Frequently Asked Questions
Who Are We? A volunteer 501(C) (3) non-profit organization that provides a support network of preventive, restorative and regenerative assistance for citizens reentering our community after incarceration, those homeless and others at risk in Whatcom County.
Why is the Coalition Necessary? To rebuild social vitality at the root of the systems failures, rather than continuing to support codependency habits. It has been shown that our punitive systems and financial penalties are failing to achieve their purpose, the economic costs are destroying the middle class, and it is stagnating human potential and free enterprise. Restorative justice, building functional literacy, putting people to work, restoring honor and human dignity, dealing progressively with addiction, homelessness, and abuse are far more productive and have a better return on investment to the community. Statistics are staggering:
- 80% of the people in our local jail are illiterate, addicted, or mentally ill.
- Currently 70% of the Whatcom County tax budget is spent on law and justice services alone.
- It takes 12 or more working taxpayers to pay the average $30,000 to $50,000 bill for each person who returns to prison for one year. This doesn’t include litigation and other expenses.
Our systems have become implosive and self-destructive, not only to those incarcerated and their families, but to our communities, and to those who are paying the taxes.
What Have we Done? The Coalition has helped dozens of people coming out of prison find their way through getting their ID, housing, food, a resume, legal issues, to deal with emotional fear, abuse, and rebuilding their hope. We have helped them navigate through probation and parole and helped them get a job even with a record. For early intervention, prevention, public safety and recidivism we produced the Choices and Consequences program for youth, developed the Re-EntryUniversity education platform, written hundreds of letters to inmates, held public forums, and worked with officials to establish a way for prisoners to receive a WA state ID upon release. We have worked on employment projects and have spent many hours educating legislators, mayors, police chiefs and other officials and the public about the systemic problems we are facing in our communities as economic problems increase. We have gained supporters because we are providing solutionary ideas and projects that can be implemented at a net cost savings that is substantial.
Vision for the Next 2-3 years? Complete the Washington State ID project, establish the Re-Entry University in a facility that can handle 30 or more people at a time, have a self sustaining training and employment services component, establish restorative justice models in our legal system, develop an alternative solution for supporting the homeless and mentally ill, develop healthy alternative therapies for addiction and intervention. Develop a sustainable living community where indigent people and those at risk can learn how to work, grow their own food, and contribute to their community.
All these actions make fiscal sense. Why are we spending $30,000 or more on reinforcing incarceration and codependency? It is a far better investment to spend $5,000 a year or less to help people become working taxpayers and to correct whatever put them in prison in the first place. In fact, 97% of all people in prison will be released, and they have paid their debt to society, yet often do not have the tools necessary to get a job. So they go back to prison. It is much safer for our children and our communities to put them to work ASAP when they are released. It is a smarter use of taxpayers money. It is far more humane for the people and their families.
What’s next? We are intending to create a facility to house the Restore-A-LifeCenter (business plan is in development, estimated to be $750,000 to several million). This center will include three main projects:
- The Re-Entry University housing and education project (estimated cost $250,000),
- The Regeneration Center for alternative addiction therapy (estimated cost $250,000);
- The Job Re-Skilling & Employment Center to launch multiple businesses that will hire felons and displaced people to do jobs that rebuild our community like recycling, sustainability, organic food production, scrapping of metals, mechanical repair, maintenance and construction, furniture restoration and more. (Costs could range from $250,000 up to several million depending on the scope and impact of the projects that qualify.)
What’s the Impact? This Restore-A-LifeCenter will become self-sustaining, and will produce a high ROI to the community, for it will become a revitalizing force through its multiplier effect. Prisoners on average have 1.9 children, and have left an incomplete and often unemployed family behind. The loss of human potential is great, the scars greater. The costs to the community taxpayers compound. The ripple effect, and residual impact on the community is immeasurable on many levels. Prevention makes better sense.