce recurrence by enhancing moral reasoning among juvenile and adult criminal offenders. It teaches that if you want your life to be better, you must be better. The second phase of the program teaches inmates vocational skills necessary for sustaining gainful employment when they are released. “We’re just looking forward to what the future holds and seeing these inmates flourish outside of jail.” Sheriff Cassidy said.

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