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Shakespeare Beyond Bars

The Center for Women in Transition will host a special performance of Shakespeare's "Green Eggs & Hamlet" by the Prison Performing Arts Alumni Theatre Company on Thursday, December 9 at the Centene Center. "Green Eggs & Hamlet" has a Dr Seuss-like twist on the Shakesperian classic.

Please mark your calendars for the special evening of cocktails, desserts and laughter at the lighter side of Shakespeare. The one-hour production will be followed by a panel discussion and reception with the actors.

Tickets for the performance can be found by click HERE.

Helping Offenders Make Life Changes

The last several years have hardly been a walk in the park for area-resident Tracy Umar. Addictions to controlled substances such as crack cocaine and multiple stints in and out of prison have plagued her adult life. Umar is candid with the reality that the problems she endured were because of her own decisions, but surely the lack of a family foundation and supporting shoulder did not help the situation.

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.

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