Moderator JaKathryn Ross, senior director of community affairs at Georgia Pacific, began the panel by asking Leroy Perry, re-entry coordinator at New Orleans Mission, about the challenges that restored citizens face as they re-enter society. Oftentimes, difficulty finding employment contributes to recidivism; however, Perry challenged this idea, pointing out that many people who are employed still commit crimes. Instead, Perry argued that building character is the most important method for helping restored citizens not reoffend.
Tina Naidoo, executive director of Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative, agreed with Perry, explaining that her organization addresses a number of issues tied to re-entry, including housing, employment, education, family reunification, health care, and spiritual guidance. Additionally, her group makes no distinction between violent and nonviolent offenders: “Whether people are violent or non-violent offenders, they still have a basic human need.”
Jody Lewen, executive director of the Prison University Project, explained that because offenders are usually the least prioritized group to receive public funding, their college programs have suffered financially. In response to this, the Prison University Project relies on professors who volunteer their time. For Lewen, societal well-being increases with access to high-quality education. She identified the need to examine the impact of education on children and how it can break cycles of incarceration.
Shereese Turner, senior program director at Twin Cities Rise!, discussed one particular area that benefits from education, employment, and character development: family unification. As Turner explained, the employment training, personal empowerment courses, and job placement that Twin Cities Rise! offers help restored citizens connect with their families and children.
Many solutions to foster better re-entry for restored citizens are still unexplored. You can learn more and submit your proposal for criminal justice and policing reform by visiting the Charles Koch Foundation’s Request for Proposals page.