Archive for Humane Exposures

Seattle’s King Co. Tries Restorative Justice Programs to Lower Youth Detention

King County juvenile justice and youth services leaders held a press roundtable to provide the latest update on the newest programs focusing on community engagement and restorative justice.

“We are very proud of how far we’ve come and the path we’re on,” said King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Laura Inveen. “Our work is far from over, and we plan to continue on. We expect to be a national leade in reducing juvenile detention and to end racial disproportionality in all of our systems, not just juvenile.”

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Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

King County has seen a 73-percent drop in the average daily juvenile detention population since 1998 and 10 fewer youth of color in detention on an average day in 2016, compared to 2015. These results were achieved because of the new programs that have recently launched, which are designed to provide support to the youth that is close to entering the juvenile justice system and prevent that from happening.

There isn’t a silver bullet to how the system is able to sustain a decrease in rational disproportionality in King County. According to Chief Juvenile Court Judge Wesley Saint Clair, it’s a universe of things that keeps them on track.

“It’s a combination of programs like these and training our staff,” Saint Clair said. “Sometimes it’s about having a conversation about institutional racism, about privilege and bias within our staff. It’s not a single item.”

King County Deputy Prosecutor Jimmy Hung with the Juvenile Unit highlighted the Family Intervention & Restorative Services program. FIRS allows for the youth arrested for domestic violence to be entered into a 24/7 facility that provides them with family counseling, mental health services and drug and alcohol services. Since its launch last January, FIRS has decreased juvenile domestic violence cases by 62 percent.

Hung said:

The focus of this program is, instead of arresting kids from the home, taking them into detention and stripping them of their clothes, we bring them to our facility. The first question they get there is, ‘How are you doing? How can we help you?’

Best Starts for Kids is about to launch this year. It’s intended to support kids from birth to the age of 24 by providing parent support, health care, educational and employment support. Its strategic advisor Sheila Capestany says:

We’re about promotion, prevention and early intervention. We want to be able to turn around and set them up to better their lives. I always keep in mind the 80 year olds that would be able to say, ‘Boy, what a rough start in life, but the rest of it was great.’ We’re always thinking of what can we do now to make it their story.

A pilot program in Tukwila is coming this year that will focus on youth theft cases, using case management resources to hold youth accountable for their actions. The program is led by the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee and funded through the $360 million Best Starts for Kids levy.

The 180 Program offers to drop charges for youth that choose to attend a workshop that helps them work through their life struggles and possibly be paired up with a mentor. More than 1,500 youth have been able to avoid charges by participating in the program since its launch in 2012.

Other programs include Creative Justice, Peacemaking Circles, Education and Employment Training, Juvenile Drug Court and Partnership for Youth Justice. What all these programs have in common is that they all try to focus on involving the community to help the troubled youth start a better life and become contributing community members.

Saint Clair said:

I would like to work myself out of the job. It’s because the work that we are doing is really the work that has to be embedded in the community. Institutions cannot do the work of restorative practice; we need to empower the community and delegate our authority to the community and be able to say these are all of our kids.

All levels of community are being engaged in the programs, from parents to teachers, and community leaders that come together to provide better services to youth that need it. However, one of the most crucial parts of this process is finding the right messengers that can speak the kids’ language.

Jason Clark, equity and social justice advocate for the juvenile court, says:

One of the most valuable things in this piece is incredible messengers. It’s the people that have been previously incarcerated and been able to get back into the society. We’ve got to have people in our community that speak the language of these kids and who understand the challenge of that transformation.

With these programs showing a lot of success, a question came up to the panel regarding the planned building of the new $210 million Children and Family Justice Center. The panelists were eager to weigh in on the issue.

Inveen had pointed out that money allocated for the courthouse comes from a levy, and can’t be diverted to any of the restorative justice and prevention programs. While the number of juvenile cases have been decreasing every year, there are still those that need to be detained, such as those charged with murder, sex offenses, robbery in first and second degree, and any crimes involving the use of firearms.

Saint Clair said the new detention center is also meant to accommodate youth that are currently being held in an adult jail and charged as adults. Also, the current facility does not hold the newly shaped stance on juvenile detention.

“[The current] detention facility was built in a time when we as a society were more punishment focused versus rehabilitation,” Hung said. “This gives us a prime opportunity to provide humane conditions for the employees, for youth to be provided with holistic services, and have space that has a lot of natural light and fresh air.”

“We want to know what the community wants to see within those walls, but it’s currently 3-4 years down the road in planning,” Inveen said. “The thought was to not identify the uses of the [space provided via reduction from 140 to 112 beds] now and waiting closer to opening the doors of the center.”

The panel ended on a positive note about the aspirational goal to reach a zero-detention rate within the juvenile justice system.

“I embrace the challenge,” Hung said. “If you look at other developed countries like Japan, they basically have achieved zero detention. We are truly one of the greatest countries in the world, and I think we can do it. It’s going to take more than what we do in our system; it’s the community as well. It’s something we all aspire to.”

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

Seattle’s King Co.

Seattle Mayor Outlines $275 Million Homelessness Plan

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

The $275 million raised over five years from a property-tax levy proposed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray would provide rental subsidies to get people off the streets. It would also be used to expand shelters and treatment services as well as pump more resources into the newly created navigation team — a group of outreach workers and police officers dedicated to the city’s homeless issue.

The mayor will try to qualify the levy for the August ballot as a citizens’ initiative. In order to qualify for the ballot, 20,638 signature would be needed.

“I know there won’t be agreement on all sides, but business as usual has not worked,” Murray said.

During his State of the City address, Murray said he wants to increase property taxes this year to generate more money for the city’s homelessness crisis.

“My hope is that this plan will put the squeeze on the problem,” he said.

As he announced his plans for the additional funding raised through property taxes, Murray said, again, that the help he’s been seeking from the federal government isn’t coming.

“It has become clear to me since the presidential election that we are on our own,” he said.

Murray said he formed an advisory group for how to raise $55 million. The city currently spends more than $8 million a year on emergency shelters, more than $4 million a year on transitional housing and more than $9 million a year on permanent supportive housing.

Recently the city released the results of a $100,000 survey of about 1,000 homeless people, and officials with the city’s Human Services Department touted the importance of more affordable housing and more low-barrier shelters.

Murray referred to the survey in a recent news conference, saying that it “busted many of myths” that we have about the homeless. He pointed out that, according to  the survey, 40 percent are employed, 20 percent said housing affordability is the main reason they’re homeless, 30 percent are under 30 (years old), 35 percent are suffering from a substance abuse disorder, and 23 percent come from our foster care system, 14 percent are veterans, and 25.5 percent are African Americans.

“We also learned that this is not Freeattle,” Murray said. “70 percent of the people who are homeless lived in this area. They worked and they are our neighbors.”

Murray also said that most — or 90 percent of those surveyed — want services and housing.

KIRO 7 News is tracking community-generated reports of sanctioned and unauthorized camps to help illustrate the size and scope of this crisis. Seattle leaders do not keep a public map of homeless camps. The city’s sanctioned homeless camps are a temporary fix to Seattle’s homeless crisis, according to the mayor’s office.

Murray’s long-term solution, “Pathways Home,” involves expanding 24-hour shelter services and refocusing the city’s homeless solutions to an individual-based approach. The program is expected to take a couple of years to set up.

Meanwhile, the city has implemented a “bridging the gap” program. Seattle only has a handful of sanctioned homeless camps under this program. The rest of the camps that pop up across the city are unauthorized. The city of Seattle defines a camp as three or more tents.

More than 2,000 people are unsheltered in Seattle on any given night, according to the latest homeless count by volunteers.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

Skyrocketing Female Prison Population in Oregon

The nation is facing a massive increase in the number of women who are incarcerated — female inmates increased by 700 percent from 1980 to 2014 — and Oregon is no exception. The number of women imprisoned in the Oregon Department of Corrections has nearly tripled over the past 20 years even though women are not committing more frequent or serious crimes, said 

Dr. Emily Salisbury, an associate professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Salisbury warned of the consequences of not addressing the spike in female imprisonment only a few months after funding for a second women’s prison in Oregon was rejected by lawmakers.

In December, the Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board turned down a request by Oregon Corrections Director Colette Peters for $3.8 million to prepare a former prison in Salem for inmates in 2017.

 

The Coffee Creek Correctional Institution in Wilsonville has exceeded its 1,280-inmate capacity since May 18. When the prison fully opened in 2002, it held 646 women. Today, it holds 1,290. There are no plans to open an additional facility, but the emergency board will revisit the issue in March.

Oregon’s prisons are not the only facilities seeing more women every year. The number of women in jails nationwide has increased 14-fold since 1970, when three-quarters of counties didn’t have a single female inmate.

Fifty-six women currently are incarcerated in the Marion County jail. Numbers have fluctuated over the years, according to county data, but between 2011 and 2015, the percentage of female inmates jumped from about 14 percent to more than 17 percent.

Rural county jails are facing some of the biggest increases, according to a 2015 study by the Vera Institute of Justice.

If the increased severity and frequency of crime is not on the rise, what is behind the spike in female incarceration?
Salisbury said:

Much of what is driving this is not women becoming more violent or becoming more problematic, but the fact that our sentencing laws have changed. Certainly, the war on drugs has been a war on women, particular women of color.

She pointed to Measure 57 — a 2008 law that increased sentences for certain drug and property crime offenses frequently committed by women — as one of the contributors to the increase.

Sentencing strategies, like everything else in the criminal justice system, are based on the dynamics of male offenders, she said.

Salisbury added:

This, of course, doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t be punished or held accountable. Lawmakers and stakeholders need to take a look at what pathways led women to incarceration and recidivism in the first place.

During her study of about 300 women on probation, several reoccurring stories piqued Salisbury’s interest. Female offenders typically experienced childhood victimization, family violence, unhealthy relationships, unsafe housing and low levels of economic capital. Salisbury said different conversations, policies and practices are needed to address these underlying issues.

“If we don’t address core issues, we’ll continue to see them cycling through the system,” she said.

State officials recognize the unique needs of incarcerated women and are taking the steps to address them. In recent years, Oregon became one of 22 states to adopt the Women’s Risk Needs Assessment. And according to a statewide survey, Oregonians broadly support a preventative approach to incarceration. About two-thirds of those surveyed said they would support a preventive program over a punitive approach.

Going forward, Salisbury said she’d like to see judges and other community stakeholders educated on core issues facing female offenders and wide investment in female-responsive approaches. A careful look is needed at existing practices to make sure they aren’t backfiring because of gender.

“Contrary to what some people have said about justice-involved women needing a timeout in prison, I just simply don’t agree,” Salisbury said. “Women don’t need a time out, they need a way out.”

They need a way out of the insidious violence, trauma, victimization and discrimination that have plagued their lives, she continued, adding that these women will never escape the cycle without programs and interventions specific to their needs.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

New Jersey Weighing Bill to Streamline Parole, Create Inmate Re-entry Plans

cellCertain low-level inmates in New Jersey would be guaranteed parole at their earliest eligible date if they met specific requirements while in prison, should a proposal in the state Legislature become law. Corrections officials would also help inmates develop a “re-entry plan” while still incarcerated, a sort of road map for life on the outside after they are released.

“It will change the entire culture of corrections in our society,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Hudson, who sponsored the bill, “so that a prisoner comes out of prison as a better person than when they went in.”

Many offenders sentenced to prison can be released early for good behavior under the supervision of a parole officer. But in New Jersey, it is common for inmates to “max out” their sentences and be released without supervision, as opposed to getting out of jail early on parole.

According to an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2014, the state had the ninth-highest “max-out” rate in the nation, with 41 percent of inmates serving their maximum possible prison sentences. That was nearly double the national average of 21 percent of inmates who served their maximum sentences.

Under the bill, inmates would be released on parole as soon as they became eligible if they met certain conditions: a) They had not been convicted of a violent crime, b) they had not committed any serious disciplinary infractions in the previous five years, c) they had completed rehabilitation programs and d) crime victims had been notified.

Release on so-called “administrative parole” would not require a hearing before the state parole board.

Research has supported the idea that inmates released on parole are less likely to commit subsequent crimes than convicts who serve their maximum prison sentences and get released without state supervision.

New Jersey parolees released in 2008 were 36 percent less likely to return to prison within three years of release than ex-prisoners who served their full sentences, according to Pew.

Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, said:

Longer sentences actually increase the chance that someone will commit another crime. People who ‘max out’ have much higher rates of recidivism than people who are released and have supervision in the community to provide them support in terms of re-integrating.

Under the bill, a new Division of Reentry and Rehabilitative Services would be created within the Department of Corrections to inform inmates about available programs and services and help each inmate create an individualized re-entry plan. Parolees would also be awarded credits for good behavior that would reduce the length of their post-incarceration supervision.

Lesniak said the changes would save taxpayer money, allow the state to close several prisons and enhance public safety. “This is what corrections ought to be about,” he said.

The full Senate has already passed the legislation, which is now awaiting a vote in an Assembly committee.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

Negative Impacts of Intimate Partner Violence on Kids

One in three women and one in four men

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

have been victims of (some form of) physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, according to a 2010 report by the CDC.

Abusive tendencies are far more reaching than the visibility of physical harm. Put-downs, controlling who a partner sees or what he/she does, telling a partner what to wear, limiting a partner’s activities, accusations of bad parenting and threats to take away the children are ways that a perpetrator plays upon the emotions of his or her victim.

The often overlooked victim of domestic violence or intimate partner violence is the child. Incidentally, some contend that domestic violence relates to a husband/wife while IPV encompasses any intimate relationship.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquent Prevention reports that one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year. They may be exposed to the violence, or hear the sounds of screams and tears, smashed furniture or glass; they may see the subsequent injuries, or perhaps be assaulted themselves.

The impact on a child goes far beyond the moments of violence. Children exposed to intimate partner violence may see their parents’ bruises or other visible injuries, or bear witness to the emotional consequences of violence such as fear or intimidation without having directly witnessed violent acts.

David Finkelhor, a sociologist from the University of New Hampshire, collaborated with experts in 2003 to write, “Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey.” The publication stated that children who grow up with violence in the home learn early and powerful lessons about the use of violence in interpersonal relationships. The authors comment that all too often, children who are exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental and emotional harm. They may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Finkelhor and his co-authors add that being exposed to violence may impair a child’s capacity for partnering and parenting later in life, continuing the cycle of violence into the next generation. These children are at greater risk for internalized behaviors such as anxiety and depression and for externalized behaviors such as fighting, bullying, lying or cheating.

They also are more disobedient at home and at school, and are more likely to have social competence problems, such as poor school performance and difficulty in relationships with others. Child witnesses display inappropriate attitudes about violence as a means of resolving conflict and indicate a greater willingness to use violence themselves.

The American Academy of Pediatrics took a bold stand in 1998 declaring that “The abuse of women is a pediatric issue.” In its 1998 Report from the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, the AAP stated that children whose mothers are being assaulted are also likely to be victims. Studies indicate that child abuse occurs in 33 to 77 percent of families in which there is abuse of adults.

Intimate partner violence also affects parenting, according to the OJDDP. The emotional consequences of being injured, harassed or terrified may be significant for the parent who is victimized. That parent may be less attuned to children’s needs or less emotionally available to the children. However this does not mean that victims of intimate partner violence are inherently abusive or neglectful of their children. Parents who batter are generally less involved with child rearing, more likely to use physical punishment and less able to distinguish or recognize the child’s needs as separate from the parent’s needs.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

Housing First Preferable to Tiny Houses, Homeless Camps, Consultant Tells Sonoma Co.

Many of Sonoma County, CA’s key efforts J1031-4-11_RenderingSmaimed at addressing the local homeless crisis, including transitional housing, sanctioned homeless camps, tiny homes and safe parking sites, will do little to alleviate chronic homelessness, said Iain De Jong, an internationally recognized advocate for the homeless, during a recent conference on homeless solutions. De Jong, president and CEO of Canada-based OrgCode Consulting Inc, which works with nonprofits on strategies and planning, challenged local government officials and homeless services providers to stop trying to “fix people” and simply house them.

“Homelessness has never been ended by a hut, or a campground or a safe parking spot. Never,” he said, speaking at a “Summit on Homeless Solutions” organized by the Santa Rosa Homeless Collective, a local consortium of homeless service providers and local government agencies.

At its core was the “housing first” model, an approach that seeks to provide permanent housing to homeless people as quickly as possible, and later provide support services as needed. Under the model, homeless people with the gravest needs are prioritized first for services, and no conditions are placed on them, such as requirements that people remain clean, sober, compliant and agreeable before they are granted housing.

De Jong, a champion of the housing first model, said programs aimed solely at preventing homelessness and teaching homeless people the life skills necessary to manage their housing are a waste of time.

“That doesn’t end homelessness. All it does is take resources and time away,” he said, adding that such programs must be part of an independent, permanent housing program and have that as the ultimate goal. “We have to focus on what works, and we have to stop confusing being busy with being effective.”

Organizers of the conference said they welcomed the opportunity to rethink the effectiveness of local homeless programs.

“He’s challenging our assumptions,” said Santa Rosa City Councilman Tom Schwedhelm, a member of the Santa Rosa Homeless Collective.

Schwedhelm said those involved in finding solutions to the local homeless crisis are questioning the effectiveness of their programs, while examining the systems in place that are barriers to change.

“I’m hoping we as a city can be a leader in this,” working alongside the county and local service providers, Schwedhelm said.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane said she didn’t “disagree with him on most of the things he said” and noted that the county has adopted a housing first approach to homelessness. She defended the county’s project to build a cluster of a dozen homes, to be named Veterans Village, as a permanent housing plan.

Zane said the county was also a key partner in the opening last year of the Palms Inn, a former motel converted into 104 permanent housing units for chronically homeless people and homeless veterans. The program is regarded as a prime example of the housing first model.

Zane said that the safe parking and sanctioned homeless encampments are emergency responses to homelessness and not regarded as permanent housing solutions. She said she would like to see the county enforce its housing first policy with local homeless service providers that receive county funds.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

States Must Move Funding from Correctional Facilities to Community-Based Treatment

Erica Webster, the communications and policy analyst at the Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, wrote this important article.

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Erica Webster

From its peak in 1996 to the most recent national data available for 2014, the U.S. juvenile arrest rate has fallen by 65 percent overall. In New York City, juvenile arrests fell by 51 percent from 2011 to 2015. In Texas, from the peak in 1994 to 2014, juvenile arrest rates for violent offenses dropped by 74 percent. In California, the nation’s most populous state, a recent report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice found that felony arrest rates of youth and young adults (19-24) dropped 42 percent from 2010 to 2015. Plus, these massive downward trends in California’s juvenile violent felony arrest rates are expected to continue through 2020.

While researchers are unsure why youth arrest rates have dropped so dramatically, it is clear by the parallel decreases in youth imprisonment that incarceration is not the reason. As the national juvenile arrest rates have fallen in recent decades, so too has incarceration of youth in the United States.

The 40-plus percent decrease in California’s youth arrest rate occurred when the number of youth in correctional facilities plunged 96 percent, from 1996 to 2015. The District of Columbia and 44 states saw decreases in youth incarceration from 1997 to 2010, with almost 20 states, including California and New York, seeing 40-plus percent decreases in youth incarceration.

These trends are being reflected in the adult criminal justice system too. A study from The Pew Charitable Trusts found that from 2008 to 2013, most states reduced incarceration rates and experienced decreases in crime.

Data and research reports have shown us that mass incarceration is not causing the decrease in crime, but in fact yielding diminishing returns. An abundance of research has shown that incarceration has detrimental effects on the more than 90 percent of young people in the juvenile justice system who have experienced trauma or struggle with mental health problems.

Rather than continuing to heavily invest in a system that has been proven not only ineffective crime reduction strategy, but that also repeatedly subjects youth to neglect, maltreatment and outright abuse, the nation and its states must invest in local alternatives to incarceration, community-based services and preventative measures.

Some states have already begun this effort. Recently, California (Proposition 47) and Oklahoma (State Questions 780, 781) enacted initiatives that reduced minor drug possession and petty theft offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, thus reducing sentences and state incarceration, and allowing the states to reinvest savings into substance use treatment and mental health care.

This reinvestment, will address the cause of problematic behavior rather than punishing public health emergencies.

New York City also recently implemented a measure in 2012 (“Close to Home”) to reduce incarceration of youth in distant, secure facilities upstate in favor of less restrictive, smaller facilities closer to young people’s families and communities. While recent declines in overall out-of-home placements may be attributed to continuing decreases in youth crime rather than the new program, Close to Home adheres to juvenile justice best practices, which find that small, nonsecure facilities close to a youth’s community allow for increased therapeutic success, rehabilitation and prosocial development.

Positive trends in youth crime and incarceration have mirrored improvements measured for other key indicators, including health, income, and education.

From 2008 to 2013, the number of high school students who did not graduate on time decreased by 28 percent; and from 2008 to 2014, the share of children without health insurance decreased by 40 percent, teen and child death rates dropped about 17 percent and teen birth rates decreased by 40 percent.

These positive youth trends, combined with the plummeting arrest rates and decreased need for incarceration, have established that juvenile justice systems across the country have an opportunity to change. Spending more than $7 million dollars per day to incarcerate youth in residential facilities to the detriment of youth well being and overall public safety should be a mistake of the past.

Instead, state and local systems must reinvest in greater access to health care, education, mental health and substance addiction treatment for youth at the community level. Decades of youth incarceration have shown us that imprisonment is not a solution to the obstacles faced by youth; now we have the opportunity to try something new.

Tulsa’s Resonance Center Served 800 Women Last Year Through Inmate Re-entry and Diversion

Oklahoma has long led the nation in female incarceration. Executive Director Deidra Kirtley speaks about how the services at Tulsa’s Resonance Center for Women are helping build female offenders for success after incarceration.

When we were first established

Take 2/Photo from Resonance Center

Take 2/Photo from Resonance Center

40 years ago, Resonance was more of a listening center. A lot of women weren’t comfortable talking about certain issues, and Resonance was a very safe place for them to go and just talk. It didn’t necessarily involve drug abuse or alcohol addiction, but it was talking about any issue that was troubling them. 

As the community grew and our organization grew, we narrowed our focus to women who are involved in the criminal justice system. We identified a real gap in the community. The majority of our women have some sort of childhood or adulthood trauma, whether that’s sexual abuse, domestic violence or substance use. I would 60 to 70 percent of the women we serve who are incarcerated have charges dealing with substance abuse. Incarcerated women get stuck in a cycle, and it’s very difficult for them to get back out.

A woman with an addiction problem who is incarcerated still comes out with an addiction problem. Incarceration is not helping these women move forward in their life. We help them get their lives back on track.

The length of a woman’s stay here varies, depending on the program. On the diversion side when women come to us in lieu on incarceration, it’s all outpatient work for two to three years before they graduate. We’ll see them all the time on the front end, and as they progress we see them less and less.

Our re-entry program at Turley Residential Center is an 8-week program, and then out at Eddie Warrior Correction Facility it is 16 weeks. The time spent with us really depends on the woman we’re serving, where she’s referred from and what correctional facility she’s in.

Since so many women have a hard time finding a job, we most recently opened a restaurant in Downtown Tulsa called Take 2, our Resonance Cafe. When some of our women are released, they can come work at the restaurant. It’s not really to groom them for food service as much as it is about work ethic and working on soft skills. Having that extra six months on staff, making sure their needs are met, and making sure they’re staying on track is huge. Right above the cafe is also a 2,500-square-foot loft with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Transportation is such a big issue, but when they come work for us they live upstairs and don’t need a car. Our case managers meet with them and have house meetings once a week. They’re in group therapy and relapse prevention. We try to do everything we can to surround them with positive role models and support groups. The goal for them is to stay about six months before we springboard them to a better job. We just launched Take 2 in March 2016, and we’re really excited about it.

Our biggest goal for this coming year is focusing on the criminal justice reform that is taking place in Tulsa. We want to make sure we’re keeping the same programs we have, but making them stronger and adding more classes.

We also want to focus more around Take 2 and trying to employee more women. We’re growing it incrementally. So our first goal for that is for our restaurant to be self-sustaining by year one, which is March 2017. It costs about $400,000 for us to have the restaurant and employ former offenders and be able to house them. We’ve also started our box lunches and we’d eventually like to start offering breakfast.

All nonprofits need donations. Many of our clients have had their driver’s license taken away, and if you lose your ability to drive, you’re dependent on public transit. It’s pretty hard if you have to take kids to child care or drop them off at someone’s house to then ride the bus to come to us. We’re always working to help women get their driver’s licenses back, but it’s really expensive. All of that requires help from us financially. Support in that area is always needed, but the ultimate goal is to take a few barriers away from these women so that they can find a job.

It’s important to have these women surrounded by their peers. A lot of the women we work have a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, and they have a lot of shame about that. They have shame knowing they probably weren’t the best parent or a good employee or they weren’t a good daughter or sister. For them to sit around and talk in groups and support each other really helps heal that. Even with our restaurant Take 2, when these women live and work together there forms a really strong support system.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

 

NC’s Guilford County Jails Offering Wide Range of Inmate Programs

Operators of Guilford County jails are trying to reduce chances of inmates returning to the facilities by offering inmates access to multiple programs, such as anger management and parenting classes.

Guilford Co. Det. Ctr.  Photo from Google Maps

Guilford Co. Det. Ctr.
Photo from Google Maps

 

Gene Williams, the director of High Point Jail Ministry, which serves both Guilford County facilities, said he’s been focused on easing re-entry for inmates for 2½ years. The programs include religious, educational and life skills.

Inmates can take classes to improve themselves, satisfy orders from a judge or to earn perks in the jail. As part of a trial program in the High Point jail, they can earn points using tablets to take self-directed educational, finance, job training and other classes, then spend those points using the tablets to listen to music, watch television or make phone calls.

Inmates can also learn computer skills, math, English or work toward a GED. Men can learn parenting and fatherhood skills. Women can study women’s health issues, such as osteoarthritis and reproductive and urinary tract problems. Fitness and nutrition information is available, as are classes to help inmates learn how to manage anger.

A number of nonprofit organizations offer programs in the jails. The programs offered have been requested by inmates. They also are carefully vetted to be certain they won’t cause a problem inside the jail or teach inmates how to break the law. Maj. Chuck Williamson, commander of the department’s Court Services Bureau,  says:

We kind of manage them, because we have to schedule them and assure they have the appropriate pieces. They are usually outside providers who provide services on the outside, who come in and do the same thing here.

If someone comes in with a lesson plan they present to us that is going to make the inmate a better person, then we’ll bring them on. That’s really what it’s about: helping inmates get better in all phases of life.

Williams relies on research to help choose programs beneficial to inmates. He said major risk factors for criminal activity include antisocial values, antisocial peers, personality traits, family dysfunction, low self-esteem and substance abuse. Offenders often have a sense of entitlement and self-justification, he said. They blame others for their situations and often consider themselves the victims.

Bible study programs help offenders gain new attitudes and values. Imams go to the jail regularly to lead prayers for Muslim inmates. The tablets offer courses on other religions, including Judaism.

Some traditional programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, are also available at the jails. A program called Reading Connections is intended to help improve adult literacy and Toastmasters is intended to help improve public speaking.

The jail recently started a mental health counseling program with the support of Sandhills, a publicly funded organization intended to help people of central North Carolina receive care for mental health, substance abuse and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A large portion of the jail population uses various levels of mental health services, including many of them who aren’t displaying any negative behaviors, Williamson said. “They just need support,” he explained. “They take medications and they need counseling.”

Williamson said that at any given time up to 40 percent of people in the jail may ask for some sort of mental help. “A lot reach out for minor depression and ask for counseling,” he said.

In June 2015, Guilford’s commissioners joined hundreds of other counties throughout the country and passed a resolution to join the Stepping Up Initiative, which is aimed at helping to reduce the number of people with mental illness cycling through the jails. The initiative focuses on the behavioral health of people in jails.

The center is funding two projects within the initiative. One increases behavioral health services in the Guilford County Detention Center. The other is used for assessments and referrals to community services after inmates’ release from jail.

The center provides a psychiatric nurse practitioner for 20 hours per week and a mental health counselor for 36 hours per week. They work evenings and some weekends to provide behavioral health services. They are available for counseling and services at the jail seven days a week. And they are on call 24-hours-a-day in case an inmate has a crisis.

Center staff have provided hours of consultation for jail and court staff involved in mental health and drug treatment courts to develop plans for care once offenders are released.

Another program is aimed at Guilford County Schools students who miss class time while in the jail. For some students, the system will send in a teacher to continue their education while they are incarcerated.

“The idea is that when they get out, they walk right back into the classroom, if that’s possible,” Williamson said.

The Prodigal Son program connects selected inmates with a drug treatment program after release. Eight people entered it last year.

In the program, the county pays for beds for a set period of time at Caring Services. The nonprofit organization provides housing and other support services for recovering alcoholics, addicts and their families. Candidates for Caring Services have substance abuse issues that are the primary concern that needs to be addressed to prevent recidivism.

“Their charges may not be serious enough to send them to the Department of Corrections,” Williamson said. “But they still need services.”

The jail is also testing new programs.

In August, the High Point jail started testing the use of computer tablets for running programs. They are provided by Pay Tel Communications, the vendor that provides phone services for inmates, according to Pay Tel President Vincent Townsend.

The program is operated by Edovo (Education Over Obstacles), whose mission is to reduce recidivism by providing technology-based education and rehabilitation to inmates.

On the tablets, inmates can choose from a number of different classes offered on a private server — employment, finance, math, English, family skills, anger management or even success in court appearances. The last teaches inmates how to appear and behave in the courtroom.

In the first week of August, 95 inmates spent 8,751 hours working on educational programs on the tablets, according to jail data. During the second week, 99 inmates burned 6,263 hours working educational programs.

“Anger Management” and “Math — Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division” were the top-viewed apps, each having 27 inmates start the course.

For every hour of education the inmates undertake, they receive points to spend on watching movies, listening to music or doing other activities on the tablets.

“It’s helping guys think about stuff from a different perspective,” Townsend said. “We think the tablet has a huge potential as a tool.”

Technicians are testing the jail in Greensboro to determine where best to place networking links, so the program can operate there. A goal is to have the tablets working in both jails before February.

“It’s really become a popular piece for the inmates,” Williamson said. “Now, we’re doing site surveys to see what kind of networking we’ll have to do to get it up and running here.”

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford