Because no one is just another brick in the wall.
Prisons and the Community: News
November, 2015: Tracking Reentry Nationwide: Strategies That Work. "Providing inmates the opportunity to engage with community service providers prior to release from prison and ensuring they receive immediate support after release are among the most effective strategies for successful reentry, according to a report co-authored by the Research Triangle Institute and the Urban Institute. See article here.
October, 2015: Time Magazine interviews musician John Legend about criminal justice reform. Included in the article: "No talk about reducing prison populations makes sense without plans to reintegrate the millions of people caught in a cycle where true transformation remains out of reach." Read the article here.
October 1, 2015: The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 was presented to the U.S. Senate today.
Sections 202, 203, 204, 206, and 208 of this bill make direct and indirect reference to "Recidivism reduction programming and productive activities.
Recidivism reduction programming" delivered directly by prisons would expected to be at least a portion of such programming. It fully makes sense for correctional facilities to offer such programming.
In addition to such programs offered by prisons, we - the National Network of Prison Nonprofits - put forward a reminder that programs offered by community groups (nonprofits, religious organizations, members of a local community, etc.) are also an important aspect of "recidivism reduction programming.
Community programs are as varied as they are numbered: college courses, religious programs, art activities (in-prison theater, crochet classes, etc.), mentoring programs, yoga classes, parenting programs for incarcerated mothers and fathers (95% of incarcerated individuals get released), self-help groups, etc - all these programs provide a rehabilitative role.
Community-based programs delivered in prisons - and during post-incarceration reentry - are an important and meaningful way for communities to participate in improving community well-being through the improved ability of incarcerated individuals to succeed when they are released.
September, 2015: Students in prison win in debate against Harvard students. See story here.
New Policing Strategy? U.S. Police chiefs considering a new policing strategy that moves from focusing on crime to resolving the underlying causes of criminal activity "such as behavioral health, drugs, enviornmental issues and gang recruitment." More info here.
World Bank: "Participation of Society in Prisoner Reintroduction Vital to Success." That's our whole purpose here at the National Network of Prison Nonprofits. See the World Bank's video here.
Reducing Mass Incarceration: "Prison and Reentry Nonprofits Essential for Long-Term Reduction of Prison Rates
There's an active political and media discussion underway about reducing mass incarceration.
The U.S. has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prison population.
Reducing mass incarceration - given our current rates of national incarceration - would somehow necessitate increasing release rates. That's easy enough to understand for the uniniatated.
When looking deeper into the topic, there's also the need to be sure people succeed in staying out of prison after getting released. That's where the rubber meets the road. Nationally, recidivism rates - the rates at which people return to prison within three years - hovers around 67.8% (source: National Institute of Justice, 2005 ).
That's why "prison and reentry nonprofits" are critical to this conversation.
Succeeding in the community after incarceration involves a myriad of factors. Logistics such as finding housing, getting a bank account and driver's license, and landing a job (eith a criminal record and often with lower-than-average education) are all an immediate - and nerve-wracking - challenge. Navigating today's world of daily technology can also be daunting after serving time in institutions that allow neither cell phones nor internet access - let alone ATMs and remote key fobs for opening a car. Then there's the matter of social reintegration. Sometimes, for people who have always lived as an outlier in mainstream society, that means integration for the first time. After institutionalization - a place with its' own policies, routines, and social norms - integration into mainstream society is no easy task.
Thus, the critical role of community groups delivering prison and post-prison reentry programs.
Community-based prison and reentry programs are as varied as they are publicly unrecognized. They range from arts programs in prisons (the organization "Prison Performing Arts" in Missouri recently led inmate performances of Macbeth) to university courses for incarcerated students (such as University Beyond Bars in Seattle), parent-child programs for incarcerated mothers (Aid to Inmate Mothers in Alabama), prison ministries (religious programs), and citizen-led local reentry guidance for recently-incarcerated individuals returning to specific communities. What these programs all share is that they are about people from the community engaging with current and recently incarcerated individuals to make successful reentry more feasible. Civic engagement to address a social need.
We all know that personal relationships make a difference in people's lives. Our own lives are fuller as a result of positive relationships. Children in "neonatal ICU" have better outcomes if they are touched and held. People who are - or have been - incarcerated are more likely to succeed when they have positive people in their lives. Even President Obama referenced this need for connections when he visited a prison in Oklahoma in July, 2015.
The National Network of Prison Nonprofits (NC4RSO) published a 2011 study entitled "Straight-Up: Mentoring Current and Recently Incarcerated Individuals." In a series of interviews with formerly incarcerated individuals, it was found that 100% of those who stayed out of prison cited the presence of some kind of mentor in their lives. Not 70% or 90%. 100% of people who STAY out of prison after incarceration have someone who has played some kind of mentoring role -whether that be a formal mentor, a prison chaplain, a volunteer, another former inmate....SOMEONE. Download this study on the Rsearch Center" section of the National Network of Prison Nonprofits' website (NC4RSO) here.
There's a bi-partisan push nationally to change structural policies that contribute to the U.S.'s high incarceration rate. For example, visit the Coalition for Public Safety.
There are plenty of opportunities for the public to engage in prisons and prison reform. In addition to institutional reform, our aim - at the National Network of Prison Nonprofits - is to increase public involvement in volunteering with community groups that deliver rehabilitation-centered and reentry programs in jails, prisons, and post-incarceration reentry (i.e., volunteer with the types of groups that join the National Network of Prison Nonprofits).
One situation where institutional prison reform meets "community-based prison programming" is citizen visitation programs to monitor what happens in individual correctional facilities. This currently happens formally in Illinois (John Howard Association of Illinois), Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Prison Society), and in New York. The John Howard Society of Illinois, a member organization at the National Network of Prison Nonprofits, has graciously agreed to allow reference to a document they created in 1999: Citizen Visitation Programs to Monitor Programs in Correctional Facilities. Please read and share this document to help increase public dialogue about prison reform!
Newsworthy: How Our Member Organizations Contribute to Society
National Dialogue on Prison and Sentencing Reform
There's a great of much-needed dialogue happening nationally about the need for systemic prison and sentencing reform. The Coalition for Public Safety is leading across-the-board political discussion on the topic. President Obama visited a prison on July 17, 2015. And on it goes. While there is a national spotlight on systemic reform, there is also an opportunity to talk about the importance of public engagement in jails, prisons, and post-incarceration reentry. Everyday, individuals and nonprofits from communities across the U.S. are going into prisons with programming that support transformational change in the lives of individuals. Many groups and individuals also support formerly incarcerated individuals as they leave prison. We, the National Network of Prison Nonprofits, are the national network for this community-based programming. Connect here at the intersection of prisons and civic engagement. University of Washington sociology instructor Katherine Beckett, when asked at a public forum about how individuals can engage in reducing mass incarceration, echoed our statement here by saying that members of the public could volunteer in prisons through community programs.
Our member organizations deliver programs and services in jails, prisons, and community reentry. As such, they connect communities with incarceration. 95% of incarcerated adults return to society; corrections volunteers provide a positive direction for current and recently incarcerated individuals seeking a positive direction.
Prison and Reentry News
February, 2015: We love it when prison-related nonprofits receive acknowledgment for their work. See this news story about the MacArthur Foundation's award acknowledging Illinois' John Howard Society.
January, 2015: A journalist in Iowa has done a great news article where she introduces the public to the challenges associated with reentering the community after incarceration. See the article here.
NC4RSO's "Good Samaritan" Awards in the Community
Click here to view NC4RSO"s "Good Samaritan" awards.
Our first "Good Samaritan" Award, called our "David Award," was awarded to the staff of the Renton, Washington Library on March 3, 2015. Photos are on our Facebook page here. Thumbs up to the staff of the Renton Library.
You can nominate good samaritans in your community for the "David Award" (we encourage nominations from community at large).
News About and From the National Network of Prison Nonprofits (NC4RSO)
Deceomber, 2015: Watch for our position paper on evidence-based programming.
November, 2015: The National Network of Prison Nonprofits (NC4RSO) commemorated our five-year anniversary.
April, 2015: We are entering the trial phase of a new service to increase the impact of our member organizations. This will be a great benefit in the world of "prison and reentry nonprofits." More to come!
April, 2015: Good news for children with incarcerated parents. Former NC4RSO board member Alison Granger-Brown has received a post-doctoral fellowship to study the impact of parental incarceration on Canadian children. Here's her description of the fellowship: "A two year Post Doctoral study to find out more about the children left behind due to parental incarceration. In Canada we have virtually no understanding of these vulnerable children, how many, where they are or in whose care they are left. The second stage will be to explore what developmental damage is done by this seperation and then hope to engage correctional systems in how to work with incarcerated parents to alleviate the stress on the child by enhancing communication possibilities for example video calling, more frequent and low barrier visits for the children, developing a specific parenting program based on what we learn. Finally, I hope to have the rights of the child be considered in sentencing. Ambitious perhaps, but knowing some of these children I have seen first hand the sadness and shame they live with."
February, 2015: We established our "Good Samaritan" award in the community. See more info above!
January, 2015: Our donor teams now include groups for families with an incarcerated loved one, crime victims, academics (criminology programs, schools of social work, etc.), corrections staff, and more. Check it out!
Decenber, 2014: NC4RSO is mentioned in an article on corrections.com. See article here.
January 17, 2013: NC4RSO's Executive Director presented to the Tangled Webs Conference, Fairhaven College, Western Washington University. Click here.
October, 2012: NC4RSO's Executive Director presented to the Whatcom Bar Association's monthly luncheon. Click here.
August 18, 2012: NC4RSO partnered with one if its' member organizations, M.O.R.E., to host a benefit fundraiser (blues fest). CLICK HERE to see poster.
April, 2012: NC4RSO's 2011 Mentoring Study is now catalogued on the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (administered by the Department of Justice). Click here.
February, 2012: NC4RSO's Executive Director does a presentation at the Blaine, Washington public library to educate the local public about NC4RSO and nonprofits in the prison context.
January, 2012: The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Washington) ran a story about the "Meritorious Correctional Staffer" Award given by NC4RSO to a Bellingham Community Correctional Officer. Click here.
January, 2012: NC4RSO awarded annual awards to individuals and organizations within the jails, prison, and re-entry context. See awards here: 2012 AWARDS
October, 2011: Regis University profiled NC4RSO in the Fall, 2011 issue of Regis University Magazine. Check out the profile by clicking here and scroll to page 46.
September, 2011: End of the Road string band did a benefit concert for NC4RSO and individuals donated items for an NC4RSO auction.
June, 2011: NC4RSO's Executive Director spoke to a support group in Bellingham, WA for people with incarcerated relatives.
June, 2011: Thank you to the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the Department of Justice, Eugene Schneeberg, for taking the time to communicate with NC4RSO's member organizations about his role at the DOJ.
June, 2011: Blaine, Washington's weekly "Northern Lights" newspaper did a profile story about NC4RSO that appeared June 2, 2011. Click here.
News About Our Member Organizations
Community-based organizations that belong to the National Coalition of Community-based Correctional and Community Re-Entry Service Organizations (The "National Network of Prison Nonprofits") work hard at delivering services that improve lives and communities. Recent news and accomplishments of various member organizations include:
2015 Ten Year Anniversary: University Beyond Bars (UBB) is celebrating TEN YEARS of delivering college courses in Washington State correctional facilities. Give them a big thumbs up! Visit them here.
2014 Annual NC4RSO Awards in January, 2015!! We acknowledge the following groups and individuals: Freedom Project Seattle, the Mayor of Newark, NJ, and Maryland attorney Kim Reed. See awards here: NC4RSO 2014 Awards
2012 Annual NC4RSO Awards in January, 2013!! Prison Performing Arts (St. Louis MO) is our 2012 Member Organization of the Year. Aid to Inmate Mothers (Montgomery, AL) received our Exceptional Service Delivery award. Mary Joy Breton at Living Justice Press (St. Paul, MN) jointly received our Volunteer/Individual of the Year award.).
A west coast member of NC4RSO - the Sustainability in Prisons Project - was covered in the New York Times in September, 2012. Congratulations!
2011 Annual NC4RSO Awards in January, 2012!! The Pennsylvania Prison Society was our 2011 member organization of the year. A prison volunteer in Oregon, who has asked to remain publicly anonymous, received NC4RSO's Correctional Volunteer of the Year award for single-handedly running a crochet program in a correctional facility. Community Correctional Officer Thad Allen in Washington State was NC4RSO's "Meritorious Correctional Staffer of the Year" for 2011.
NC4RSO Member of the Month
- To be announced (future members of the month)
- Books to Prisoners (Seattle branch/chapter) (October, 2015)
- John Howard Association of Illinois (July, 2015)
- Adopt an Inmate (Oregon) (June, 2015)
- Heart to Heart (New Jersey) (March, 2015)
- ROAR Alliance (Oregon) (February, 2015)
- Post Prison Education Program (Washington State) (January, 2015)
- Amicus (Minnesota) (January, 2013)
- Starts Within Organization (Ohio) (December, 2012)
- Living Justice Press (Affiliate Member) (Minnesota) (November, 2012)
- Portland State University - Coffee Creek Garden at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (Oregon) (April, 2012)
- Sustainable Prison Project (Washington State) (March, 2012)
- Capital Region Ex-offender Support Coalition (CRESC) (Pennsylvania) (February, 2012)
- M.O.R.E. (support and educational group for "Mothers and Others" with an incarcerated loved one) (Washington State) (January, 2012)
- Brigid Collins (Washington State) (December, 2011)
- Sponsors (Oregon) (November, 2011)
- AZ Common Ground (Arizona) (October, 2011)
- Prison Performing Arts (Missouri) (September, 2011)
- University Beyond Bars (Washington State) (August, 2011)
- Creative Arts Therapy (No website. This group does crochet and quilting at a men's correctional facility. Donates crafted items to charity) (Oregon) (July, 2011)
- Freedom Project (Washington State) (June, 2011)
- Children's Justice Alliance (Oregon) (May, 2011)
- Pinehallas County Ex-Offender Re-Entry Coalition (Florida) (April, 2011)
- Boaz and Ruth (Virginia) (March, 2011)
- Pennsylvania Prison Society (Pennsylvania) (February, 2011)
- Aid to Inmate Mothers (Alabama) (January, 2011)
- Return to Honor (Arizona) (December, 2010)
- Whatcom County Re-Entry Coalition (Washington State) (November, 2010)
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