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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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Recidivism

Incarceration can lead to a lifetime sentence of unemployment for many that are released from prison. Difficulty in finding employment is a strong cause of recidivism, and without a stable income and a sense of purpose and responsibility, 68 percent of those released from Delaware prisons are re-arrested within three years of release. Ajit Mathew George, the founder of Second Chances Farms, has hope for a future where Delaware inmates will have careers as entrepreneurs waiting for them when they’re released. He intends to use abandoned warehouses and empty office spaces near the former inmates and turn them into farming space. His plan to reduce recidivism in his state is to hire 10-15 workers to help in his farms for every 10,000 square foot of farming space. Each worker will be paid $15 an hour during a six to twelve-month apprenticeship period. These farms are extremely effective as they are grown in LED-lit hydroponic towers and do not require soil, pesticides, or even natural sunlight. His goal is to develop a new industry and produce local organic food on a year-round basis, while also improving the livelihood of released inmates and in turn reducing recidivism.

This ingenious concept won George the honor of having the “Best Idea” at the Pete DuPont Freedom Foundation’s Reinventing Delaware competition in early December of 2018. He hopes to open Second Chances Farm No. 1 in Wilmington by September. His Second Chances Farm was awarded a start-up grant of $175,000 after the Reinventing Delaware event by the Welfare Foundation, which supports non-profits focused on social welfare causes in Delaware and southern Chester County.

George believes that the vertical farms allow up to 100 times more production per square foot than traditional farms. Second Chances Farms will be able to produce crops from harvest to grocery store shelves within 24 hours, compared to the lengthy week long and thousand-mile trek for field-grown produce. The inmates participating in these vertical farms have served their time and now can be meaningfully engaged in their community through agriculture. The chance to be able to run a high-tech hydroponic farm is a great way for these individuals to learn a growing enterprise.

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Success Stories

Four large counties make up one Colorado Judicial District that has utilized TRACKTech’s comprehensive platform to enhance public safety and improve lives through TRACKphoneLite (TpL). This intuitive app is installed on the mobile device of an offender which then provides a multitude of useful features, such as location tracking, video conferencing, behavioral health assessments, rehabilitative support and compliance monitoring.

The District has been using TRACKphoneLite primarily for relieving case load, streamlining check-ins and saving their Supervising Officers valuable time. The check-In feature has been recognized as being essential in saving time for both the program member and the supervising officer. “I believe it is saving time on curfew checks. I am able to send a location request and move on to the next one. I have one client that is on TRACKtech in lieu of GPS – she checks in frequently.”

Curfew visits are very common, and when an officer has many checks in a night, it can become exhausting, time consuming and even dangerous. “For me I’d love to use it for all my [program members] as it would save me a lot of time and keep me off the streets at night doing curfew checks. I want it for my entire caseload.”

It can be extremely problematic to keep track of an offender who travels regularly and TRACKphoneLite has made that so much easier. “I love the check in feature for people that I have had difficulty locating during home visits/employment checks and for those that move frequently or travel for work frequently. I feel like it is a great benefit to supervision.”

Video Conferencing has shown to be one of the most beneficial features of TRACKphoneLite for the Judicial District, as it completely negates the need for the offender to visit the office for an appointment, especially if there are extenuating circumstances that make attending very difficult.  “I had one client who could not report for an appointment.  Rather than reschedule, we had him complete a full appointment via video conference.  The appointment was very productive.  The client was engaged, and it saved time with rescheduling another appointment.  It was also helpful for the client who struggled with transportation.”

TRACKphoneLite is especially effective for juveniles, as using a cell phone has become almost essential to their lives. Going through the criminal justice system is not an easy process, and this application helps to ease them through it in a more familiar and comfortable way. “Yes, there is a benefit to the client. I think not only from the juvenile’s perspective but also from the parents and other people residing in the house because it’s less intrusive than late night home visits. I believe the juveniles like interacting on phones. Even with PO’s it’s more “natural” for them because this is just how they interact with people now. So, their demeanor is different on the video conferencing than in the office because I feel they are more relaxed. I think the check-ins are easy for them as well. It doesn’t interfere with whatever they are doing at that time as it’s a simple click.”

Supervising officers for these juveniles are seeing the benefit of this application as well. It has saved them countless hours and made them feel much more comfortable checking in on their members. “If it was my entire caseload it would do wonders. I could simply click my entire caseload in seconds where curfews can take hours and sometimes multiple evenings. The time period that it takes aside, the safety portion can’t be ignored. Bad things usually happen at night, having to do less evening trips because of this would mean less opportunities for ‘bad things’. Also, the video conferencing would be great for everyone. They don’t have a ride that day (which is a major thing with kids, since they can’t drive) no problem, just do it over video. They forget it (because kids don’t prioritize well) no problem – video conference. Having difficulty visiting them at home and can’t keep trying every week, no problem, just video conference.”

TRACKtech’s goal is to reduce recidivism rates and improve the lives of those in the criminal justice system, helping create functioning members of society. The TRACKphoneLite application is just one of many ways to increase success by accommodating to individual needs and lessening the workload of officers. Observe. Predict. Influence.

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Success Stories

In an uplifting article by the WPSD Local 6 news, a Vienna Correctional Center program by the name of Orange is the New Green, explains their efforts of preparing incarcerated people for life after prison while helping the community. It is open to inmates who have a high risk of recidivism or are veterans. During the first half of the 11-month program, prisoners complete a gardening course – including botany, fertilizer, hydroponics, irrigation systems and more.

“We take students through the University of Illinois Master Gardener curriculum. So, that takes us about six months to get through. There’s a lot of book work and a lot of lectures,” explained Nathan Ryder, Orange is the New Green’s lead instructor and coordinator. “We talk about everything from soil and how to have healthy soil out on your farm or in your garden plot, all the way up to how to grow different fruits and vegetables. We talk about lawn care and how to propagate grass. We really take them through a lot of different aspects of growing plants. It’s not just focused on flowers and vegetables.” Ryder states that once the inmates earn their master gardener certificates, they can transition into the business section of the program.

“For about six weeks, they learn marketplace literacy skills, basically how businesses and consumers interact with each other. Then, we take that, and they write their own business plans. So hopefully, if they get out of here and they want to be an entrepreneur, they want to employ themselves, they’ll already have that business plan written. And they can take it out in the real world and get financing for that,” said Ryder.

Many inmates are enjoying the program. Robert Parker says that it gives him a sense of achievement, and that he turned a bad situation into something positive while learning a new trade. He believes that the program really involves teamwork. They help each other repot plants or answer each other’s questions. “We’ve got a really good teacher, but it’s more like a community. It’s like a little brotherhood huddle.”

Philip McDowell, another inmate participating in the program, says he is excited to take what he’s learned in the program and apply it to a new job outside prison. “I want to give myself the most opportunity. In this instance, I think that by doing this I’ve learned several things, even about greenhouse operations, irrigation systems, and pesticide applicators. These are all the things that are incorporated into this class above and beyond just growing a particular plant,” said McDowell. He also agrees that the program involves teamwork, and really improves social skills. “It is some teamwork and how to get along with other people. Because obviously we’re not social being in here for so long. I’m just trying to give myself the biggest leg up to try to get something going on for myself.”

The Vienna Correctional Center partnered with Shawnee Resource Conservancy and Development and with the University of Illinois Extension to make this program possible. This is the second year for Orange is the New Green and they are thriving. Classes include about 40 inmates and they have plans to continue classes next year. Most of the fruits, vegetables and herbs the prisoners are growing will be delivered to the dietary department for food preparations at the prison. The rest is donated to local food pantries.

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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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