How do we help to reduce recidivism?

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Reducing recidivism is not the only priority of the correctional system; however, if the system is intended to deter further criminal activity, it is an important one. When ex-offenders reintegrate into the community, they face a number of barriers to employment. By providing ex-offenders with the supports and services they need to find and maintain employment, it help to reduce recidivism.

Why should we help to reduce recidivism? Because when ex-offenders are productively engaged in their communities, working and supporting their families, the community is safer and their families are more economically secure.

According to literature put out by the National Institute of Corrections and many others in the field, the research indicates that for a correctional system to be effective at reducing recidivism it must adhere to three core concepts:

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Ways of reducing recidivism:

1. Collaboration between all law criminal justice partners
2. Organizational development – this means that all organizations involved must be on the same page and buy into the plan.
3. All partners involved need to engage in                                                                            4. Share support information: Knowing which support groups and other resources are available is a reassuring safety net for released inmates.                                          5. Education: Inmates that serve longer sentences tend to be far less educated than those that serve shorter sentences.                                                                                       6. Help job research: Having a job waiting upon release is an important insurance that an inmate can restart life with a positive outcome, and it is usually a requirement for parole to be granted.                                                                                     7. Move from tolerance to accept: To truly accept others, faults and all, is a level rarely attained by most people. To merely “tolerate” others that are different from us – race, ethnicity, religion, etc… It is no longer sufficient if we really want to reduce recidivism.

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Our Attitudes help to reduce recidivism:

We should not just assume that prison programs work, even when they are evidence-based. We must always be measuring our efforts to make sure that they are delivering the outcomes that we want. An outcome isn’t people stepping up to the next phase of treatment, or serving increasing numbers of inmates, these are outputs. An outcome is a change in behavior after release from prison.

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-by Xinru Liu

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Family helps Ex-offender Return Home and Re-enter Society

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Re-entering society after long-term incarceration is riddled with challenges. Those with a criminal history face many barriers to receiving public benefits, gaining successful employment, regaining custody of children and obtaining housing. Especially, a big portion of them lack of supports from families. Why is family important in rehabilitation of ex-prisoners.

Positive family relationships can promote successful reentry. More than half of all incarcerated persons are parents

  • In 2007, more than 1.7 million children in the U.S. had at least one parent in prison
    • Approximately half of these children are under age 10
  • Parental incarceration can cause major disruptions in a child’s life and cause stigma and isolation
  • Women are more likely to be the primary caretakers of their children before incarceration
  • Many children of prisoners are taken care of by other family members

A stable family life can provide an ex-offender with the support and encouragement to stay crime-free. But relations with family members are often strained due to years of criminal activity and incarceration. Program topics include:

  • How the stigma of “ex-con” affects the relationship ex-offenders have with their spouses, children and other family members
  • The need to learn constructive ways to deal with the pressure, problems and conflict of family life
  • Finding resources in the community to help deal with important issues such as guilt, anger, addiction and child-care
  • Personal testimony from inmates, ex-offenders, as well as people who work with them – counselors, teachers and employers

“Returning Home” Project

“Chicago Prisoners’ Experiences Returning Home” is part of “Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry,” a multistate research initiative exploring ways to improve reentry outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. The Illinois research has been supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Woods Fund of Chicago, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

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Help Ex-offenders Return Home and Re-enter Society!

– by Xinru Liu

Why We Shouldn’t Discriminate Against Ex-offenders

Since Hawaii became the first state to protect ex-offenders in 1998, 16 states and 97 cities have followed and passed versions of “Ban the Box”. It shows evidence that ex-prisoners are given a fair chance to get a job.

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  • There is no proof that having a criminal record makes someone a worse employee than someone who doesn’t.
  • If ex-prisoners can get a job, they could be reunited with their children and gradually rebuild their lives.
  • Ex-offenders know how difficult it is to find a job, they will be extraordinarily motivated and hardworking especially for their children.
  • Ultimately, hiring ex-offenders reduces recidivism.
  • If they can get a fair chance to work and contribute to our society, it is beneficial to our economy and reduce governmental cost.

Why people shouldn’t discriminate ex-prisoners?

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  • If everyone can’t accept ex-prisoners, we will end up with a society in which people probably have no chance to turn their lives around, it causes  a permanent class of unemployed ex-offenders around us.
  • The conflict of unemployed ex-offenders and publics will always be a social safety concern.
  • There could be conflict between discrimination and democracy.
  • Eliminating discrimination is not just bette for ex-offenders, it is better for all of us.

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“A Job Is Hope”, please give ex-offender a second chance. What you give is a key to open the door of their new life.

You could get a loyal, responsible and motivated employee once you give an offer.

Everyone, let’s stand up to support them!

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-Xinru Liu

‘Social Enterprise’ should develop and work with Non-profit programs to help ex-offenders

I don’t know how many private businesses and companies in Australia, but I know there is a  big group of people are waiting for their offer, they are Ex-Offenders. Someone could ask why a company should hire a person with criminal history.

Let me ask a question at first, what’s your hope? Have you sought someone’s help when you lost your hope? For ex-offenders, a job is the hope they mostly need to support them live.

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Unemployment is higher (29%) among indigenous Australians with criminal history than among those without criminal history (11%), and unemployment is a significant reason on the social issue of recidivism. For addressing ex-prisoner unemployment, more and more non-proifit organizations and services provide helps hand in hand. Such as:

NO. 1 Tangentyere Employment Service (TES)
Tangentyere-Council-Landcare-and-Environmental-Health-UnitTES is a specialist Indigenous provider for the town camps of Alice Springs, helping about 500 Indigenous jobseekers in Central Australia. In 2010, TES had placed 241 jobseekers into employment. It has a business allocation of 10% of the Employment Service Area clients and constitutes over 30% of all job placements in Central Australia. It was rewarded 5 Stars by DEEWR.

NO. 2 PVS Workfind

photoPVS Workfind is a new era in employment services. It provides holistic services to job seekers though woking with communities and non-profit government agencies. Its services includes assessment, pre-employment support services, employment placement services and indigenous mentor. Its training programs haven been innovated and developed to reach different groups of jobseekers, including Indigenous and non-indigenous offenders and pre-release prisoners.

NO.3 Pre-Release Prisoner Program—DEEWR

PRP intends to maximize employment opportunities for people after release, and it helps them reduce reliance on social welfare by providing skill training and building social relationships with employers. Job seekers are generally required to be within the last 12 months of their sentence and satisfying pre-release status requirements by State/Territory Corrective Services.

give-hope_donate“A Job Is Hope”, please give ex-offender a second chance. What you give is a key to open the door of their new life.

You could get a loyal, responsible and motivated employee once you give an offer.

Let us stand up to support them!

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– Xinru Liu

Target “Banning the Box” for Ex-Offender’s Application

Target Company is an Australian department store chain owned by Westfarmers, many people are familiar with it. But do you know what Target is doing for ex-offenders?

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In 2013, Minnesota became the third state in America to pass a law that requires private employers interview applicants without checking of criminal history. Later, Target Company followed the law and involved in “ban the box”. “We were fortunate to have some involvement and input.” the company’s Vice President Jim Rowader said, “We’re interested in a safe workplace and shopping environment, and we do want to take the appropriate steps to do that.” It’s a huge step that means a big number of ex-offenders are given a chance to apply for Target’s position.

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Minneapolis-based Target is American third largest employer, and it has 1800 stores and 362000 employees in America. As a social enterprise, Target has a big influence to encourage private businesses give ex-offender a second chance. “At this point employers are forced to look at the merit and experience of a person and what an applicant can bring to a company instead of seeing whether they an ex-offender or not,” John Maloney, a director at TurnAround program said.

On the other side, it makes ex-offenders that feel supported and have a positive attitude in finding a job. Secundo Williams, one of TurnAround program’s successful story. “It’s a very positive thing. It allows us a chance to be productive in society and not go back to the things we used to do and not make the same mistakes we made in the past,” he said.

Additionally, Target gave $100000 to the council on Crime and Justice, a Minneapolis social justice organization in order to support ex-prisoners programs and encourage private employers on issue of ex-offender unemployment.

I believe more and more ex-offenders and their families will be saved by Target and other social enterprises.

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-Xinru Liu

HOMEBOY Helps Homeboys

“Don’t judge someone on their past, because you don’t know their Journey.”

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” 

The past is past, that’s just a story. It can’t change anything when you judge what ex-offender did in the past, we should give a second chance and look at what they are going to do. Today, I’m going to share Homeboy Industries’s Story.

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It is really amazing that more than 10000 former gang members change and start a positive life through Homeboy Industries. Homebody Industries is a youth program founded in 1992 by Father Greg Boyle. This program gives hope and assists high-risk youth, former gang members and ex-prisoners through training programs. It ultimately aims to transfer these people to become contributing members of our community. Especially, it offers 18-month full-time employment program, and over 200 people have got help and moved on next step of their life.

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Additionally, it provides a variety of programs, such as educational services, employment counselor workshop, legal management, mental health and substance abuse support.

Why does Homeboy Industries do that?

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Because Boyle hopes contribute in addressing recidivism. Figure shows that 2/3 youth offenders are re-arrested and 1/3 of them are sent back to jail within a few years after release.

Stories: Pedro Mata – Working for a better life

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Photo from HOMEBOY blog

Petro Mata’s mother passed way when he was three, and he lived with his father. He turned to drugs and gangs. As a result, he spent much of his youth moving through the criminal justice system.

Mata went to Homeboy Industries and asked for help. He took anger management classes and especially realized want to do the same when he saw many positive changes among fellow homeboys. Later, he worked in Homeboy’s bakery, and he started to learn how to be accountable, work with team members and lead a team. Eventually he found his favorite job in construction. He participated in all necessary training and had an opportunity in the pre-apprenticeship program. Recently, he works full time at Harris Rebar in Pomona. He is working hard not only for himself but also for his family.

“I still struggle,” he said, “Sometimes I think that everything I have going for me now is too good to be true. I still have self-doubt. But then I remember that my biggest burden has always been me. I am the only person stopping my success.”

Others:

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Father Greg Boyle’s praying for a man
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HOMEBOY’s Story is Continuing…

-by Xinru Liu

Australian Social Programs Help Ex-offenders Get a Job

Jobs Change Lives! Every individual has the capacity to be given another chance, with employment being key in the rehabilitation process.

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Advance2Work is one of leading program in Queensland to support ex-offenders if and when they move into employment.

A big amount of prisoners have participated in Advance2Work program and have been given help. The program provides job preparation, career planning services for prisoners before release, job-search training and employment support for prisoners after release. Each ex-offender is given a ‘total assessment’ when registering in the program’s system, because they need provide both specifically mental and physical information and then can get an appropriate plan.

“The majority of prisoners coming into prison have, usually, low education, very poor health, poor diet, no exercise, drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues,” QCS offender programs and services executive director, Di Taylor said, “We usually concentrate on their health, get their teeth fixed. Most of the time it’s the first time they’ve picked up that they’ve got a mental health issue of some sort. It could be low levels of depression. So we work on that.”

Advance2Work program found the rate of recidivism has been reduced by 7% among participated prisoners. And also a lot of ex-offender have already got a job after release. Some employers are quite willing work with the program and can provide positions to ex-offenders, such as truck driver or furniture mover.

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WISE is a non-profit employment agency, founded in West Melbourne in 1992. It provides employment services under the Australian Government’s Disability Employment Services (DES) and jobactive programs. Its mission is inspiring people to realise their potential and achieve fulfilling vocational goals and help them fit back into normal life through employment.

Since 2001, WISE Employment has invested $3.5 million of raised funds into innovative project to support people with disability, mental illness, youth, ex-offenders, refugees and Indigenous communities. WISE Employment also operates three socially-inclusive social enterprises, employing 200 people.

-Xinru Liu

Sweet Beginnings, Inspires Skin Body, Inspires YOU

“It isn’t about what we see as a flower or a weed, it’s just drawing the good out of that plant source and transforming it into something that is sweet and good.” –  Brenda Palms Barberinspire 1

Sweet Beginnings, a wholly owned subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) and offers 90-day transitional jobs for previously incarcerated individuals and others who feel difficult to find jobs. The NLEN is a leading non-profit organization. Sweet Beginnings produces and sells all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey.

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The company provides training and working experience at the beginning for helping ex-prisoners to obtain skills. In the second step, ex-prisoners are transferred  to outside workplaces, such as market positions in manufacturing, food service, distribution, warehousing, customer service and others.

The recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is below 4%, comparing  American national average of 65% and the Illinois average of 55%. 275 ex-offenders have been given a second chance by Sweet Beginnings since 2007. I believe the company not only save 275 lives but also 275 families even more.

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Brenda Palms Barber is the Founding Executive Director and CEO of the NLEN. She can’t separate from the success of Sweet Beginnings in rehabilitation of ex-prisoners. She put faith in company’s operation and pollinates faith among the people who get a chance to work after release.

Job creation for ex-offenders is a controversial topic, but it’s significantly important for people and our society. A majority of employers still wouldn’t like to hire people with criminal record due to a concern of risk to business. “We have to be their first employers,” Barber said, “We have to prove to society that people who did bad things, people who need second chances, can be positive in the workplace, that they will be loyal and hard-working and honest employees.”

Ex-prison Employees’ stories

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Sweet Beginnings team members pose with some of the products the apiary produces. Photo Courtesy Sweet Beginnings.
Sweet Beginnings team members pose with some of the products the apiary produces. Photo by Courtesy Sweet Beginnings.

Amir Futrell, spent six years in jail because of selling cocaine. He felt difficult to live and support two kids after release. “I didn’t want to revert to what brought me into the penitentiary, so I was looking for a new way,” he said. “You have to try something different and this was it.” One day, Futrell found Barber and her bees. “It makes me feel great, makes me feel like a good father, a good person,” Futrell said.

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Arturo Fleites, Photo by Andreas Larsson

Arturo Fleites was a burglar, drug dealer and club bouncer. He was arrested and put in jail four times. He was 35 years old when he was released. He was ready to find a job and make a honest living but didn’t get any chance.

“I was looking for a job so bad. I don’t know how many places I went to,” he said,     “Interviewers aren’t trying to be rude, but once you tell them you have a record — you have to, because they’re going to find out anyway — they’re like, ‘We’ll get back to you.’ ” However, in January 2002, he was hired by Sweet Beginnings. After the 90-day training, he got two offers: one is cleaning train platform for the Chicago Transit Authority and the other one is permanent supervisor at Sweet Beginnings. He took the Sweet Beginnings job because he felt a supervisory position would look better to future employers.

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We are not only inspired by others but also can inspire others!

-Xinru Liu

Benefits of Hiring Ex-Offenders

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” 

― John Holmes

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“With the right training and supervision, prisoners have the potential to become fine workers”The Sydney Morning Herald

If you think hiring an ex-prisoner is risky, here’s some suggested solutions:

  • The provision of employment assistance to ex-offenders.
  • Training that focuses not only on employment-related skills but also on characteristics need to be employable.
  • Closely Working with a promotional campaign or non-profit organization and providing entry level and appropriate position to ex-prisoners.

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Benefits of hiring ex-offenders:

1. The training they received in prison may be transferable to your provided job.

Many people who have already completed vocational training through government or non-profit organization program, which can help prepare them for employment and valuable skills that transfer across fields. It means they are familiar with discipline and hard work.

2.  They’ll be looking out for you since you looked out for them.

Since most people who have spent time in prison find it difficult to get jobs and re-enter society, they’ll likely be extremely grateful and loyal to any employer who gives them a chance.

3. You could get very affordable, exceptionally dedicated and loyal employees.

4. They’ll stay with you longer.

Government or community could monitor when they get hired. And also once they are hired they are not likely to quit, and they are highly motivated to become long-term employees.

5. There could be tax incentives for employers.

Government will give businesses money support for encouraging them to hire ex-offenders and award them as participating in reducing unemployed ex-prisoners and rate of recidivism.

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Hope for Prisonershttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KO0lfgbls8s

Please listen to their voices!! (click the link)

– by Xinru Liu

Second Chance Coffee Co, One You Won’t Want Miss!

“We want to be an example to every other company that they can take a risk and employ those people who have checked the box. There doesn’t have to be any difference in quality if employees have been in prison or not.” – Second Chance Coffee Company

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Like many of you, I love coffee, and I can’t live without it. But have you heard Second Chance Coffee Company? I can’t say how surprised I was when I  got this special coffee brand and its story.

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Second Chance Coffee Company is a coffee roasting business of Wheaton, III founded in 2007. The company roasts and distributes coffee under its premium brand ‘I Have a Bean’. Leonard said, I Have a Bean is now at 11 Whole Foods Markets in the Chicago area and was the No. 1 selling coffee. Yes, it is professional and popular, but why is it special? Because all employees are ex-offenders since Leonard and his partners have sold roasted coffee from 2007.

“We look at people’s references and at FBI background checks to make sure they’ve been in prison,” he said. Second Chance Coffee Company primarily aims to positively impact on changing spiritual, social and economic conditions of ex-offenders. Leonard not only provides skills training programs to ex-offenders but also works closely with post-prison support organizations.

Second Chance Coffee Co. & ex-prison employees’ Stories

Jim was a former drug dealer in Chicago and spent 19 years in jail. He was given a second chance by the company and worked for it in the past few years. And now he is responsible for managing mechanics at a large utility company and making $85000 per year.

John, a partner of Second Chance Coffee Company, he was an ex-offender as well. “His contribution was far in excess of what we’ve been able to pay him, so we gave him part of the company,” Leonard said.

John Quinn, left (ex-prisoner); Louise Dooley, left (ex-prisoner); Leonard, right (owner)
John Quinn, left (ex-prisoner); Louise Dooley, middle (ex-prisoner); Pete Leonard, right (owner)
Coffee Bean Roasting Process at Second Chance Coffee Co.
Coffee Bean Roasting Process at Second Chance Coffee Co.

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– by Xinru Liu