Monthly Archives: February 2016

Highlighting the Work of Fedcap’s National Center for Innovation and System Improvement

On Thursday, February 25 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST, Fedcap’s National Center for Innovation and System Improvement will host the latest in its webinar series—“Employment of the Previously Incarcerated.”

Sixty-three percent of individuals leaving prison are re-arrested within three years. Unemployment for those previously incarcerated in as much as 50% one year post-release. There is much work to be done to improve the outcomes for those who leave prison. We know that employment is one of the key—if not the key—factors in preventing recidivism. Thursday’s webinar will offer specific, concrete solutions and ideas for ways to support our previously incarcerated as they re-enter society. I urge you to participate—it’s not too late to sign up at: http://ncisi.fedcap.org/training/archive/individual-webinars/employment-of-the-previously-incarcerated

The webinar series is just one among of the offerings from our National Center for Innovation and System Improvement. Living under the umbrella of our Community Impact Institute, the National Center offers technical assistance and training, web-based platforms, credentialing services, and assessment and planning tools—all aimed at building system capacity to better serve people with barriers. The National Center excels at data collection to help tell the story of the ways in which the work of Fedcap is making a difference—and can serve as a national model for creating relevant, sustainable change.

The work of the National Center is practical and practicable. It is driven by the commitment that those with barriers have a voice in decision making at every level—from policy to practice. It is a great example of the work that we do—to offer precise interventions that will change the way in which services are delivered and “move the needle” on their long term outcomes.

I am very proud of the work of the National Center and inspired by the staff from throughout the agency who contribute to the practice and research -thinking beyond the current boundaries of possibilities to forge new frontiers for solutions for those with barriers.

I believe we are all capable of this type of creativity, and I welcome your thinking on ways we continue to forge new interventions for those with barriers.

In the meantime, explore the work of the National Center for Innovation and System Improvement at www.ncisi.fedcap.org, and please join us on Thursday to hear examples of what’s possible for improving the lives of the previously incarcerated.

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Early Intervention and Treatment – Impacting Business Bottom Line

Individuals in recovery are among the bravest people I know. They are resilient and they are perseverant. They have faced one of the hardest battles ever fought, and they must be ever watchful. They fight not only the disease of addiction, but they are faced with ongoing stigma and discrimination that follows them when their struggle with addiction is found out.

Fedcap believes that work completes treatment. Research tells us that people in recovery are among the most highly motivated employees because they want to recover, they want to succeed, and work grants them the structure and the opportunity to get their lives back. Research also tells us that individuals in recovery tend to be loyal and committed to their employers—particularly grateful for the opportunity to do well. Many individuals in recovery are involved in programs which emphasize integrity and responsibility, hope and strength and a daily practice of gratitude. Data tells us that those in recovery also tend to take fewer sick days and are less likely to be on the absentee rosters.

And yet, we know that 46% of those in recovery relapse. Relapse is considered part of treatment. How can employers risk hiring those who might relapse?

Most employers have policies in place that can mitigate risk. Good employment practice would be to encourage early intervention, education and creation of support groups. Chances are quite high that there are individuals among the already employed who are battling substance use disorder. There is no doubt that given the statistics around substance use disorder, just about every employee knows someone battling addiction and would benefit from additional education.

Hiring and keeping motivated employees is key to any business bottom line. The cost of replacing one entry-level employee falls between 30% and 50% of their salary. For mid-level employees, the cost of replacement is closer to 150% of their current wage. And high level replacement falls at close to 400%. Substance use strikes all levels of employment. It is good business to invest in programs that support loyal employees in recovery.

On March 30th, at 8:00 at the Mutual of America Building,  Fedcap will host its 11th Solution Series discussing ways that addressing the needs of employees with mental health issues and substance use disorders can enhance business bottom line.

Please mark your calendars as we embark on this important conversation that will reflect the data and the stories that support our belief that hiring those with mental health and substance use disorders is good for business.

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Restorative Justice and Committing to Help—Alternative Pathways to Incarceration

I recently read an article about Norway’s criminal justice system and was overwhelmed by the contrast in rates of incarcerated and recidivism between our two countries. Just 75 out of 100,000 people are behind bars—compared to our statistic of 707 out of 100,000 incarcerated. Norway has a 20% recidivism rate, compared to the U.S. rate of nearly 80%. Norway’s national practice of restorative justice—focusing on repairing the harm done by the crime rather than on punishment—means that they have put their country’s resources to work to help their prisoners get the resources they need to return safely to society. Their system is clearly working—better than ours by any measure.

Restorative justice is a viable pathway in the United States. It is not a new concept, but any means, but it has not taken hold here as I believe it should. It requires a true and deep commitment to equality and democracy for our citizens—every single one of them. It requires focusing on rehabilitating our incarcerated rather than punishing them. It means focusing on helping those who need help—particularly in the areas of mental illness and addiction—to get the services they need to restore them to better health and ultimately support them as productive citizens.

Are we willing to do what it takes? And if not, why not? And if so, what will it take?

One specific way to move toward a more restorative process is to examine our pre-trial and court processes to implement strategies that will divert—or at least offer an alternative—to detention and incarceration. Here are some practices that are currently at work, and if widely implemented, could alleviate the burden on the prison system:

Diversion programs

Diversion programs are aimed at first-time, non-violent offenders to avoid criminal charges and ultimately, a criminal record. These voluntary programs involve uncovering the root cause of criminal behavior—often some form of mental illness or substance use—or both—and diverting the arrested individual into a program that would alleviate or eliminate the underlying issue that caused the criminal behavior. Once the program is completed successfully, charges would be dismissed.

Alternatives to pre-trial detention

At any one time, there are roughly 500,000 people in awaiting trial and living in detention in the U.S. It has been proven that those who are detained are four times more likely to be sentenced than those who are released in custody prior to trial. Many of these individuals, like those who might qualify for a diversion program, suffer from mental illness or substance use disorder. With a court-ordered screening, the court would hear the charges, and instead of sentencing, an individual could complete a recovery program under close supervision. Upon successful completion of a recovery program, an individual could be released without having been incarcerated.

Alternative to Incarceration programs (ATI)

The ATI program involves a court hearing, but the individual is relegated to an ATI program rather than sentenced to incarceration. Close supervision is conducted by a care coordinator who then reports to the court upon completion of a recovery program in mental health or substance use disorder treatment.

The goals of these pre-trial alternatives is ultimately to reduce crime and to eliminate and/or treat the underlying causes—most often mental illness and/or substance use—of non-violent crimes. They will help identify and offer the support individuals need. Using these strategies means decreasing rates of recidivism, less crowded detention areas, reducing stigma, and working with the community more appropriately to serve non-violent offenders.

Lessons learned from Norway and pockets throughout the U.S. mean that restorative justice implemented through alternatives to incarceration is possible and viable.

What do you think?