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Community Supervision, Public Safety

For years, the United States has struggled to provide effective support to the more than 650,000 people who return to society from prison every year. As imprisoned individuals prepare to re-enter their communities, there are many factors that determine whether they are going to build a successful life after incarceration or whether they end up back behind bars. The potential challenges for re-entry include compliance with probation requirements, gaining employment, housing security and access to behavioral health services. If we are to succeed in reducing the number of re-offenders in America, we must find ways of changing the status quo in current policies and practices and embrace emerging technologies.

Technology has the capacity to greatly affect this intractable problem of recidivism in countless ways. The benefit of technology is that it can be customized to fit countless situations. Devices that continuously monitor alcohol intake of a person have completely changed how supervisors tackle alcohol abuse with offenders. Access to internet-based applications can provide automatic updates on job opportunities, deliver therapeutic materials and assist with training skills for the offender. Case Management Systems make it easier for case workers to monitor compliance and provide rehabilitative support though a streamlined secure website. Electronic monitoring devices can be customized to fit the needs of the offender using it, such as approving certain apps, controlling internet access, and monitoring their behavior. Video conferencing and messaging can allow for constant contact with a probation officer, including after normal business hours or across distances, which would minimize conflicts between work, family, and probation obligations.

TRACKtech™ provides two options for electronic monitoring. The TRACKPhone™, which is a specialized smartphone issued to Program Members, is intended to enforce compliance for those in need of more severe supervision. It provides biometric verification, GPS tracking, and more strict compliance enforcement. TRACKphoneLite™ is a more moderate alternative in the form of a smartphone application. This application can be applied to the Program Member’s smartphone and allows location check-ins, communication with their supervising officer over video chat, calendar reminders, and community-based recovery resources. These emerging technologies have the potential to transform reentry compliance and drastically reduce recidivism.

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Jail Overcrowding
Overcrowding is becoming a frightening dilemma for many jails. The Sarasota County Jail is no different. Building a new jail to house these excess inmates is incredibly expensive to taxpayers, costing upwards of $100 million. To ease this overcrowding, the County Sheriff’s Office is utilizing what they call a “pod” program. Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity (SURE) introduced the Addiction Recovery Program in partnership with the Salvation Army and the Sheriff’s Office in Sarasota County. These pods are intended to reduce recidivism rates while increasing an inmate’s productivity while incarcerated. All inmates in a pod are housed together. Instead of the inmates having excessive free time, they spend that time in programs, meetings, and receiving help for their various needs. The pods are completely voluntary, and any interested inmates must sign up to be included in them. There are up to 48 inmates in each pod and violence of any kind is strictly prohibited.

There are a multitude of pods in the prison, each dedicated to a specific program for rehabilitation and life skills. The addiction recovery pod has been in use for ten years, and in 2019 two new pod programs are being implemented in the jail; the care pod and the re-entry pod. The care pod is focused on providing mental health assistance. In the re-entry pod inmates will take parenting classes, learn how to search for jobs, create resumes and learn the importance of financial stability. Many of the inmates in these pods don’t know about the importance of credit scores, financing vehicles or budgeting. Without these essential skills and a secure footing in how to survive outside of prison, there is a very high risk of them reoffending. The pod program has shown to be very efficient and has changed the lives of countless inmates.
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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

A MetroHealth initiative that supports people who have serious mental health diagnoses and criminal convictions has been making strides to help people get their lives back and stay out of prison. The Wellness Reentry Assistance Program (WRAP), which began in 2013, identifies Cuyahoga County jail inmates exhibiting serious mental health conditions and provides them health care and support. It also provides addiction care for the 30-50% of inmates who are struggling with substance abuse. 

The free program is instrumental in ensuring inmates continue to receive the help they need through re-entry. Program members learn to fill out food stamp applications and social security paperwork, receive job training, and learn how to find housing. They also are informed on how to schedule and arrange transportation to a doctor’s appointment and have their prescriptions filled. Rashell Tallen, a WRAP nurse care coordinator, explains how devastating and confusing the world can be for someone who has just been released from jail. “I see it time and time again, it’s very overwhelming for these folks. They don’t know where to start. You walk out of jail and you might have lost your apartment and all your clothes and everything. You’re just standing there on the sidewalk. Our patients know that they can come here, that we have a plan.”

This program not only helps those who are currently incarcerated, but also those who have a criminal history. The program has improved the lives of nearly 900 people since 2013. The people participating in the program are usually low-level and nonviolent offenders. Between 2015 and 2018, 214 people participating in the program were arrested and jailed half as often as before they were in the program. 

WRAP costs between $200,000 and $300,000 annually, and has garnered support from the Woodruff Foundation, the U.S Department of Justice, and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County. The program’s founder, Ewald Horwath, has had success with the program because they do not stigmatize their program members. “We don’t view our patients primarily as offenders, even though they are in jail. We’re approaching it from the standpoint of these are people who need treatment.” And their treatment is working.

One 38-year-old mother from Parma, Shannon Kuhn, attributes her regaining control of her life and getting sober to WRAP. She was approached about the program during a 2-month period at Cuyahoga County jail over a year ago – her first time being incarcerated. Since then, her charges have been dropped and she is awaiting expungement, all because of her participation in the program. She was homeless and staying with a friend, she had lost all hope. She had never received the kind of support that she got from the program before, and it overjoyed her. “They let me know that they were going to be there for me. They have been there for me for over a year now, every step of the way with anything I needed.” Thanks to this innovative program, she now has a home, a full time job, and a car. She can live her life with her daughter, sober and brimming with ambition.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Recidivism

Behavioral health professionals say it’s important to address mental health issues – even more so for an incarcerated individual. Corina Fisher, a Psychologist at L.E Phillips Libertas Treatment Center in Chippewa Falls, WI, states that we desperately need better services in jail. Recidivism will not be reduced, and criminal behavior will not be stopped by just locking up offenders with mental health issues. These individuals need to be rehabilitated so that when released, they can become productive citizens of society.

Governor Tony Evers of Chippewa County, WI has made a recent budget proposal to expand services to inmates with mental health needs. His new proposal would improve a statewide program called “Oars”, or Opening Avenues to Reentry Success, which is aimed at providing mental health resources to prisoners considered to be at a high risk of reoffending.

The Chippewa County Jail can accommodate up to 200 inmates, with a daily average of 130. In that daily average, Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk says that they deal with both female and male inmates with some type of mental illness. He says that it can be a serious challenge for law enforcement as their resources for handling this group is limited. Unfortunately, that lack of mental health resources often eventually leads these inmates right back behind bars. Kowalczyk said that today he is witnessing more and more issues of mental health than when he first became sheriff more than a decade ago.

Over 300 prisoners participated in the Oars mental health program last year. This new budget proposal includes funding for an additional 225 prisoners and could greatly improve the chances of those with mental illness to get a head start on improving their lives and overcoming recidivism.

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Recidivism

Recidivism is an endless struggle for cities across the country. While there have been many strategies to combat this never-ending cycle, it is proving to be a difficult issue to tackle. Many prisons have cognitive behavioral treatment programs that include classes on substance abuse, anger management, and family relationships. These have been developed with the intention of correcting an inmate’s pattern of thinking and behavior. However, results have shown that limiting these programs to prison walls is not making a large enough impact. It’s imperative that these programs continue during and after the reentry process.

The main causes for recidivism are the lack of housing, education, familial bonds, and employment. To genuinely make a dent in the recidivism crisis, no person should leave incarceration without a program to assist them with these valuable necessities. Community-based programs to help fight recidivism have been known to be expensive, but they are far more affordable than the cost of repeatedly committing someone for the same crimes. The ultimate goal of any program that aims to reduce recidivism is to improve the lives of these individuals and give them the best chance for successful reintegration into their communities.

Regardless of what rehabilitation programs occur within prison walls, it is negligible if a rehabilitated person cannot find work, housing, or a support system. Returning to prison becomes a very real possibility despite all the progress they have made. It is not uncommon for many to return to a life of crime to support their basic needs, even if they were successful in prison. Building this kind of support system and finding employment for ex-offenders is not an easy task. Many people without a criminal history have difficulty finding employment. If we are to achieve this lofty goal of successful rehabilitation and a much lower rate of recidivism, resources for housing, employment opportunities and dedicated community programs are necessary to help those reentering society regain control of their futures.

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Recidivism

Convicted Felon. This title carries with it a heavy stigma, and it can completely transform how a person is viewed by their community. On April 8th, 2019 Leroy Green of WLTX19 interviewed two prominent figures of the South Carolina community about the effects of recidivism. Professor Jennifer Trombley from Claflin University and Beasy Baybie, a DJ for HOT 103.9, are both convicted felons. Their stories are troubling, intriguing, and give a unique perspective of what it is like to have gone through the criminal justice system and made it out to become successful in their communities.

Beasy was incarcerated when she was still mothering her children. She did not know what to expect upon reentry and feels that she did not have adequate information on how to continue with her life outside bars. “I lost everything – clothes, car, house. I went to jail with kids and came out with kids, but I didn’t know how to parent them. Certain programs need to be included for women. We have expectations to be a mother, but how can I mother when I’m still broken? There needs to be more availability of forms of counseling and groups who have been incarcerated and come out the other side to raise their children. There are programs to help you with paperwork, IDs and Social Security cards to prepare you, but why aren’t there programs to prepare you for what to tell your children? There are parenting classes outside all the time, we need more in prison.”

They both believe that helping people with their reentry to society is incredibly important. Barriers to success need to be evaluated, and resources and programs to help with this need to be readily available. Mass incarceration does not work and has not been working for years. In five years, developing programs for recidivism has greatly cut down on the tax dollars spent on incarceration expenses and improved the recidivism rates for inmates in these programs. The recidivism rate fell 25% in 2014 and the state saved $491 million, while helping to improve the lives of generations of inmates.

There have been many monumental steps taken by the most recent presidents to overcome the ever-growing dilemma of recidivism. President Obama declared a National Reentry Week, in which he put into place 31 million in grants for job training for employment. These programs are evidence based and included many proven strategies to help those in need. He procured permanent support for housing, mentoring and parent programs, and put into motion the ban on the felony box in resumes for federal agencies. Prospective employees cannot be asked if they have a felony until after they have been offered employment. President Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act that is full of monumental justice reform, such as greatly reducing the time spent by those incarcerated with good behavior, and moving prisoners closer to their families. Even with these changes, there is still a great deal to go before we have solved this crisis.

“We need to figure out how to not even send them to jail,” states Baybie. “They wound up in prison because they have no hope or options. Their circumstances made it feel necessary to commit these crimes. There are some brilliant people in prison that shouldn’t be there.” Trombley agrees, mentioning that “most of those who are in jail are marginalized populations. They struggled before and were in terrible circumstances. Why do we think that without sufficient resources and help that when they get out the circumstances would be any different?”

Many people do not consider recidivism or the incarcerated population to be something that affects them, but it affects them more than they could imagine. “You should care because eventually, they get out, and having people come home and not understanding how to get jobs or parent or be part of the community affects us all. We are all connected, and it would benefit us to help them not go to prison, and if they do, to help them become more productive when they get out,” states Beasy. Eventually, they do get out, as 80-85% of inmates reenter society. They need to be equipped with the proper tools and strategies to acquire a job and be less likely to reoffend. The Second Chance Program in South Carolina helps to drive these positive changes and assist reentering civilians to acquire jobs and better their lives. Out of the 783 people who went through the program, 75% got jobs.

Both Beasy and Trombley have hope for these new programs and the positive changes to justice reform, but they still feel that felons are looked at with a debilitating stigma. “It feels like we’re segregated. People don’t think that we are like them, but we are people. Their children go to school with our children. They’re driving around the streets with them. We are people that exist,” Beasy says, sadly. Trombley concurs, stating that “it almost feels like people don’t want us to succeed. The stigma feels like they want us to fail.” Jail was not easy for either of them to endure, and when they got out, it was like a whole new terrifying world.

They share a unifying desire to better their lives and the lives of others after being released. They both are driven by their faith and want to leave the world with a positive message that lives longer than they do. “It’s all about purpose, living one day to the next.” They want to spread awareness of the struggles faced by those rejoining their communities and what can be done to help. Ultimately, they want to spread love.

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Recidivism

Nearly 700,000 people are released from incarceration in the U.S every year. The repercussions of incarceration are extensive and everlasting, hindering job opportunities, housing, education, and financial stability. In Kentucky, a national initiative is being implemented to reduce recurrence using data and personalized approaches. Safe Streets and Second Chances (S3C) is an innovative program that takes an evidence-based approach to the chronic dilemmas facing repeat offenders and recidivism by using academic research to develop individualized plans to ease reentry and help with the improvement, rehabilitation and redemption of such individuals. It provides treatment programs for substance abuse and mental health assistance. There are a multitude of vocational programs and training which provide many essential skills for employment.

Kentucky’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary, John Tilley, stated that “This is about getting people back to jobs.” A major way to reduce recidivism is to connect incarcerated people to a job soon after returning to the community. The reformation of the criminal justice system is of the utmost importance for the Kentucky Chamber as it has the potential to save money for the state and taxpayers, increase the low participation rate for Kentucky’s workforce, and fill 200,000 open jobs. Governor Matt Bevin applauded the work done by the S3C initiative over the past year, stating that “No amount of money is enough to spend on this issue, it is a costly process to incarcerate people.” The S3C project is currently underway in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. This innovative and effective research through the S3C program is incentive to implement effective rehabilitation efforts to provide the greatest opportunity for individuals to succeed as they reenter society.

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Recidivism

The dilemma of recurrence is a complex but urgent one. Not only have many people who leave prison lost valuable years of their life, most have little to no support to fulfill their basic needs upon reentry. Those who want to make a better life, often lack the tools to do so. A new community and law enforcement project in Shelby, North Carolina, seeks to help their citizens regain a fulfilling and successful life outside bars.

In the next five years, an average of 76% of Cleveland County individuals who commit a crime and are sent to prison will reoffend. In one year, half of them usually reoffend, according to Katie Munger, the head of the RESET program. RESET Coordinator, Christy Dunbar, will assist 10 to 15 people chosen by the parole officials and other agencies through an application process. Her goal is to guide and assist with finding anything they need from drug rehab to work clothes. RESET hopes to establish a mentorship after a year between the first group who has successfully completed the program with those who have just been released.

RESET has already begun the process of evaluating previous inmates in order to see who is a good fit for the program. More than two dozen community agency representatives have offered their assistance in the program. Each community outlet can help with an issue that a person is struggling with after their release, such as substance abuse, job training, or social skills. Together, these community outlets could collectively help a person with all the barriers they are facing in re-entering their community.

While RESET aims to support individuals during the reentry process, recidivism is a huge problem that cannot be tackled alone. TRACKTech could be utilized to automate the distribution of more rehabilitation resources and our intuitive “pattern of life” data can be used to provide more accurate and streamlined information to assist with evaluating a program member’s progress on successful reentry into their community.

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Recidivism

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction, the delinquent population in Tennessee has increased by 11.7% in the past 5 years. On March 1st, 2019, a state grant provided support in the amount of $250 thousand to a Dyer County Jail program which aims to reduce recidivism. Funds were also awarded to Franklin County, Knox County and the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance. Over a period of two years, each facility will receive two-thirds of the $250 thousand to begin new programs or expand current ones. The Dyer County Jail collaborates with a local college, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and industry partners to facilitate the program.

These funds will be used to build a new female facility, which will be modeled after their very successful male facility. The female facility will contain 10 inmates and a classroom space, compared to the current 30 inmates in the male facility. The program aims to allow inmates with sentences of one to three years the ability to work while they are incarcerated so they can accrue funds to pay for child support, fees, and court fines. Most inmates that partake in the program will have enough funds to establish housing and become a productive and successful member of society once they are released. Dyer County Sheriff, Jeff Box, has stated that about 100 inmates have completed the program since its initiation, and technical violations such as failing to pay fines for violating probation are much less prevalent.

Reducing recidivism is a constant struggle. It is our belief that those re-entering our communities require more support than they have been receiving, and this program will be imperative to providing inmates with work experience and knowledge necessary to thrive after incarceration. Programs such as this are a huge step towards providing prisoners with a better chance for a successful and fulfilling life when they are released.

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Recidivism

Due to the difficulty of finding employment, housing, and shelter as a convicted felon, thousands of men and women find themselves back in prison every year. A very courageous and creative woman received the Fox 2 Pay It Forward award this week for her efforts in reducing the barriers faced by these returning citizens. In 2015, Kalen McAllister decided to take it upon herself to fix this devastating problem and help ease the stress of rejoining society for inmates. She was a Buddhist priest who worked as a chaplain at the correctional facility in Farmington, Missouri and recognized the struggles experienced by those released who could not find jobs to support themselves and their families. When she retired, she founded a very special place that filled newly released prisoners with hope for a future.

The Laughing Bear Bakery is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping recently released prisoners have a fresh start on their lives by providing them with safe and reliable employment. The Laughing Bear Bakery is exceptionally interesting because it exclusively hires ex-felons. By only hiring felons, the environment at the workplace is very comfortable and safe – allowing those who work there to feel less alienated while they pursue their employment goals. Kalen has made it a habit to never ask one of her bakers what they did to be sent to prison. She doesn’t care what they did, for her it’s from this moment to the next moment that matters.

While working at the bakery, former inmates acquire valuable work experience for their future while also taught how to bake a multitude of goods. The bakery has had 20 people successfully work through it before moving on to other jobs, one is even managing their own restaurant.

Gaining employment is often a crucial turning point for former felons. A steady job is necessary to sustain housing and basic human needs. Many of those returning from incarceration struggle to find gainful employment due to their criminal history, so having a promising job opportunity provided for them is crucial to successful re-entry.

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