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Humanitri In It For The Long Haul

The city of St. Louis was still asleep as the sun broke the horizon of a muggy and early April 10 morning. Not a vehicle or person was in sight down Russell Boulevard, except for a Humanitri bus waiting to depart to a state prison. The passengers eagerly waiting inside did not care that it was 6:15 in the morning, or that they had to start their weekend earlier than most. They were happy to be on their way to see their family members who are in prison. 

“I have two sons locked up. I am the only one who ever goes to see them,” said one woman, as she excitedly tapped her foot in anticipation. “One comes out next year, and the other comes out in less than two. I let them know I love them, and I am starting to see positive changes because one just got his G.E.D. and wants to go to school when he gets out.”

Humanitri’s new two-year pilot program, “Next Steps Home,” will continue to serve inmates and their families 12 to 18 months after release.

Funder Spotlight: Lutheran Foundation

[b]Above:[/b] Ann L. Vasquez, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis. The Foundation is one of ARCHS' public, private and faith-based funding partners.Perhaps the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis' commitment to helping the ex-offender population can best be summed up by the Hebrews Scripture it displays on its web site: "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."

Or, maybe it is the Foundation's beliefs combined with a $12,000 grant it awarded to ARCHS to help support the recently expanded St. Louis Alliance for Reentry (STAR). The grant provides strategic management support to STAR as it connects reentry individuals to agencies working in coordination to strengthen the delivery of ex-offender services.

New group tries to guide parolees

The article can also be read on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's website by clicking HERE.

By Scott Bandle

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jason Taylor has been a real estate agent, loan officer and environmental consultant. At times, he earned $27 a hour. Then he got into trouble with the law in 2005 and was put on probation.

Everything changed. Since then, he has had a difficult time finding a job - let alone one that matched any of his previous salaries.

"Some companies have policies against hiring someone on parole," said Taylor, 39, of Florissant. "It doesn't matter if your crime has nothing to do with your job. They just won't hire you. You're best chance is with a small and personal company."

That's why he started AAA Enterprises LLC in 2008, finishing rehab projects for property owners. He didn't want to start his own company, but he felt he had no choice.

Taylor is on probation until 2012 for domestic violence against his ex-wife in 2005. He has one child and must pay child support. He has remarried.

Under parole, an offender is monitored by the Missouri Department of Corrections and must follow certain terms and conditions for a certain amount of time. If those conditions are broken, the offender can go back to jail.

Finding full-time employment is key to keeping offenders on track.

A variety of community groups, working with the state's probation department, formed the St. Louis Alliance for Reentry (STAR) as an information clearinghouse. With STAR, probation officers easily can see all of the programs available for parolees. Then, STAR works to choose the best way to help a parolee.

"We've got business, religious, educational institutions and other groups with us," said Donna King, administrator for District II of the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole. "Our mission is the successful intervention that will help the ex-offender become self-sufficient and to reduce recidivism."

Statistics show 91 percent of Missouri's prisoners will be released back to the community, most of them on parole, said Herbert L. Bernsen, acting director for St. Louis County Justice Services.

Without full-time employment, 54 percent will return to prison.

ARCHS hosts summit on moving from incarceration to employment

The article can also be read on The St. Louis American's website by clicking HERE.

By Joia Williamson

The St. Louis American

At the recent St. Louis Alliance for Reentry Summit, a crowd of 275 learned about different area programs designed to help ex-offenders become productive, employed members of society.

Culinary workers who recently graduated from a program at Area Resources for Community and Human Services (ARCHS), the principal organizer of the summit, gave attendees an understanding of what ex-offenders go through in trying to move from incarceration to employment.

Sarah McCoy is one of 10 ex-offenders who recently graduated from ARCHS’ culinary training program, cosponsored by St. Louis Community College and Job Corps.

“It’s a process,” McCoy said of job training and reentry. “You can’t lose focus. It’s even harder getting back into society. It isn’t gonna be open arms.”

St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley, City of St. Louis Police Chief Daniel Isom and St. Louis County Police Chief Timothy Fitch all spoke about issues faced by ex-offender reentry, along with state sheriffs, correctional workers and community advocates.

“The ex-offenders still need assistance and don’t know the simple things like tying a tie and some don’t even have a G.E.D,” said ARCHS Chief Executive Officer Wendell E. Kimbrough.

Out of prison -- now what? Reentry programs help those returning to community life

Article can be viewed on St. Louis Beacon's website by clicking HERE.

By Elia Powers

St. Louis Beacon

When Clark Porter, a job and family specialist with the U.S. Probation Office, looks across his desk at a client who's just been released from prison, he recognizes the skeptical stare that's often directed at him.

Nearly a decade ago, that was Porter sitting in the other chair, just out of confinement and wondering what kind of invasive monitoring he could expect from the government official assigned to his case. But when the initial conversation with his probation officer had nothing to do with rules, he was taken by surprise.

"What do you want for you?" Porter remembers the officer asking.

"I figured this person was going to be my enemy, but I thought to myself, 'OK, he wants to talk about me,'" Porter recalls thinking.

"What do you want for you?" Porter repeated. It was a daunting question. He paused for a few seconds and then told the officer about his goals: finding a permanent place to live, going back to school and eventually getting a steady job.

Porter has found that stability, and he credits the U.S. Probation Office with helping him stay on course. He's now the one asking recently released prisoners what they want for themselves. Their responses are often familiar. So too, in some instances, are their faces.

"One guy [a client of Porter's] had been in with me," he said. "We literally walked the same prison together, hung out together and trash talked together. He sees me now and says, 'I can't believe it.' I say that I'm just trying to help him get himself together."

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