Since 2011, Men and Women of Purpose (MWP) has provided re-entry services to help returning community members make the transition from jail to community. These services begin in the County jails where MWP mentors develop relationships with men and women on the inside. These relationships of trust and empathy are the key to helping people re-enter society and build new lives on the outside. Some people have been incarcerated for years and never learned to drive a car, never had a bank account or held a significant job. It is not unusual on any day of the week for MWP to bring someone home to the community who is released from jail after many years of incarceration. This is what we do.
The Need Is Great
In America today, more than 70 million people have criminal records indexed by the FBI. Mass incarceration in America has been described as “a pipeline” – a long pipeline from schools to prison, and then from prison to poverty. Most of those trapped in the pipeline are African-American or Hispanic. “For the 70 million adults with a serious misdemeanor or felony arrest or conviction record and the hundreds of thousands more each year released from prison, their record can be a life sentence of poverty and low wages.” (Alliance for A Just Society, Jobs After Jail Report.) According to the Alliance for A Just Society, California has 171 mandatory restrictions on employment for people with felony convictions. People with controlled substance convictions are subject to 67 mandatory employment restrictions.
Over the past two decades, California has been a leader in mass incarceration. Most of the people sent to prison in California will be released at some point. Contra Costa County has a higher rate of release of returning citizens than most of the other counties in California. The barriers returning citizens face upon their release can seem insurmountable. Stringent parole conditions and a lack of community support have worked together to create high recidivism rates. Formerly incarcerated citizens face discrimination and barriers in housing, employment, voting and obtaining licenses. As a result, many become homeless, don’t vote, are unable to find a job and cannot get a license to drive or work.
ESSENTIAL SERVICES PROVIDED
MWP’s re-entry programs provide employment counseling, transportation, housing referrals, mentor counseling, sobriety support, family reunification counseling, life skills training on how to cope with the new outside world, and support dealing with the mental, emotional and financial challenges of re-entry.
In the absence of a fully functioning “safety net” system, service providers such as MWP are an essential piece of the puzzle of re-entry. As a community-based organization founded and led by recovering addicts and formerly incarcerated persons, MWP is uniquely positioned to provide the support necessary to ensure the success of returning citizens and rebuild the community.
Men and Women of Purpose | 3029 Macdonald Avenue | Richmond, California 94804