Societal Intercept Project Summary: Our Coalition is seeking backers to help us develop a prevention-intervention-recovery center for people who have been impacted by an arrest or incarceration. For taxpayers it is a ‘societal intercept’ project to help our whole community stop the losses that have been sustained by over-criminalization and to help us recover from the economic, social and civic after-effects of the failed policies of mass incarceration.
The RestoreALife Center is the vision of Irene Morgan, founder of the Restorative CommUnity Coalition in 2006. While researching programs from across the nation she found Delancey Street. In San Francisco, this non-profit was already doing extraordinary work in the field. Delancey Street has a successful housing, education and employment program that works with felons who are returning to the community after incarcerationm so they can learn how to navigate successfully in the world even with their conviction histories.
The Delancey Street two (2) year program was one of the finest in the nation with an 80% success record. They provide housing, workplace training and functional living skills training with an “each one, teach one” mentorship model where people learn hands-on how to do things…and they earn their way up in skills as they develop.
With Irene’s discovery, duplicating and expanding their program became Irene’s vision for Whatcom County: to create the RestoreALife Center for our formerly incarcerated citizens and those at risk.
Described below are the three (3) key parts to the services we envision:
1. Housing is the greatest need for people with conviction histories. When one is safe, warm, fed and with a good nights sleep one is more likely to be able to meet the requirements of obtaining employment or enrolling in educational classes and training to further ensure a stable life style. Housing re-entry folks in a structured environment is crucial for their success, as they have been in highly structured facilities with little opportunity to think independently. Since long periods of incarceration can cause institutionalization there is a great need for a wind down and healing process as they re-acclimate to society and its’ demands.
2. Education is the most critical needs of people who have entered the world of incarceration. Most have been traumatized by the experience, and this follows a life of likely trauma, addiction and punishment. So they need retraining, therapy and recovery programs. Many do not have the life skills needed to be successful therefore the need for the lengthy program life. There will be case management with training in how to prepare for a full day of work, training or education, grooming, budgeting, career management, and volunteer opportunities to give back to community.
3. Employment and workplace skills are essential for successful reentry from incarceration. Some 40% of our inmates are second grade educated, so the need for education is beyond gaining a GED; many have little basic reading, writing and math skills and will need tutoring. This will be a priority for without basic skills, success is unlikely.
For those who wish to further their education or learn trades, they will enroll in local classes. For those who have no trade we will employ them in the 10 or 12 businesses we develop. We will work with existing employers, entrepreneurs, create new businesses and employment opportunities.
Wellness and Recovery Center is primary for emotional, physical and psychological healing. Trauma is at the root of all dysfunction and stress is the cause of most failures. Our Wellness and Recovery Center will encourage our residents to retrain their habits for a healthier lifestyle; exercise, eating and nutritional shopping habits, relationships, self-empowerment, volunteer opportunities, alternative healing modalities and introspection.
Another segment of the Wellness and Recover Center is the Freedom Farm, where our residents will discover, possibly for the first time, their connection to the earth, where they can interact with animals, plants, and streams, plant a garden and harvest the vegetables/herbs and prepare a meal, milk a goat or cow, gather eggs from chickens/foul, ride a horse, etc. Many studies show that connection with nature is one of the most healing actions possible.
When they are ready to leave the RestoreALife Center they will have the skills and employment training needed to be a fully functional member of society and taxpayer. They will have gained self knowledge, stability and capacity for their future success in life.
We will have a “graduates club” that will allow former residents to continue to interact with the RestoreALife Center for regular maintenance and to encourage those newcomers that it is also possible for them to achieve their goals.
We have a business plan to buy a property that was recently listed, and have identified several others that could serve. The pilot facility will accommodate 35 to 40 people that could be moved from the current jail. The metrics show we will be profit generating in 3 years – so we expect to be sustainable for the benefit of the community. This is a win, win, win for our community- for this is a 501C3 foundation whose direct goal is to serve the people of Whatcom County in a healthy, vital way.
This is the epitome of restorative economics, for it starts at the roots of the problem and restores people from the ground up to becoming functional and happier people, which in turn strengthens our communities from the inside out.