I wanted to comment upon how impressed I am by the wealth of knowledge and the entrepreneurial spirit that came across as I read each essay submission. It is an honor to serve and to be associated with such an august group of social entrepreneurs!
I would like to take a few minutes of your time to provide additional information regarding Redux. Redux provides reentry gateway services to parolees and ex-offenders who have been recently released from prison and jail. Upon release they are mandated by their Parole Agents to attend our "Orientation Seminar". We distribute a twelve page community resource guide which contains hundreds of agencies providing resources and support (food, clothing, shelter, employment, churches, medical, substance abuse treatment programs, etc.) located throughout the community.
We have representatives from various Federal, State and County agencies provide "Benefits Overview" presentations. The Human Services Agency provides immediate food stamp benefits. The Department of Public Health provides immediate medical and dental benefits. The Social Security Administration describes how to apply for SSI, Supplemental Security Income, and SSDI, Social Security Disability Income. The Department of Rehabilitation provides various programs for the developmentally and physically challenged. The Department of Labor and the Employment Development Division provides various employment and educational/vocational training opportunities. The goal was to present the available resources to the ex-offender in a simplified and unified manner.
Our primary goal is to support them in achieving self-reliance, self- sustainment and reintegrating back into the community. The best way for them to keep out of trouble and from recommitting another crime is for them to find work. With a regular income the ex-offender can find a place to live, put food on the table and begin to turn his/her life around. Unfortunately, most people look down upon this ever growing segment of society and are not willing to employ them. Redux's "Ready2Work" program acts as an intermediary, a buffer of sorts between the employer and the employee who is actually a subcontractor to Redux. Redux bonds them through the Department of Labor, Federal Bonding Program, and we go out into the community and find work for them. Although we don't charge our clients (ex-offenders/parolees) a fee we do extract an administrative surcharge directly from the employer. The employer pays Redux and we in turn pay our subcontractors.
For example, we recently entered into an agreement with a large nationwide moving and storage company to provide ex-offenders as furniture movers. They will call in the morning as say we need ten movers for the day. We supply the ready labor and they pay us $12 per hour for the service, and we pay our moving subcontractors $10 per hour. Keeping $2 per hour per subcontractor to help offset any administrative processing and placement costs.
After reading our entry "Parolee/Ex-Offender Employment, Housing, and Reentry Gateway Services", for more detailed information regarding Redux and its programs please read on.
Per Bureau of Justice Statistics as of September 2005, there are currently more than 2.19 million Americans who are incarcerated in our country's prison system with America's youth as the fastest growing population incarcerated. A total of 6,889,800 (4,073,987-probation and 774,588- parole) under adult correctional supervision with Texas and California leading the nation in number of adults supervised in the community. To put global incarceration rates into perspective, their are 8,750,000, people currently incarcerated throughout the world and while the United States only accounts for 4.6% of the world's global population, it is the number one country in terms of incarcerated populations accounting for over 22% of the world's global incarceration rate; incarcerating on average 1,348 males and 123 females per 100,000 of its citizenry even though crime is at an all time 30 year low with violent crime constituting only 4.6% of arrests in the U.S. At least 95% of all United States prisoners will be released from prison at some point.
The average cost of incarceration to American society is $60 billion annually or $22,000 per individual nationwide and a high of $36,000 per individual in California. The leading states in terms of incarceration rates are: California, Texas, Florida and New York. In the last five years alone, the California parolee population has quadrupled. More than 125,000 adult parolees are now returned to California communities each year whereby California now has over 20% of the United States parolee population. The average characteristic of a typical California parolee are: median age is 37 consisting of 89% males and 11% females whose race is 32% White; 26% Black; 38% Hispanic and 5% Other. The parolee's commitment offenses are 26% persons; 29% property; 33% drugs and 12% other. The offender returning to the community is confronted with a number of challenges in becoming a member of that community which range from economic and psychological obstacles to sociological barriers often without family support (families do not generally welcome ex-convicts back with open arms), and with the stigma of discrimination and a prison record. In order for the ex-offender to successfully reintegrate back into the community and lead a crime-free life they require: a safe place to live, a good job, a loving mentor, healthy relationships, a changed heart, a welcoming church (being spiritually grounded is helpful), freedom from addiction, healed relationships with family and friends, repairing harm done to the offender's victims, earning the good graces of the community, access to medical and mental health services and restored disenfranchised citizenship rights. To support crime-free lives, ex-offenders must be able to secure housing and find employment in their communities. This is Redux's primary focus. Working with ex-offenders Redux has learned many lessons one of which is that they need to have short-, medium-, and long- term objectives that contribute to the realization of their goals. Meaningful employment can provide a stabilizing influence by involving ex- offenders in pro-social activities and assisting them in structuring their time, improving their self-esteem, and meeting their financial obligations. Ex-offenders with stable jobs that provide an adequate income are less likely to commit further crimes. Pertaining to the ex-offender worker, our studies indicate that most employers who had hired ex- offenders in the past experienced positive results with them as employees and that employers are motivated by skills and labor shortages when they consider hiring ex-offenders. One of the first barriers an individual faces when released from prison/jail is housing. Most ex-offenders lack the financial resources or personal references necessary to secure housing in the private housing market; and federal/state laws bar many ex-offenders from public housing and government assisted housing programs. Additionally, there is a lack of access to transitional housing programs for ex-offenders returning to the community. Transitional housing programs ease an ex-offender's reentry into the community by providing a short term place to live where they can build up enough resources to secure more permanent long term housing. As a result many individuals go to homeless shelters when they are released from prison/jail. The first months out of prison are also a high-risk, high-need period for housing and other services. A recent study by the Bureau of Justice found that parolees who entered homeless shelters after leaving state prisons were seven times more likely to abscond during the first month after release than those who had some form of housing. Accomplishing prison reform through offender reentry initiatives is not a new concept to either the field of corrections or to court systems at any level of government. Both have historically provided variant programming and sanctions in an effort to change behavior and have enacted or improved policies or rendered legal decisions in order to reform institutional operations. The potential, however, has yet to be fully demonstrated. At the same time, it is clear that the attainment of further prison reform through offender reentry programs has become the catalyst toward court- corrections partnerships, particularly in the context of drug and reentry court initiatives and the maintenance of greater offender accountability. Yet recently, the concept of offender reentry is spurring a spirit of cooperation between courts, corrections and other justice partners to the realization of a mutual goal toward greater prison reform. Redux is currently seeking to strategically leverage and maximize the value of discrete local, state, federal, and private sources (foundations and grants), direct traditional and non-traditional funding opportunities to support reentry initiatives, working towards self-sufficiency as a corporation, by generating and coordinating various funding streams using a variety of projects and programs, human resource employment contracts, call-center projects and any other future revenue streams Redux can develop, such as:
Text from President Bush's 2004 State of the Union Address: "Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can't find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison. So tonight, I propose a four-year, 300 million dollar Prisoner Re- Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. America is the land of the second chance - and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life. I have opened billions of dollars in grant money..."
There are many gaps in the current corrections system's ability to provide services to ex-offenders transitioning from prison/jail back to their communities. Many of the barriers that prevent ex-offender's successful transition back to their communities can be addressed by improving the current system so that existing resources are available systematically and delivered in a coordinated fashion among multiple agencies. Implementing system reforms that emphasize collaboration between agencies serving ex- offenders can greatly improve the services ex-offender's receive. Additionally, legislation requiring some level of post-release supervision for ex-offenders that incorporates the use of validated assessment tools and treatment services is needed to address many of the gaps in the current system. Successful transitions of ex-offenders into the community benefits everyone. An ex-offender who succeeds in establishing connections and a support system in their community is less likely to commit further crime and increase their ability to live crime-free lives.
As Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, "A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its criminals", and Mahatma Gandhi said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." It's time that we deal with the millions of ex-offenders across the United States of America and worldwide, and fix this abominable problem. After all "If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the same village to take that wayward child and bring him/her back into the fold."
Thank you for your time.