NC SECOND CHANCE ALLIANCE: May Bulletin

May 9, 2014

As always, we are looking for updates from you—what’s happening in your communities and with your organizations to break down barriers facing those with criminal records? Email updates to jessica@ncjustice.org, and we’ll include them in future newsletters. Also, please visit our website: www.ncsecondchance.org.

Campaign News

Raise the Age

North Carolina continues to be an outlier on how it requires teens 16 and older to be charged as adults. This means that minor misdemeanors can derail a child’s job and education prospects even before they finish high school.  Luckily, momentum in the legislature could change that. A bill that would allow teens to keep their cases in juvenile court until age 18 has bipartisan support and could be heard and voted on in the House once the 2014 legislative session starts on May 14.

Our friends at NC Child are asking for our support to pressure legislators on a vote by making 300 calls in 30 days to members of the House to urge them to vote YES on HB 725, Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act aka Raise the Age! For talking points and more information on the bill, go to: http://bit.ly/1nNejVX

NELP Releases Comprehensive Fair Chance / Ban the Box Online Toolkit

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is hosting a webinar to discuss its new toolkit that provides a step-by-step guide for creating ban the box/fair chance policies. It includes information on starting and winning fair chance campaigns, best practices for city and state policies, new research, and tips on using media,. You can find the new on-line toolkit at www.nelp.org/banthebox.

The free hour-long webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, May 13th at 1 p.m. Register here.

The NC Justice Center is interested in hearing about efforts underway or being considered to adopt ban the box policies in NC.

Events

May 16: The Carolina Justice Policy Center will hold a Community Based Services Conference,"Reducing Barriers to Re-Entry: After Jail, Prison, and During Supervision," on Friday, May 16th, at the William Friday Center in Chapel Hill. The conference will include sessions on: Reducing Recidivism and Barriers to Re-entry while on supervision, Mental Illness, Pre-trial Services and Mental Health First Aid, Veterans: Treatment Courts and Treatment Options, Expunction, Collateral Consequences,  Certificate of Rehabilitation: Reducing Barriers, Best Jail/ Pre-trial  Practices for Reducing Re-entry Barriers, and Re-entry Councils.

Those wishing to attend should register online. Registration costs $65 or ($78.50 if attending for CLE credit). Checks can be made out to Carolina Justice Policy Center and mailed to PO Box 309 Durham, NC 27702, or you can pay with your credit/debit card by calling the center at (919) 682-1149.

June 2: Alivia's Bistro (located at 900 W. Main St. Durham) is sponsoring the Carolina Justice Policy Center with a special event. All day long on Monday, June 2nd, Alivia's will be donating a portion of their proceeds to the CJPC. Please join us at Alivia's on Monday June 2nd to enjoy a great meal and support a great cause.

Re-Entry Councils
 
In 2013, advocates pushing for more attention to re-entry services scored a big win with some funding to start re-entry councils in parts of the state. The idea of the councils is that they would bring the different interested parties together, from community corrections and local law enforcement to agencies working with families of people with criminal convictions, to better coordinate services so that folks with convictions have more support.

The five pilot sites in Buncombe, Mecklenburg, Pitt, Nash/Edgecombe/Wilson, and Hoke/Robeson/Scotland counties are now up and running and most of them are fully staffed with different public-private partnerships in the five regions. Most have local re-entry coordinators and job placement specialists ready to assist those identified as being ready for the program. The state’s Department of Public Safety has created a risk/needs service prioritization worksheet and a personalized reentry plan to try to place people into programs that will address their specific needs and abilities.

Additional pilot sites will be launched next year. We look forward to following their successes and learning ways to reduce recidivism through greater community support and job placement services.

In the News

From the Carolina Justice Policy Center:

The Department of Public Safety recently proposed a major restructuring which will affect juveniles North Carolina. Juvenile Justice has now been merged into the same department as Adult Corrections and Crime Control. Once the change was completed, the new Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice was charged with reviewing juvenile facilities plans and reporting to the legislature.

Director David Guice heads the new Division.   Staffers presented planned facilities changes including:

  • Closing CA Dillon, Dobbs and Gaston detention, all old facilities
  • Re-opening 2 newer facilities in Lenoir and Edgecombe
  • Expanding and renovating the re-opened facilities from 32 -44 beds and reducing staff ratios.  Staff ratios at these facilities have long been a point of contention.
  • Adding 16 additional YDC beds (youth prisons)  to Stonewall Jackson
  • Relocate Gaston Detention to Stonewall Jackson
  • Adding additional staff to YDCs and considering combining some YDCs and Detention Centers
  • Renovating the closed Buncombe detention facility into a multi-purpose home.  (We don't have information on the age or condition of the current facility.)

Plans were generally well-received by both legislators and advocates as they reflected thoughtful planning on the part of the Department.  The changes will be implemented using the funds that were previously appropriated by the legislature to renovate the Dobbs kitchen.  No additional funds will be required to make these facilities changes.

In addition, $690,000 is proposed for reinvesting and expanding juvenile justice programs including funds to:

  • Work with parents and guardians of committed youth while in YDCs to prepared them for return of their child
  • Provide 5 new transition homes
  • Fund juvenile re-entry services.  

We applaud this step in the direction of re-investment and look forward to more information about these services and how they will interface with the JCPCs.      

When asked about whether the Department has given any thought to resource needs if the legislature raised the juvenile age, Commissioner Guice said that he continued to support the increase in the juvenile age and thought that if they did it for any juveniles they should do it for all of them.  Again, we applaud Commissioner Guice and his team for leading the way on this issue  and commend his willingness  to undertake an examination of how DPS resources could be reinvested if the juvenile age is changed.

Member Spotlight: Jobs on the Outside

Focusing on the future while carrying the weight of a past criminal conviction can be extremely challenging, as we all know. In the Triad Goodwill’s “Jobs on the Outside” (or JOTO) Program, Program Manager Sandra Thompson and her associate Mark Cole help ex-offenders re-image themselves and think positively about the future.

They hope by doing so, folks will be able to find work, be able to support their families and pay the bills and enjoy the self-confidence that comes with that. They also hope that those who go through the program will give back and speak up for their communities.

“We are really heavy in talking about going back once you get a job and helping people who may have been in the same situation as you,” Thompson said.

JOTO offers a six-class program and additional job placement assistance to address those issues to anyone with a criminal conviction age 16 and older in Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Caswell and Alamance counties. The program served 493 people and placed 177 people in jobs in the 12 months that ended June 30, 2013. This year they’ve seen even more: already 572 people served, with 163 job placements. They are one of the few programs available that accepts individuals convicted of sex offenses.

“The biggest thing that the participants need to learn is that employers want to hire their future and not their past,” Thompson said, adding that concentrating on one’s past cause depression and lack of confidence.

“We concentrate on re-inventing you, what value do you bring to the table,” she said. Even negative experiences like one’s experience with the criminal justice system or in prison can be turned into positives, she said.

Most of JOTO’s programs are located in High Point and Greensboro. However, starting in June, the program is expanding to an Alamance County location as well.

Thompson said perception is very important, and always starts her orientation with her own personal story of pleading guilty to a federal fraud charge and serving a prison sentence. When she got out of prison she got her college degree but had difficulty finding work because of her conviction.

“I was so proud to be able to check that box that I finished college. But guess what? There’s another box,” she tells the group. “I thought since I had all the years of work experience, all the education–that this would over-ride having to check that box, but it didn’t.”

She said going through the JOTO program taught her to interview again and talk about her conviction.

At the end of the orientation, she says the majority of attendees are hooked when they realize she has walked in their shoes. “Their mouths drop,” she said.  “I say, ‘you don’t want to look like what your record is.’”
 

Research & Publications: