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Better Neighbors | June 2014: Coming Home: Reentering The Community After Incarceration

Submitted by Sean Hennigan on Sun, 06/01/2014 - 10:46am


In This Month's Newsletter:

Our faith traditions call us to serve our communities...to care for the least of our brothers and sisters...to love our neighbors. But the needs can seem overwhelming and it can be hard to get started. Better Neighbors is a monthly toolkit to help you and your congregation make a difference in your local community. Each month we focus on one area of need, giving you practical steps to take action and learn more. Better Neighbors is a project of Texas Impact, Texas' oldest and largest statewide interfaith network. 


Coming Home: Reentering The Community After Incarceration

If your congregation engages in any kind of outreach that helps those in need, chances are at some point you will interact with folks who are connected with, or have family members connected with, the criminal justice system. Individuals coming back to the community from prison or jail face extraordinary challenges. Congregations can help address those challenges.

Data Show Many Reentries are Unsuccessful

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, every year in Texas more than one million individuals are processed in local jails on an annual basis; about 150,000 individuals are incarcerated in TDCJ facilities; and more than 80,000 individuals are on parole. Each year, more than 70,000 individuals in Texas return home after having served time in prison or jail.

According to the Texas Legislative Budget Board, the three-year re-arrest rate for prison releasees was 47.2 percent and for state jail releasees was 62.7 percent for individuals released in 2008, the latest data available. More than half of the re-arrests occurred within the first year. That means reentry wasn’t successful for those individuals, and it means Texas communities suffered as well.

Barriers Include Restrictions, Prohibitions and Stigma

Individuals coming back to the community from incarceration face restrictions and barriers in major functional areas of their lives, from limitations on jobs they may work and dwellings where they may live to prohibitions against receiving nutrition assistance or educational opportunities. More than one in ten ex-offenders—four in ten for those with mental health or substance abuse issues—experience homelessness within a year of being released. Lack of accessible information about supports and services in local communities compounds the issues. So do shame and stigma, which prevent those who need assistance from seeking it.

Faith Communities Can Help Reentry Succeed

National and state policy leaders recognize the need for effective, comprehensive reentry strategies. Congressional legislation in 2008 established a national reentry resource center, and Texas lawmakers have taken several legislative steps to increase coordination of reentry services.

To be successful, government reentry initiatives require strong support and collaboration at the local community level. Congregations are ideal partners in local efforts to strengthen reentry outcomes. The first step is finding out what’s already going on in your county—and letting others know what talents and resources your congregation has to offer.


People are placed on probation when they are convicted of an offense and put under court-ordered supervision instead of incarceration. People are placed on parole when they are released from incarceration to serve the rest of their sentence in the community.
 
Both probation and parole require people to follow strict rules; failure to comply can lead to incarceration. Prisons are used to hold people convicted of a crime with a sentence of a year or more. Jails hold people who are awaiting trial or who have been convicted and given a shorter sentence, usually a year or less.

Reinvested Communities:congregations, formerly incarcerated individuals and families working together.

Texans envision a community that is safe, strong and welcoming. For communities to thrive, every member needs a chance – including those who are involved in the criminal justice system. Communities face a major challenge in meeting the needs of those coming home from prison or jail. Finding solutions takes leadership from those who are most intimately impacted.

Reinvested Communities is a leadership training program bringing together formerly incarcerated individuals, people of faith, and families with an incarcerated loved one to reduce barriers to successful reentry. This eight-week program in Houston will offer practical skills training and information via group discussion, interactive exercises, and inspiring speakers to prepare participants to be leaders for change. People of all faiths, formerly incarcerated individuals and families of currently or formerly incarcerated individuals are encouraged to apply.


Texas Inmate Families Association

The Texas Inmates Families Association (TIFA) provides support, education, and advocacy for families of incarcerated individuals. To find out more about TIFA and how you and your congregation can support their work, go to www.tifa.org.


Understanding Texas Government: State Agencies And Reentry

  

 

capitol graphic

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

 

Legislation passed in 2009 (H.B. 1711) and expanded in 2013 (S.B. 213) required the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to establish a statewide Reentry Task Force. Their primary focus includes identifying gaps in services for individuals returning home and, through district reentry centers, coordinating with providers on the ground to offer comprehensive services.

The list of Task Force members can be found here.

District reentry centers can be found here.

For more information on TDCJ, visit www.tdcj.texas.gov.

 

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

 

S.B. 213 expanded the TDCJ Reentry Task Force to include the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (TBPP) and requires TBPP to identify their reentry and reintegration goals, the strategies for achieving those goals, and specific timelines to implement their particular plans. The TBPP will consider an inmate’s TDCJ Individual Treatment Plan when being considered for release. The plan will include the results of any risk and needs assessment, along with any vocational, educational, or substance abuse assessment, and all of the treatment and programming needs of the inmate, as well as the dates of any subsequent assessments.

Texas Commission on Jail Standards

S.B. 213 expanded the TDCJ Reentry Task Force to include the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Although the Commission is a regulatory agency, it also assists counties in developing strategies for managing their inmate populations including reentry policies and programs and approves county jail plans for programs involving alcohol and drug abuse, education, employment and job placement, family problems, and psychological or psychiatric problems.


Want to Dig Deeper?

 

The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) provides education, training, and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, non-profit organizations, and corrections institutions working on prisoner reentry. The NRRC is funded by the Second Chance Act of 2008, and was launched by the Council of State Governments Justice Center in 2009.

Signed into law on April 9, 2008, the Second Chance Act (P.L. 110-199) was designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails. It authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims support, and other services that can help reduce recidivism.

Find out more at csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc

 

Read more online at the Texas Interfaith Center.

 

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has a number of volunteer opportunities available in areas ranging from educational and life-skills training to medical and substance-abuse rehabilitation programming. According to TDCJ, volunteers are an essential element in the rehabilitation and re-entry of offenders into the community.

TDCJ’s Volunteer Coordination Committee (VCC) was established to coordinate programming among the various divisions to maximize the safe and successful use of volunteers. The Rehabilitation Programs Division together with the VCC provides oversight of volunteer activities within the various criminal justice settings.

Click here for more information.

 

Want to find out about reentry supports in your local community?

Check out Texas Impact’s

Know Your Community Treasure Hunt!


 


 

More than one million individuals in Texas qualify for life saving food or health benefits but are not enrolled to receive them. Is your congregation interested in how to better be in community with low-income families in your neighborhood or city? 

 

If so, the Community Partner Program is a great opportunity for you!

 

Texans can now apply online for public benefit programs like CHIP, TANF, SNAP and Medicaid through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's (HHSC) new online portal. Recognizing that many low-income families do not have Internet access or might need additional help, the Community Partner Program is a state initiative that allows local congregations to assist low-income Texans in applying for needed benefits. 

 

Through HHSC's Community Partner Recruitment Initiative, Texas Impact is working with HHSC, the Texas Hunger Initiative and the Texas Association of Community Health Centers to recruit communities of faith and other local nonprofit organizations to provide internet access and/or trained volunteers to help low-income families apply for state benefit programs. 

 

Texas Impact has a team of AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers in offices throughout Texas who would love the opportunity to come speak about the program with your faith group or lead a presentation or event for the local community at your organization. 

 

For more information, contact Andrea Earl at andrea@texasimpact.org or Scott Atnip at scott@texasimpact.org.



Better Neighborsprovides information on a different public policy issue with local implications every month. In addition to the newsletter, you will also have other opportunities to engage around the monthly focus through webinars, phone calls, and in-person events throughout the state.  

 

In June, we invite you to the following opportunities to learn more about Reentry: 

  • June Podcast: Reentry Basics (available June 11 on iTunes or directly.)

  • June 24: Presentations by Better Neighbors Team

    6:00pm Islamic Society of Greater Houston

  • June 27 at 11:00am: Conference Call to focus on Reentry and the Community Partner Recruitment Initiative.

    Dial in: (712) 432-3066, Conference Code: 424548.

We encourage you to share this information with people in your network. For more information, contact Congregational Outreach Director Scott Atnip.


Texas Impact logo
Texas Impact was established by Texas religious leaders in 1973 to be a voice in the Texas legislative process for the shared religious social concerns of Texas' faith communities. Texas Impact is supported by more than two-dozen Christian, Jewish and Muslim denominational bodies, as well as hundreds of local congregations, ministerial alliances and interfaith networks, and thousands of people of faith throughout Texas. Texas Impact and our sister organization, the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, provide theologically-grounded public policy educational resources on our member organization's shared social concerns and opportunities for advocacy for people of faith.


TEXAS IMPACT MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): Southwest Region, Bluebonnet Area, Central Area, Coastal Plains Area, North Texas Area, Trinity-Brazos Area * Episcopal Church: Diocese of West Texas * Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA): Northern TX-Northern LA Synod, TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod, Southwestern Texas Synod * Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Grace Presbytery, Mission Presbytery, New Covenant Presbytery, Palo Duro Presbytery, Tres Rios Presbytery * United Methodist Church: Central Texas Conference, North Texas Conference, Northwest Texas Conference, Southwest Texas Conference, Texas Conference * Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission * United Church of Christ: South Central Conference * Society of Friends : South Central Yearly Meeting * Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry * American Jewish Committee * American Jewish Congress * Jewish Federation of Dallas * Muslim Freedom and Justice Foundation of Texas * Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT) * San Antonio Community of Congregations * Tarrant Area Community of Churches * Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston * United Methodist Women * Church Women United in Texas * National Council of Jewish Women * Dominican Sisters of Houston

 

TEXAS IMPACT

President-Reverend Dr. Whitney Bodman | Vice President-Richard Ertel | Secretary-Amanda Quraishi

Treasurer-Reverend Jim McClain | Executive Director-Bee Moorhead