Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Model programs to aid ex-prisoners join civil society

Fortune Acadamy in West Harlem
An opinion piece in the New York Times, “For Ex-Prisoners, a Haven Away From the Streets,” deals with the issue of the terrible life prospects of people rejoining the free, helter-skelter workaday world after having served a long spell in prison.

Two model programs that have demonstrated success at reintegrating men and women into polite society are featured: The Castle [run by the Fortune Society] in New York’s West Harlem and Delancey Street in San Francisco. Both, while quite different, are lauded as successful operations that, curiously, aren’t being widely replicated across the country.

The writer, Tina Rosenberg, tells us that one thing that has been learned is what’s most important in rehabilitating former prisoners to a successful outside-the-Walls life is to swap-out their old friends for new ones who are lawful, productive and up-beat. Writes Rosenberg:
At both Fortune and Delancey, a person emerging from prison is surrounded by a community of people who support him, hold him accountable, teach him skills and model good behavior. Many of the men and women in these programs come to think of themselves as productive members of society for the first time in their lives, and it may also be the first time they ever feel competent at anything besides lawbreaking.
The Castle and Delancey Street are big operations that give men and women rooms, a long stay and real employment opportunities. Plus, at Delancey Street, there are at-site business operations for the former prisons to run and earn money from. From this, the Castle and Delancey Street are far more encompassing than Rehab programs, that are church-based and mainly focus on drug and alcohol abuse, I know about in our metropolis at Union Gospel Mission and in Rancho Cordova.

A Castle or Delancey Street spin-off seems like something Sacramento would benefit from in helping former prisoners, here, get off the merry-go-round of lock-up and crime.

While neither program has been formally studied to verify its effectiveness, both Castle and Delancey are lauded anecdotally for being highly beneficial at restoring lives and ending crime.

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