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Call to Action - How Programs in 3 Cities Responded to the Prisoner Reentry Crisis, PPV, 2007

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Call

to

Action

How Programs in Three Cities
Responded to the Prisoner Reentry Crisis

Paul VanDeCarr

A Publication

of

Public/P rivate Ventures

Call

to

Action

How Programs in three Cities
Responded to the Prisoner Reentry Crisis

Paul VanDeCarr

A Publication

of

Public/Private Ventures

C a l l t o Ac t i o n

Public/Private Ventures is a
national nonprofit organization that seeks to improve
the effectiveness of social
policies and programs. P/PV
designs, tests and studies
initiatives that increase supports, skills and opportunities
of residents of low-income
communities; works with
policymakers to see that the
lessons and evidence produced are reflected in policy;
and provides training, technical
assistance and learning opportunities to practitioners based on
documented effective practices.

Board of Directors

Research Advisory
Committee

Matthew McGuire, Chair
Vice President
Ariel Capital Management, Inc.
Siobhan Nicolau, Chair Emeritus
President
Hispanic Policy Development Project
Frederick A. Davie
President
Public/Private Ventures
Amalia Betanzos
Retired, President
Wildcat Service Corporation
Yvonne Chan
Principal
Vaughn Learning Center
Jed Emerson
Senior Fellow
Generation Foundation, Generation
Investment Management
The Honorable Renée Cardwell Hughes
Judge, Court of Common Pleas
The First Judicial District,
Philadelphia, PA
Christine L. James-Brown
President and CEO
United Way International
John A. Mayer, Jr.
Retired, Chief Financial Officer
J.P. Morgan & Co.
Maurice Lim Miller
Director
Family Independence Initiative
Anne Hodges Morgan
Consultant to Foundations
Marion Pines
Senior Fellow
Institute for Policy Studies
Johns Hopkins University
Clayton S. Rose
Retired, Head of Investment Banking
J.P. Morgan & Co.
Cay Stratton
Director
National Employment Panel
London, U.K.
Sudhir Venkatesh
Associate Professor
Columbia University
William Julius Wilson
Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University
Professor
Harvard University

Jacquelynne S. Eccles, Chair
University of Michigan
Ronald Ferguson
Kennedy School of Government
Robinson Hollister
Swarthmore College
Alan Krueger
Princeton University
Reed Larson
University of Illinois
Milbrey McLaughlin
Stanford University
Katherine S. Newman
Kennedy School of Government
Laurence Steinberg
Temple University
Tom Weisner
UCLA

C a l l t o Ac t i o n

F o reword
Call to Action provides a vivid illustration of how individuals, community organizations,
faith institutions, businesses and officials in cities across the country have mobilized to
build partnerships that address escalating numbers of ex-prisoners returning to their
communities. Many returnees have no viable job prospects, no social supports and no
access to services; two thirds will be rearrested and almost half will return to prison
within three years. This cycling in and out of prison has devastating consequences not
just for the prisoners themselves, but also for their families and neighborhoods.
The three communities highlighted in this report, Jacksonville, FL; Memphis, TN; and
Washington, DC, were pioneers in responding to the nation’s prisoner reentry crisis.
They developed impressive programs and eventually joined P/PV’s Ready4Work initiative, a three-year national demonstration funded by the US Departments of Labor and
Justice and the Annie E. Casey and Ford foundations to test the capacity of local faithand community-based groups to provide effective services to ex-prisoners—primarily
employment services, case management and mentoring. Early results from Ready4Work
are extremely promising, with recidivism rates for participants that are 50 percent below
the national average. Without the groundbreaking work of leaders in communities like
Jacksonville, Memphis and Washington, Ready4Work’s achievements would have been
impossible—in turn, by participating in the larger initiative, local sites gained an organizing framework, resources and a method for gauging progress and ensuring success
in ways not previously experienced.
Despite the progress that’s been made, important work remains. The collective
experience of Ready4Work sites highlights the need for more collective and integrated
approaches to prisoner reentry—across cities, regions and states; public and private
resources and funding streams need to be redirected, pooled and put to use in more
strategic, cost-effective and outcomes-driven efforts. Research findings that show promise for specific program strategies must be at the center of these partnerships, guiding
dialogue as well as the design of initiatives and program evaluations.
Understanding prisoner reentry from the perspective of the communities that are
most affected is a good step toward advancing these efforts. We hope this report—in
concert with several others on Ready4Work that are forthcoming—contributes to a
deeper understanding of what makes for successful prisoner reentry. This work is critical
for the men and women, families and communities affected by high rates of incarceration and recidivism, and should serve as a beacon to public and private decision-makers
searching for effective solutions.

Frederick A. Davie	
President	
	

Renata Cobbs Fletcher
Vice President for Public Policy and
Community Partnerships

C a l l t o Ac t i o n

C a l l t o Ac t i o n

A ck n o wledgments
The author wishes to thank all of those who shared their experiences and insights
about reentry work.
In Jacksonville, FL, Kevin Gay, Rev. Garland Scott and Paula Adkins-Jamison graciously told the story of Operation New Hope. Rev. Robert Brown, Marie Carter and
Joyce Johnson also helped with an understanding of the program’s background. In the
Jacksonville sheriff’s office, thanks go to Chief Stephanie Sloan-Butler, Officer Lisa Love
and Lorna Jones-Stutson.
In Memphis, TN, the staff of the Second Chance program were generous with their
time and stories. Thanks especially to Yalanda McFadgon and Terrence Johnson. City
officials also contributed, including Mayor Willie Herenton, Chief Administrative Officer
Keith McGee and Memphis Area Transit Authority General Manager William Hudson, Jr.
Judge J.C. McLin, Verlon Harp and Isaac Garrett also shared insights.
In Washington, DC, many thanks to the staffs of East of the River Clergy-PoliceCommunity Partnership (ERCPCP) and the Court Services and Offender Supervision
Agency (CSOSA). At CSOSA, Cedric Hendricks was especially informative. At ERCPCP, Rev.
Donald Isaac and Julia Irving were thoughtful and responsive. Rev. Anthony Motley was
likewise very giving and helpful. Thanks also to Jesus Hidalgo of Miller & Long Concrete
Construction, Rev. Lula Bell and Kenneth Glover for speaking about their experiences.
At Public/Private Ventures, Fred Davie was the primary force behind the
Ready4Work prisoner reentry initiative and commissioned this report. Samuel Harrell
provided invaluable direction, and Gayle Preston was tremendously helpful with the
logistics surrounding the report’s research. Renata Cobbs Fletcher and Chelsea Farley
offered useful feedback and managed the final publication process, with graphic
design provided by Penelope Malish.
Many thanks to the US Departments of Labor and Justice and to the Annie E.
Casey and Ford foundations for their generous support of the Ready4Work prisoner
reentry initiative.

C a l l t o Ac t i o n

C a l l t o Ac t i o n

C ontents
Introduction . .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 1
Jacksonville Case Study . . . . . . . . . . 5
Memphis Case Study  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 15
Washington Case Study  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 25
Conclusion  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 37
Endnotes  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 47

—chapter

one

—

Introduction
G etting O ut

	

T

errence Johnson was one of the lucky
ones. After serving eight months in a halfway house (and then home confinement) on
a felony wire-fraud conviction, he was back in the job market in Memphis, TN. He was
still young, he had some college education and he did not have the stigma or the disadvantage of having served time in prison.
But for the life of him, he could not find a job.
“At every job interview, it was the same thing,” he explains. “We’d go through all
the usual questions. And I’m thinking that people are interested in me and what I can
offer. But then the question about my conviction always comes up. And so I’m spilling
my guts, saying, ‘This is what I’ve done, and I want to work.’ I want to be truthful, but
I don’t want them to think I’m a bad person and a criminal and a barbarian, and belittle me. And then there’s the inevitable letdown. So you’ve got these voices going on in
your head. It was instilled in me to second-guess myself.”
In the two and a half years after completing his sentence, Johnson was able to cobble together eight months of work. At long last, in 2001, the Second Chance program
was founded to help ex-prisoners in Shelby County, where Memphis is located, to find
jobs. Johnson ended up working for the program itself, and after a year of successful
employment, he was in the first graduating class, in 2002.
It was a milestone year for Johnson, as well as for the criminal justice system. That
year, 2002, the number of people incarcerated in the United States hit the two million mark.1 As the prison population soared, so too did the number of prisoners transitioning back to life on the outside, to more than 600,000 per year.2 Multiply the
number of returnees by the severity of the problems they had in reintegrating—as well
as the problems they caused by recidivating—and it amounted to a bona fide crisis.
Fortunately, the movement to reintegrate ex-prisoners back into their communities got
a boost that same year with the birth of Ready4Work, a national demonstration project
to connect ex-prisoners with mentors and jobs. The project was funded principally by
the US Department of Labor, as well as by the US Department of Justice, the Annie E.
Casey Foundation, the Ford Foundation and Public/Private Ventures (P/PV), which also
administered the program.



call to action

Ready4Work brought together efforts that local groups had been making for years.
Homegrown programs from Memphis to Oakland to Boston to Cincinnati had been
born of the passion and dedication of a few individuals who recognized a need that
was growing around the nation. Husbands, sisters, brothers, sons, fathers, mothers, fellow parishioners, coworkers, old friends and neighbors were getting out of prison and
needed help readjusting to life. Perhaps most urgently, they needed jobs.
“A felony conviction is like a life sentence,” says Second Chance executive director Yalanda McFadgon. “You’ve paid your debt to society, but you’re marked, and no
one will give you a job.” The challenges extend far beyond employers' preconceptions.
McFadgon ticks off the many other difficulties that ex-prisoners face, ones who are
not as fortunate as Johnson and have served prison time: Broken family ties, no social
support system, homelessness, no transportation to get to and from the job they can’t
even obtain, drug and alcohol addiction, HIV/AIDS, mental health problems, low literacy
levels, lack of formal education, unfamiliarity with the world of work, no money to buy
work clothes, and payments—restitution, probation fees, child support—that make it
more difficult to get a foothold.
Little wonder that few ex-prisoners lucky enough to get a living-wage job can actually keep it. Whether succumbing to old habits or committing crimes to survive, many
of them will recidivate. A 2002 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that two
thirds of returnees are rearrested within three years of their release from prison.3 And
so the crime rate continues to rise, victims and their families suffer the consequences
of those crimes, communities become less safe, the social service and criminal justice
systems become more strained, ex-prisoners go back to prison and leave their families
at greater risk of poverty and other negative outcomes, and taxpayers foot the bill to
incarcerate them.
The reentry crisis affects some individuals and communities more directly than
others, but its ramifications are so far-reaching as to leave virtually no American
untouched. Before the advent of Ready4Work, which was designed to be a largescale and systematic response, most programs addressing the reentry crisis were small
and local. The problem for those communities, then, was how to help ex-prisoners
reenter society successfully, and to stay.

R ationale

and

O rganizat ion

of the

R eport

This report is the story of how programs in three cities responded to the reentry
crisis, before they became part of the Ready4Work initiative. In Jacksonville, FL, a
white businessman and a black pastor put ex-prisoners and others to work building
low-income housing through their Operation New Hope. In Memphis, the city-funded
Second Chance program prepared ex-prisoners for work and recruited employers to
hire them. And in Washington, DC, the East of the River Clergy-Police-Community
Partnership paired volunteer mentors from churches with ex-prisoners and connected
the latter with willing employers.

INT R O D U C TION



These three programs—as well as the other sites that constitute the initiative—were
selected for inclusion in Ready4Work for a variety of factors.4 Chief among them was
their proven ability to serve high-risk individuals and a history of collaborative work in
communities with a substantial number of ex-prisoners. In shaping the initiative, P/PV
and the Department of Labor strove for geographic diversity and sought out cities
where the local business and criminal justice sectors were expressly willing to participate.
Based on written materials and interviews with staff, supporters and participants,
this report chronicles the genesis and growth of the programs in Jacksonville, Memphis
and Washington, up through when they received Ready4Work funding. This report
treats the three programs in turn, and a conclusion discusses lessons learned from their
early experiences. Three previous P/PV reports cover the creation and early implementation of Ready4Work, emerging best practices and early outcomes.5 This report documents their pre-Ready4Work experiences, according to the logic that those experiences
can still instruct and inspire today. The three programs that are profiled here represent
a diverse set of local contexts and responses to the reentry problem. The innovation
and commitment they displayed in building their programs—before Ready4Work was
implemented—can still be valuable for organizations across the country that are striving
to develop or expand their own reentry work.
Indeed, the efforts of these and other individual programs made way for the formation of Ready4Work. And Ready4Work, in turn, played a significant role in President
Bush’s decision to create the Prisoner Reentry Initiative. The federal government’s
concern about the reentry crisis has arisen in good part thanks to the small voice with
which these programs began speaking years ago.
Program staff in all three cities felt called to do this work. In Washington, Rev.
Donald Isaac says, “Most faiths indicate that we are obligated to visit those in prison,
to provide for the homeless, to help the needy, to serve the least and the last. Men and
women returning from incarceration clearly represent the least, the last and the lost.”
The faith that fuelled these program leaders also challenged the longstanding belief
that “nothing works” to rehabilitate ex-prisoners and cut back on recidivism. Their faith
compelled them to try. And the product of their deeds—the programs they created and
that are documented here—may provide evidence that something can indeed be done
to ease this social and moral crisis.

—chapter

two

—

Jacksonville Case Study
A J ourney

	

in

P rogress

R

ev. Garland Scott and Kevin Gay
had traveled far—literally and figuratively—to get to the White House for what
they thought was a large group meet-and-greet with President Bush. The two were
being singled out for putting ex-prisoners and others to work rehabilitating homes in
Jacksonville. Their “Operation New Hope”—founded by Gay and later supported by
Scott—was now gaining national recognition.
They were let into the White House, then asked to wait in the Roosevelt Room
with several other people, including Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. As the meeting time approached and no one else showed up, they began to wonder. In fact, they
began to get very nervous. “Garland asked where all the people were,” Gay recalls,
“and that’s when we realized it was just us! Then Garland said, ‘Only in the United
States can you go from being a gangster to getting ready to meet the president!’”
Indeed, the meeting was a milestone on the journey of faith in action for the duo
that had become locally known as “Ebony and Ivory,” a black minister and a white
businessman whose program turned lives around.
Operation New Hope started by employing “the homeless and destitute.” There
were doubtless some ex-prisoners among them, considering that 49,000 people were
being released from jail or prison every year to live in Duval County, where Jacksonville
is located. But their presence and their needs as ex-prisoners were only known to
Operation New Hope if they themselves disclosed it. In this way, the reentry crisis was
invisible. Ex-prisoners had a specific set of needs. Some of those needs, like transportation and health care, were common to homeless and poor people. But others, like voting rights restoration and being barred from certain types of employment, were specific
to ex-prisoners. It was this constellation of needs—transportation and health care and
voting-rights restoration and employability and so on—that was unique. Once Operation
New Hope recognized ex-prisoners as a distinct population, it became clearer how best
to support them in their life after incarceration. But all of this would come later.



call to action

F indi ng

a

M ission

Kevin Gay had wanted to be a preacher since he was a child. Among the last things
he expected was to end up in the insurance business, where he spent 15 years insuring
contractors and homebuilders’ associations around the country. His interest in the ministry endured throughout his time in business, and he went out on two missions, one
to Mexico and one to Nicaragua. But it wasn’t until 1998 that the spark came to truly
ignite his work in the Jacksonville community.
That spark came in the form of Rev. Mother Davette Turk, the pastor of Fresh
Ministries in Jacksonville, and a person whom Gay describes as “a wonderful lady, a
fireball, a civil rights worker. She’d been a Catholic nun for 25 years, a very proactive
person who brought together resources to make things happen. She asked me, ‘When
are you going to quit talking about your calling and start doing something about it?’”
Gay’s religious faith made him committed to serving the poor, and his professional
experience gave him a knowledge of construction. He had come to understand how
homes—building, restoring and occupying them—could transform people’s lives for the
better. Having crisscrossed the country for years, seeing houses and neighborhoods revitalized, he was ready to take the power home.

A O ne -T ime H ollywood F alls I nto D isrepa ir
The Springfield district of Jacksonville, where Operation New Hope is based, hadn’t
always needed quite so much help. Whole swaths of Jacksonville were devastated by
the Great Fire of 1901, but Springfield was spared major damage thanks to a citizens’
bucket brigade and a natural firebreak at nearby Hogan’s Creek. Many people burned
out of their downtown homes sought refuge in Springfield, and there began a 20-year
boom for the neighborhood. Scores of new homes were built, mostly in the bungalow
and prairie styles, but many in the more ornate Queen Anne and colonial revival styles.
The district was even somewhat of a little Hollywood before there was a Hollywood. For
a time it was home to numerous major motion-picture studios, including one designed by
the locally famous architect Henry J. Klutho. Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy lived in
the building where Operation New Hope would one day have its offices.
But the heyday could only last so long. Springfield’s star began to fade in the 1930s
as film studios, drawn by tax breaks and other incentives, moved to California. Large
segments of the population also fled to the suburbs in the following decades. By the
1950s, the district was, according to one newspaper report, proclaimed dead.6 Others
recognized a familiar pattern: an African American influx, white flight, official neglect,
and the poverty and crime that so often results.
Poorly as the neighborhood might have fared economically, however, preservationists recalled its storied past and still beautiful homes. Through their efforts, Springfield
was declared a national historic district in 1987. The new status made way for greater
interest and investment in the neighborhood. Mayor John Delaney and Sheriff Nat
Glover, both elected in 1995, dedicated more money and police presence to the area.

J a c k s o n v i l l e c a s e s t ud y



The city’s planning department launched a revitalization effort. As official interest in the
area increased, so did property values, as much as doubling in the few years before the
centennial of the Great Fire.7 In spite of the resurgence, the neighborhood still needed
work. Kevin Gay estimates that at the approach of the new millennium, more than half
of the neighborhood’s roughly 1,800 structures needed major repairs. And more than a
few of its residents needed decent, affordable housing.

R estoring H omes
Ideas had begun to gel in Kevin Gay’s mind. He was committed to serving the
poor and had experience in the housing industry. A neighborhood in his own backyard needed help. And so in 1998 he formed a community development corporation,
Operation New Hope, as a subsidiary of Fresh Ministries, which gave a start-up loan to
the project. It effectively began work in 1999 and incorporated as a nonprofit later that
same year.
The goal was to build affordable housing for low-income people in the Springfield
district. From his experience in the insurance industry, Gay knew that community development often meant gentrification, but he was committed to not pricing poor people
out of their own neighborhood. Operation New Hope would buy dilapidated homes
from their owners, gut them out and rehabilitate them, and sell them with public subsidies to low-income residents. He would spread the news through community fairs,
churches and word of mouth.
“We built one place the first year, then three the next year,” Gay says. The program
was small, and progress was gradual. Funding was limited to what Gay could gather on
behalf of Fresh Ministries. Staff consisted of Gay as executive director, an office manager named Paula Adkins-Jamison and a rotating AmeriCorps volunteer. The houses
were framed by people recruited from a local substance-abuse recovery program, and
professional contractors were hired to supervise the construction and do the more
skilled work.
“One day in 2000, I was sitting on the steps of one of Operation New Hope’s buildings,” Gay recalls. “I was with my brother-in-law, who had built my house, by the way.
There was a prostitute walking on the other side of the street, someone maybe doing
a drug deal. And my brother-in-law said to me, ‘It will be hard for you to develop the
value of this property without restoring the value of the community.’” His brother-inlaw’s words pointed to a far greater mandate.
In the meantime, Gay had more immediate matters to tend to. Theft plagued
Operation New Hope worksites. Ladders, tools and other items would routinely go
missing. He could scarcely build housing, let alone restore the value of the community,
if he had no equipment. So Gay implemented what turned out to be “not such a great
idea after all”—to lock those items in a trailer on the site. “What happened was, now
people would just steal the whole trailer!” Gay explains. He was at wit’s end, when one
day, Rev. Garland Scott, a local minister he’d been introduced to the previous year by
Rev. Turk, asked him what would be another fateful question: “Are you ready to listen?”



call to action

R estoring L ives
Scott says he can identify with the people Operation New Hope serves. At age 12,
he was badly beaten in a riot in New York City and later joined a gang. “I swore I
would never get beaten up like that again,” he says. He spent the next seven years
training other gang members, until finally, at age 20, the threats on his life were more
than he could handle and he moved to Florida for refuge. He worked as a truck driver
in Baldwin, and later in the postal service in Jacksonville. Then he got religion and
began ministering.8
In 1993, he joined the staff of a mostly white mega-church called New Life Christian
Fellowship, where he worked to expand its minority membership and services to people
of color. “After a while I got known as ‘the black pastor at New Life that can help
you,’” he recalls. Then in 1998, with the financial and spiritual support of New Life,
Rev. Scott launched City Center Ministries. The new congregation was in the Springfield
district and facilitated job opportunities for parishioners, among whom were ex-prisoners, homeless people and drug addicts.9

A M eeti ng

of

M inds

“He restores the houses,” Scott would later say of Gay. “I restore the lives.”10 The
marriage of minds—and program models—seemed so natural as to be almost preordained. Scott proposed that Gay hire some of the neighborhood residents to work on
the houses. That way, he suggested, the Operation New Hope buildings would no longer be marked for theft. “I hired a couple guys from right around the work sites, and
sure enough, the stealing stopped,” Gay remembers. “That galvanized in me the power
of a job.”
Thanks to a simple change in model, Operation New Hope was now more fully integrated into the community: They would hire local low-income people to rehabilitate
houses for other local low-income people. The mission of the program would accommodate not just the people who occupied the houses but those who built them. Gay’s
emphasis was now to employ “the homeless and destitute.” Ex-prisoners were not yet
an explicit part of the picture, though as he later discovered, there were a good many
among the people he hired.
The problem of theft had been solved, but some troubling issues remained. Workers
were being paid $7.50 per hour at the time, well above the minimum wage. And yet
some participants were falling through the cracks. “A guy might come to work, start
off strong, but then a month later he’d disappear. Another guy might miss a few days
and not offer an explanation,” says Gay. “We started to dig deeper, and found that a
lot of these guys were getting their wages garnished 50 percent or more for child support. They would go under the radar and get an under-the-table job so they didn’t have
to pay child support.” (Operation New Hope did not address this problem until after
Ready4Work funding began, at which point it started helping participants negotiate
their child-support payments and schedule in accordance with their living expenses.)
Gay added, “Transportation is key, because this is a huge city. It took us a while to learn

J a c k s o n v i l l e c a s e s t ud y



“Services For Ex-Offenders” Study
“Ex-offenders are convicted perpetrators of crime. They are also individuals with human needs and,
after release from incarceration, members of the community.” So began a 2001 report by the nonpartisan Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI). “Society pays a heavy price for crimes committed and for the incarceration of offenders. That price multiplies if offenders commit crimes again.
Therefore, the community has a strong interest in assisting ex-offenders to become successful members of the community, free of crime, living stable and productive lives.”11
The study was spearheaded by Jacksonville’s corrections director at the time, John Rutherford, who
recognized a burgeoning crisis and sought to apply his belief in rehabilitation—not just punishment—
to relieve it. The report identified the needs of the roughly 49,000 people released every year from jail
or prison to Duval County, where Jacksonville is located (1,200 from state prisons, the rest from the
Duval County jail). Covering such areas as health, addiction, HIV/AIDS, transportation, housing, literacy
and education, legal assistance, personal assistance and employment, these needs made up a web
of interrelated issues. An ex-prisoner could not get to work without transportation, was less likely to
be able to find a job without basic literacy skills or keep a job without viable housing. Ultimately, the
report warned, “The consequence of not securing productive, well-paying work may be that some exoffenders revert to criminal ‘job’ skills they already know, such as theft and drug-dealing.”
Existing services were limited at the time of the report, in employment as in other areas, and even
those were available only to a small portion of offenders while still incarcerated. The study made
recommendations on how to fulfill these needs. Fortunately, Operation New Hope was interested in
doing just that.

that we had to plug holes in the dam.” Some of those holes were the very same needs
that would later be identified in a 2001 report by the Jacksonville Community Council
—transportation, substance-abuse treatment, education and community support (see
text box above). People who were not getting these needs met could not work and
would slip back into drugs, crime or other self-destructive behaviors.
There were few places ex-prisoners could go for such help in 2001. Various programs existed in Jacksonville to help residents find housing, work and counseling. Some
offered referrals but no support services, and very few were tailored specifically to the
needs of ex-prisoners. The network of services was too complicated and difficult for
most people to navigate, and there was no one single place that coordinated the various services ex-prisoners and other indigent people needed.

F illing

the

G aps

Operation New Hope did not yet have the capacity to help its employees get back
on their feet in the way they would have liked. Still, now working together more
closely, Gay and Scott devised some mechanisms for addressing these problems, including informal mentoring and linking pay to services.

10

call to action

Rev. Scott, Rev. Turk and her husband, Father Richard Turk, would go to the worksites to talk with the men there. While not part of a formal mentoring program, these
chats kept workers in contact with a stable source of spiritual and practical counsel, as
well as substance-abuse rehabilitation services. Kevin Gay, who had counseled recovering substance abusers for the previous five years, in what he called “a sort of personal
ministry,” also acted as an informal mentor. Only some of the workers were people of
faith, says Gay, “but in any case we don’t lead in by banging somebody over the head
with a Bible. If we’re doing our work, then our faith is going to come through.”
During the first years of the program, Operation New Hope would deliver paychecks
directly to the workers at their homes or the worksites. But in 2001, it was decided that
workers would have to come pick up their checks at the offices of Rev. Scott’s nearby
City Center Ministries. “It was another way to reach them so we could understand
what their needs were and how we could meet them,” says Gay. Similarly, for those
workers not ready to hold a job because of substance abuse, “I could get them hooked
in at one of the treatment facilities we started working with and guarantee them a job
on the other end.”
These measures pointed toward an increasingly holistic view of the person and the
community, says Gay. “We’ve always tried to develop a relationship first. In real estate,
it’s location, location, location. With us, it’s relationship, relationship, relationship.”

B ui lding

the

P artnersh ip

from

W ithin

That principle applied no less to Gay and Scott than it did to the program and its
clients. They lent one another their respective strengths. Gay brought business acumen
and relationships in the business community. Scott educated Gay on the local African
American community’s needs and gave him credibility and contacts.
The pair had to continually develop their own working relationship for the organization to succeed. For his part, Scott says that the two needed to expect, respect and
resolve differences between themselves. Some differences of opinion arose over their
roles. As a pastor, Scott’s emphasis was on the mission of the organization, and he did
not want the quest for funds to interfere with it. A businessman by trade, Gay was
interested in developing the organization’s work. Though each had experience in both
finance and faith, the challenge was how to balance those two directives. They worked
to clarify their roles in the organization and the purpose of the organization itself.
They also had to spend some social capital on one another. Scott says, “I took some
blows in the faith community. Some people would say, ‘Get rid of Operation New
Hope; get rid of the white guy.”12 In order to win over skeptics, the duo had to be persistent and reliable and work together.

J a c k s o n v i l l e c a s e s t ud y

11

B ui ldi ng P rogram C apacity
The program was growing bigger and stronger. Operation New Hope was now
managing a half dozen or more workers from the community at any given time and
rehabilitating several houses for low-income area families. Gay had developed partnerships with a variety of local businesses—such as a car dealership and Blue Cross Blue
Shield—that, in exchange for their support, received good publicity and state and federal tax credits.
And yet Gay could hardly help but wonder how the enterprise might grow to serve
more people more effectively. How could Operation New Hope—like the large-scale
efforts he had seen in his days in the insurance business—become more self-sustaining?
His businessman’s mind went to work.
His answer was to create a nonprofit construction company operating under the
auspices of Operation New Hope. This allowed the program to more easily manage its
workforce development and to generate revenue in support of any wraparound services
it could provide.
Ingenious as the scheme may have been in theory, Gay now calls it “naïve.” Building
low-income housing did not generate anywhere near enough income to fully finance
the organization, but it did complement the funds raised from other sources.
“We hired 8, 10, 12, maybe 15 people under the auspices of the nonprofit construction company,” Gay recollects. “At the same time, the chaplain’s office at the
Jacksonville jail heard about us and sent folks to us to see about jobs. We didn’t prescreen people and didn’t care if they had a felony record, and so it turns out we were
hiring people, maybe 75 percent of whom had been arrested before or had records.”
By the end of 2001, Operation New Hope had developed a more complex working
model: a nonprofit construction company that delivered quality housing to low-income
residents, and jobs and informal mentoring to people coming off the streets and many,
as it happened, out of jail.
Gay began to see the benefits of a closer partnership with people in corrections.
JCCI had issued its report on Services for Ex-Offenders at the instigation of then-corrections director John Rutherford. A critical mass of corrections staff supported his vision
of rehabilitation rather than just punishment. Among them was longtime corrections
worker Lorna Jones-Stutson. She says, “It’s only by grace that I’m on this side of the
table instead of that side of the table [in jail]. My background is in social work. This job
is my ministry.” It wasn’t until the following year that a formal collaboration began,
but the two parties were already beginning to recognize a clear truth. As Rutherford’s
successor, Stephanie Sloan-Butler puts it, “The greatest thing we need from Operation
New Hope is the commitment to help us fulfill our mission.”
The program was successful as far as it went. But some funders expressed concern
that it didn’t go far enough. They were frustrated at the lack of a viable development
plan for the program’s various components. There was neither a business plan to guide

12

call to action

workforce development nor a consistent model for substance-abuse rehabilitation services. There was no overarching vision for which types of houses to develop and how.
And there were doubts about how Operation New Hope could consistently build quality
housing if it were to train workers on the job rather than in advance.
Even as funders suggested ways for Operation New Hope to build its capacity, they
recognized it as a uniquely powerful effort. By the start of 2002, the organization
had restored and sold 17 houses and created about 40 jobs. Soon others were to
learn of it as well.

T he P rogram A ttra cts
G reater N ational I nterest
Operation New Hope was run by people of faith, and pastors did much of the
informal counseling with program participants. But they did not proselytize, and the
program’s goals—housing and jobs—were more earthly than ethereal. On the surface,
it might as well have been a secular organization. However, faith played an unseen but
important role: as personal motivation for the people running the program. “The faith
part of this program was in holding on,” says Gay, “to keep doing the work.”
Scouts from the US Department of Labor got word of the program. They found that
Operation New Hope already had many of the components they were interested in: collaboration with the faith community and the criminal justice system, a viable program
model, work with ex-prisoners and mentoring. In early 2002, Gay and Scott were invited
to Washington to speak with the US Department of Labor, the US Department of Justice
and the Congressional Black Caucus about their work in Jacksonville. It wasn’t too long
before they were selected as a national model for faith-based reentry programs.
In June 2002, spokespeople for the Department of Labor’s Center for Faith-Based
and Community Initiatives visited Jacksonville to announce that Operation New Hope
would be the starting point for the Ready4Work initiative. Operation New Hope fit
nicely with the Bush Administration’s goal of boosting faith-based programming.
No funding had been allocated for Ready4Work at the time, but the prospect of federal support and the chance to serve as a national model buoyed the program staff.13
Funds came the next year, in 2003, when Gay and Scott were invited to meet with
President Bush to discuss their work.

J a c k s o n v i l l e c a s e s t ud y

13

—chapter

three

—

Memphis Case Study
H eari ng

	

the

C all

D

uring his 1999 campaign for a third
term as mayor of Memphis, Willie W. Herenton started hearing from ex-prisoners who
were having trouble getting jobs. “The Lord was speaking to me through them,” he
declares. “They were saying, ‘We’re out here; we need help.’” Those who spoke with
Herenton represented many more. Every year, upward of 2,000 people with felony
convictions were released from prison into Shelby County, where Memphis is located.14
Their cries resonated with Herenton personally and inspired what would become a signature program of his administration, “Second Chance.”
Born and raised by his mother and grandmother in racially segregated South
Memphis, the young Herenton idolized black athletes—Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson
and Jackie Robinson—for their ability to survive in a tough world like the one where
he lived. “In my neighborhood, virtually all the people who worked performed manual
labor,” he says. “There weren’t any blacks there who had reached professional status.”15 Years later, after moving to Chicago to pursue a career in boxing, he was looking for a job. He saw a factory foreman angrily turn away a group of African American
men seeking work. At a turning point, he decided he did not want to be subjected to
the same treatment and returned to Memphis for higher education. There, he marched
with Martin Luther King, Jr., for the rights of sanitation workers, shortly before King
was killed. He taught elementary school, was appointed principal of the school he
attended as a child and went on to earn his doctorate. In 1979 he was named superintendent of Memphis schools, and in 1991, he was elected mayor, the first African
American to fill those positions.
So when ex-prisoners approached Herenton in 1999, he felt the tug of a lifelong
personal conviction. “I believe as God forgives, that society ought to forgive,” he
says. Also, these were constituents like any other, and he was duty-bound as their
mayor to serve them.

16

call to action

M ak ing

the

C ase

Herenton used his considerable political skills to generate support for what he knew
would be a tough sell—a city-funded job-placement program for ex-prisoners. The city
council would have to approve a line item in the budget for the program, so the mayor
would have to win the council’s—and the public’s—backing. He chose his first audience carefully, floating the idea in a wide-ranging policy speech at the meeting of a
local Democratic organization in April 2000. Anticipating certain criticism, he said the
program would not be for multiple offenders, and that it would take advantage of federal tax credits. Herenton also appealed to precedent, citing an existing federal government program that bonded businesses that hired ex-felons.16 The press and the public
responded, both for and against. Supporters claimed that helping ex-felons find work
would reduce recidivism and enhance community safety. Opponents complained that
there were other more worthy programs on which to spend city time and money and
that enough people without felony charges had difficulty finding work.
The mayor would have to justify the program to skeptics. He developed a position
paper that featured President Clinton’s executive order on assisting ex-felons, as well
as letters of support from local leaders, judges, ex-prisoners and others who knew the
value of such a program. Another letter of support came from Yalanda McFadgon, a
former member of the mayor’s security detail and herself an ex-felon, who wrote passionately about her difficulties in finding a job and her desire to work. The budget
containing a line item for Second Chance was, after some opposition, passed, and the
program moved forward.
In November 2000, the mayor assigned McFadgon to take primary responsibility for
designing and implementing the program. He formally christened the new organization
at a press conference in December. The local media doubted the value of the program
and the ethics of hiring an ex-felon, especially one with close ties to the mayor, to serve
as its head. Undaunted, the mayor launched Second Chance, with McFadgon as executive director, in January 2001.

T he E xec utive D ire ctor
McFadgon had had experience on both sides of the law. A lifelong resident of
Memphis, she served for 14 years on the city’s police department, including as head
of the mayor’s executive security team. While in that position, she became involved in
some illegal dealings to protect a family member and was sentenced to five months of
incarceration and five months of home confinement. Once she finished her sentence,
she began to look for a job. But whatever her achievements may have been, she was
now marked as an ex-felon.
One humiliating job interview followed another, when she could even get that far
in the application process, until she finally landed a position as the operations manager
of an upholstery company. She felt taken advantage of there. Her employer knew she

M e m p h i s c a s e s t ud y

17

Second Chance Program Design
For the January 2001 launch, Yalanda McFadgon designed a program that, because of its strength and
flexibility, remains much the same today. It covered nine steps:
1)	 Application process: Applicants must personally submit a completed application at the Second
Chance office.
2)	 Background check: This ensures that eligibility requirements are met: applicants must be residents
of Shelby County, must have only one felony conviction with any number of counts, can be of any
age and are not restricted in terms of misdemeanor violations.
3)	 Profile analysis: A workforce development specialist interviews and creates a file on the applicant.
4)	 Panel interview: An exhaustive assessment of the candidate is performed by McFadgon and two
other specialists.
5)	 Drug screening: Any participant who fails the drug screening is disqualified but may reapply
a year later.
6)	 Orientation: A daylong orientation covers such topics as education and training, citizenship
rights, conflict resolution on the job, mock interviews, soft skills and signing of the Second Chance
Agreement. The mayor shakes the hand of each participant and makes a personal covenant with
him or her.
7)	 Placement: Second Chance staff consult with employers about their needs and participants about
their skills and try to make the best matches possible.
8)	 Follow-up case management: Workforce development specialists monitor the progress of each
participant in his or her new job for one year. Participants have the option of taking additional
job training.
9)	 Graduation: After 12 months of work, participants join family, friends, community leaders, program
partners, staff and the mayor at a formal graduation ceremony in the Hall of Mayors at City Hall.

needed the job badly, and so he called on her to do more than other employees. In
time, McFadgon found another job with a youth-services agency, whose director felt
that her record should not rule her out.
It was synchronicity when the mayor told her of the many ex-prisoners who had
been recounting similar obstacles in their job searches. McFadgon helped personalize the issue of reentry for the mayor, who told her, “I can’t think of a better person
to head this program than you.” It was a big decision for McFadgon to accept this
very public position, since the publicity relating to her conviction had been difficult to
endure. A lifelong Baptist, McFadgon remembers coming to the conclusion that “if God
chooses to use me like that, then I’ll do the job.”

18

call to action

T he P rogram B e gins
“It was a bitterly cold day in Memphis,” says McFadgon of January 2, 2001,
when Second Chance accepted its first round of applications. “We thought nobody
would apply.”
Imagine her surprise, then, when a line of applicants wrapped around the downtown building where Second Chance had its humble office. In total, more than 1,000
people personally submitted applications that day. “We had no choice but to process
them all,” McFadgon says, citing the promise to receive all comers. However, only a
relatively small percentage of the applicants qualified. Some did not meet the eligibility
requirements, and others violated the “zero tolerance” policy that McFadgon maintained from day one. Anyone who did not fully complete the application form, did not
deliver it him- or herself or arrived so much as a minute past the deadline was automatically disqualified. This policy emphasized the need for candidates to assume personal
responsibility in the application process and, eventually, on the job.
Second Chance was a meager operation in the early months of 2001, consisting
of McFadgon, a laptop, a telephone and a small room in the offices of the Workforce
Investment Network, a two-story brick building just behind the central depot of the
city’s public-transit system. She had some temporary staff on loan from city government. More resources were soon to come, but McFadgon had to scramble to meet the
demands placed on the program.
“I never wanted to set people up for failure,” she says. When the second round of
applications, the next month, again attracted more than 1,000 applicants, McFadgon
realized she would have to limit her intake in some way. Otherwise, she would have
more participants than she could eventually place in jobs. She decided from then on to
accept only as many applicants, on a rolling basis, as she could place in jobs. And that
meant finding more employers.

B ui lding C apacity
For the launch of the program, Mayor Herenton had secured promises of jobs for
Second Chance participants from five employers: MS Carrier trucking company, the
Memphis Housing Authority, Memphis Light Gas & Water, the City of Memphis and
the Memphis Area Transit Authority. With such an overwhelming number of applicants, it was now up to McFadgon to find additional companies that would accept
program participants.
She took referrals from most any source, talked about the program at every opportunity and used her connections in city government and the local Workforce Investment
Network to find prospects. She preferred face-to-face contact over phone calls because
“It’s easier for someone to tell you ‘no’ over the phone,” she says. “So I always tried to
get an appointment and make a presentation. For every time I’ve gone out to do a presentation, I’ve come back with at least one job.”

M e m p h i s c a s e s t ud y

19

A Concept Of Justice: Judge J.C. McLin
Judge J.C. McLin—elected in 2000 to the Criminal Court—remembers seeing a lot of young men
and women who had been convicted of nonviolent felonies and now could not find jobs. McLin was
in a position to set the conditions of probation for the 300 to 400 people he oversaw at any given
time and would order many to get a GED or a job. But in many cases, they had trouble finding jobs
because of their felony record. “It got to be like a revolving door,” he says. “The same people would
end up back in the court system. And I had to ask myself why.”
Second Chance, with its social and technical supports for ex-prisoners, made intuitive sense to McLin
when it was proposed in 2000, and he “fell in love” with the program once it was rolled out in 2001.
He started to assign as many people as possible to go to Second Chance. But the program could only
take so many.
“The numbers are staggering,” says McLin, of the number of people who go through the criminal
courts. And when ex-felons are prevented from getting jobs, it puts a strain on the rest of the publicsupport system, he says. “A lady might lie to get food stamps to feed her kids, and if she gets convicted it’s a felony. Then she can’t get a job, and the system has to take care of her kids. We restrict
people if we won’t give them a job because they’ve had a felony, but then if they lie and get convicted—it’s a catch-22 for a lot of people.
“The way things are now, we lock a person up to punish them, not to rehabilitate them,” McLin
explains. “We need more programs like Second Chance so we can give people a chance to get it
right. That’s what restorative justice is about.”

Within two months, McFadgon was joined by four additional staff in an expanded
office. The staff would later grow to include several workforce development specialists to case-manage the participants. From the beginning, McFadgon was the one
primarily responsible for job development. While everyone on staff had job titles,
she insisted that all employees be able to handle the various tasks outside their own
position. “We don’t get caught up in ‘this is not in my job description’ here. This is a
team effort,” she says.
The positions that McFadgon and her growing staff secured for program participants
were hard won. Many employers had preconceptions about convicted felons, which
she dispelled by revealing that she was an ex-felon and by telling stories about program
participants. Other employers were reluctant to hire people with certain kinds of felony
convictions, especially rape or murder. McFadgon emphasized that employers had
access to candidates’ case files and were free to rule out anyone convicted of certain
felony crimes. She would also suggest that they consider mitigating circumstances on a
case-by-case basis, such as an abused wife who killed her husband.
But McFadgon never asked employers to consider Second Chance candidates as a
social service. This was also a good business proposition, she told them. By hiring program participants, employers were increasing the tax base; lowering crime and recidivism and thus raising the quality of life in the community where they operated; saving
money on the exorbitant fees they would otherwise pay to a temp agency; gaining a

20

call to action

dedicated employee who had been prescreened for drugs and given a thorough assessment and orientation and who would be case-managed for a full year. “We’re not in
the business of selling ex-felons,” McFadgon says. “We’re in the business of selling
good employees.”
With the attitude that her “customers” were the employers, McFadgon reached
out to local companies. After some tough going at first, she secured agreements with
10 to 15 new employers a year until the introduction of Ready4Work in the fall of
2003. She constantly sought to diversify the pool of employers, explaining, “For the
sake of the program’s security, I would rather have 100 companies that each hired
one person than one company that hired 100 people.” Relationships with employers
had to be massaged regularly. If an employer’s primary liaison, such as the human
resources director, left the company, Second Chance would be sure to establish relations with the replacement person.
“The stronger your workforce, the more businesses you can attract to your city,”
says Isaac Garrett, the executive director of the Memphis Workforce Investment
Network (WIN). From the start, WIN partnered with Second Chance, offering its core
services (orientation, job screening, etc.) and, pending eligibility, vocational training
to ex-prisoners in the program. WIN’s mission, to connect people with jobs, required
that the agency serve employers and employees alike. Ex-prisoners constituted another
source for the labor pool, and, once trained and placed in jobs, they could help boost
the city’s economy. “You want to try to train workers in areas where there are jobs,”
Garrett explains, citing product distribution, warehousing, health sciences and hospitality as being among the strongest sectors in the Memphis labor market. “They get jobs,
and employers get the skilled workers they need.”

W orking

wi th

P articipants

“I’ve been called every name you can imagine,” says McFadgon, of her zero-tolerance
policy for program violations. People who were disqualified from the program for what
they considered minor infractions—five minutes late to an interview or having a friend
drop off the application—were often left upset and angry. But since the relationships
with employers were so hard won, any failings on the part of a Second Chance participant could reflect badly on the program and require damage control from McFadgon.
“We have always had to be very strict,” she explains, “in order to create a good product. Because we’re selling a product—ex-felons—that nobody wants.” Such austerity
earned Second Chance a reputation for sending out good job candidates, and employers would in turn open up more jobs for ex-prisoners.
With a strong stream of applicants, program staff did not have to recruit participants
for Second Chance from the prisons or anywhere else. Even so, the staff sought to
develop relationships with people in all areas of criminal justice—probation and parole
officers, judges, law-enforcement officials, corrections officials—to demonstrate their
shared commitment to reducing crime and recidivism.

M e m p h i s c a s e s t ud y

21

“People are hungry, and they want to participate,” says McFadgon. In many cases,
the application process was the first time when candidates felt they could be open
about their criminal record with someone in a position to help them get a job. It was
not uncommon for candidates to cry with relief during the panel interview.
Other displays of emotion lay in store for the roughly 25 percent to 40 percent of
participants who reached the orientation stage. Following the orientation, participants
would swell with pride when they met with Mayor Herenton. “I shake hands with each
person,” he explains. “We have a bond that when they are assigned a job they are
going to work to be the best employee for that organization.”
Then the real work would begin. Workforce development specialists would try to
connect participants with jobs aligned with their skills and interests. Participants were
not required to accept job offers; some would go on multiple interviews before taking
a position. Workforce development specialists would then conduct follow-up case management on a monthly basis, or more often as necessary, for the first year of employment. The zero-tolerance policy remained in effect throughout the course of that year,
and participants who violated the terms of the agreement they signed during the orientation were disqualified and not allowed to reapply.
The first application process through the first job placements took about three
months. During the following year, at the end of which the participants would have
their first graduation, McFadgon and her staff continued to develop relationships with
employers, people in corrections and program participants.

B ui ldi ng B onds
“In the early days, I had a lot of one-on-one with participants,” McFadgon recalls
fondly. “I miss it. They didn’t necessarily want guidance. In many cases they just wanted
someone to listen. They’d come in and talk about their girlfriends, or their family or
later, about their new job.”
Though the program had no formal mentoring component, these sorts of encounters—simple human contact—built the bond between Second Chance staff and
participants. McFadgon herself selected staff. “To work in this field,” she says, “you
have to have good people skills. And you have to have a certain amount of realness
for participants to trust you.” Several staff members were themselves ex-prisoners
and could more readily identify with participants’ struggles. In time, several program
graduates joined the staff.
The graduation ceremony that caps participants’ formal involvement in the program
is a moving event. The first graduation, as with successive ceremonies, was a milestone
in the program’s development. Twenty-six participants graduated in early 2002 after a
year of successful employment.

22

call to action

In the roughly twice-annual ceremonies, at the beautiful Hall of Mayors in Memphis
City Hall, family, friends, community leaders, program partners, staff, the mayor and
others watch as program graduates give testimonies about their experience and receive
certificates of achievement.
Following the ceremony, there is a festive reception, with cake, a congratulatory banner and a photographer who takes pictures of each graduate with the mayor. As the
city’s Chief Administrative Officer Keith McGee puts it, “They have joined the mayor’s
vision. It’s very rewarding to see.” McFadgon adds, “There are grown men crying, feeling whole again or feeling like a man again. The mayor has cried. Everyone has cried at
these ceremonies!”
“These are folks who had given up hope. They say they’ve tried everything but just
can’t find a job,” she continues. “And it’s exciting that they can find a job with us, and
now they can buy Christmas gifts for their kids or buy a class ring. It’s very satisfying
for me to see how you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. It keeps me going.” One
can’t help but think that that bond has helped keep the program going as well. “Once
you go through the Second Chance program,” McFadgon says, “you become part of
the Second Chance family.”
In 2003, Second Chance received funding to implement Ready4Work; it now operates
as “Second Chance/Ready4Work,” with different eligibility criteria for the two programs.

M e m p h i s c a s e s t ud y

23

—chapter

four

—

Washington Case Study
T he M ost P ositive T hing

	

A

nyone who participated in
Washington DC’s first “Reentry Sunday” in January 2002 could be forgiven for thinking that things had always been this good. The event focused attention on the faith
community’s role in reentry work. A press conference the week before featured
Mayor Anthony Williams, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and other dignitaries and drew
substantial media attention. On Reentry Sunday itself, politicians, reentry experts, and
clergy spoke at dozens of churches, mosques and synagogues around the city about
how the faithful might help some of the 2,500 ex-prisoners returning to the city
every year to reintegrate.17
“Too often, we forget these individuals are part of our community, and they come
back,” said Mayor Anthony A. Williams. “We must mentor our returning inmates just
like Moses mentored Joshua.”18
The nation’s capital had its top politicians urging people of faith to help ex-prisoners become productive citizens—for the benefit of the ex-prisoners themselves and the
communities they returned to. And the whole affair was orchestrated by a fully funded
government agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), created in 1997 to supervise the more than 10,000 people on parole, probation and pretrial release in the District of Columbia.19
Rev. Michael Bryant, the DC jail chaplain for 22 years, called the Reentry Sunday program “the most positive thing” he had seen happen in the local court system.20 Years
of conversations and planning had gone into this and other related programs. Two
agencies—CSOSA and a grassroots community organization called East of the River
Clergy-Police-Community Partnership (ERCPCP)—had each been organizing the faith
community around reentry. Both organizations keenly understood what was at stake.
CSOSA, with its large caseload, was well aware of the magnitude of the reentry crisis.
And ERCPCP saw the painful effects of the crisis on its East of the River neighborhood every day. Then, as now, “youth in the revolving door of the criminal justice
system is one of the number one factors influencing public safety in our community,” says the organization’s executive director, Rev. Donald Isaac. He saw firsthand
the faces behind the statistics: On any given day, nearly one in three young African

26

call to action

American men was in prison or jail, on probation or parole.21 For CSOSA and ERCPCP,
reentry was no distant issue but rather an urgent and difficult problem. Their separate
efforts to address it would converge in a unique and powerful way.

CSOSA’S P ath
Before CSOSA was created, people incarcerated in the District’s prison system
returned to the community with minimal transitional support and supervision. “At that
time, it wasn’t unusual for caseloads to exceed 150 people per parole officer,” says
CSOSA Associate Director Cedric Hendricks. “I think you can imagine how much attention and support each parolee would get.”
“Most DC parolees lacked the basic skills to successfully negotiate their environment, were unemployed or unemployable, lacked basic literacy skills and had substance-abuse problems,” says a study CSOSA conducted before initiating the new
reentry system.22 A high number of parolees with so many needs and so little support
was a recipe for recidivism.
A gathering mass of political will led to the formation of CSOSA in 1997, its mission
“to increase public safety, prevent crime, reduce recidivism and support the fair administration of justice in close collaboration with the community.”23
It was perhaps only a matter of time before faith institutions joined the constellation
of community organizations working with CSOSA. The idea had had a long gestation
period. Former DC Director of Corrections Walter Ridley recalls having had conversations as early as 1987 about the role the faith community might have in reentry.
Agency Director Paul Quander, Jr., later explained, “Effective community supervision is
not just the prevention of wrongdoing, it is the encouragement of right-doing. That
is why in 2001 we reached out to the city’s clergy and began our Faith Community
Partnership.”24
It started simply enough. In the summer of 2001, the agency sent out letters and
made follow-up calls to hundreds of clergy citywide, inviting them to a meeting to discuss how their houses of worship might work in collaboration with CSOSA. Contacting
clergy was not always easy, explains Hendricks. “You’ve got some churches that are
only open on Sundays and some that are open throughout the week with full-time
staff. Some don’t have a regular phone line.”
Organizers were pleased when about 40 clergy attended the July 2001 meeting.
Some pastors said CSOSA’s mission resonated with their own. Still, others who didn’t
attend may have been wary. The Rev. Herbert C. Bruce, of Pilgrim Baptist Church in
Northeast Washington, says that although people were enthusiastic early on about
helping, they were also unsure of how it would all turn out. “I think if you have a
church saying they didn’t go into this with trepidation, they’re lying,” Bruce says.
“We didn’t know what to expect.”25

w a s h i n g t o n c a s e s t ud y

27

Attendees laid the groundwork for what would become a series of meetings
throughout the fall and winter of that year. They drew in other clergy to become a part
of the working group, which was called the CSOSA Faith Advisory Council. The Council
was chaired by Rev. Donald Isaac, the recently named director of ERCPCP.
The Faith Advisory Council agreed to sponsor Reentry Sunday in January 2002.
Timed to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and with the National
Mentoring Month declared by President Bush, the event urged parishioners in congregations around the city to help ex-prisoners reintegrate back into society. With press
coverage, official interest and some 40 participating congregations learning about
reentry, the event was an unqualified success.
Capitalizing on the interest aroused by Reentry Sunday, the Faith Advisory Council
called another meeting in February, and more than 300 people showed up. Careful
not to let the flame of excitement die out, organizers collected complete information from attendees on their various ministries, organizations and how to contact
them. CSOSA encouraged volunteers to continue to participate but also plainly stated
the demanding nature of reentry work. “Some churches that came out at the onset
didn’t stay,” says Hendricks. “We were so into pushing forward, we didn’t spend
a lot of time chasing down those that opted out. There are a lot of ways to help
people.” CSOSA focused its energies on retaining those who, having been properly
oriented to reentry work, chose this way.
A volunteer faith-based mentoring program for ex-prisoners was emerging as a key
element of member institutions’ work. CSOSA staff and the Faith Advisory Council
designed a training program for volunteer mentors; it had components on community
supervision, CSOSA and the dynamics of working with returning offenders. The first
nine-hour training was held in April 2002 at Pilgrim Baptist Church. Mentors were
recruited from faith institutions, and mentees were recruited from halfway houses or
“community corrections centers.” The first matches between mentors and mentees
were announced three months later, in July.
CSOSA’s Faith Advisory Council had captured the interest of hundreds of clergy. The
trick now was to harness this energy and create a sustainable program. CSOSA created
a structure that divided the city into three service areas or “clusters,” each of which
would have a lead agency. Following a competitive application process, lead agencies
were selected in May 2002, and a contractual relationship was established with each.26
CSOSA would provide funding, direction and technical support and required that participating faith institutions have at least three trained mentors. The lead agencies would
hire a “cluster coordinator” to organize faith institutions in their cluster to recruit and
manage the mentors and provide referrals and other services to ex-prisoners. Together,
CSOSA and the lead agencies in each cluster would refine training and assess mentees
and mentors to make the best matches.
The ERCPCP was selected as the lead agency for Cluster A. The organization had
demonstrated its organizational capacity, financial soundness and commitment to
CSOSA’s goals. In fact, ERCPCP had followed a parallel path working with ex-prisoners.

28

call to action

ERCPCP’S P ath
In 1999, a spike in homicides in DC’s East of the River area raised the concern of
Chief of Police Charles Ramsey, who had been appointed the year before. Ramsey had
brought with him a conviction that the police needed the cooperation of the communities they were sworn to protect. He heard of a Rev. Anthony Motley, a DC native
who, after serving a prison term in the 1970s, had gone on to form Inner Thoughts,
a summer enrichment program for youth, and still later, Redemption Ministry, an outreach ministry aimed at addressing violence and substance abuse among young people.
Ramsey directed an assistant chief to meet with Motley to discuss how the police and
clergy might team up to reduce violent crime in the area. They resolved to enlist the
support of other local clergy.
With the support and resources of the Metropolitan Police Department, the two
men invited some 250 East of the River religious leaders to a meeting to discuss youth
crime. Twenty pastors attended, which they considered an excellent first turnout. Rev.
Motley and Chief Ramsey spoke and presented a video on Boston’s renowned “Ten
Point Coalition” to reduce youth crime. The assembled ministers adapted the model
and produced what they would later dub their “Seven Point Plan” to guide youth and
community development activities. They called themselves the East of the River ClergyPolice Partnership. Because of the ensuing involvement of other organizations, the
word “Community” was later added to the name.
News of the group had spread by word of mouth, church bulletins, sermons and
other gatherings. “We were persistent,” says Motley. “A lot of people ask churches for
something and don’t give anything back. We didn’t try to force anything on anybody;
we would just show clergy the Seven Point Plan and ask them where they might fit in.”

ERCPCP’S Seven-Point Plan
The East of the River Clergy-Police-Community Partnership (at the time without the word “Community”
in the name) adapted the model of Boston’s renowned Ten Point Coalition to its own needs. Participating
clergy each dedicated their efforts to one of the seven points, designed to reduce violent youth crime
in the city.
1.	 Connecting services to youth and families
2.	 Removing the fear factor
3.	 Collaborating with the criminal justice system
4.	 Strengthening the value system of the youth
5.	 Providing youth spiritual development
6.	 Offering grief and counseling support
7.	 Fostering stabilization, independence and productivity

w a s h i n g t o n c a s e s t ud y

29

Successive meetings of the Partnership attracted 20, 30 and—by the fall of 1999—
some 40 people. At a daylong planning session that several at-risk youth also attended,
the group decided to enlist community social service providers. Funding for the burgeoning partnership came from various institutional donors.
Motley created a more formal infrastructure to guide the organization’s growth. He
secured funding and technical assistance and guided the group in establishing objectives, activities, outcomes and methods of assessment for each of the seven points. A
December 1999 press conference launched the effort, and its first major event, “Truce
2000,” called for an end to shootings and successfully brought together area gang
leaders to work out their differences peacefully. The event received major press coverage and attracted the attention of P/PV, which, acting as an intermediary for the Ford
Foundation, later funded the effort to stem youth violence. Motley was acting as the
volunteer executive director, but the Ford Foundation recommended that the director
not be a pastor so s/he could work full-time for the new Partnership. In April 2000,
Rev. Donald Isaac, an assistant pastor at a local church and the former auditor and later
chief financial officer of the Council of the District of Columbia, was selected as the
new executive director. For the first few months, he was the only staff member and
worked at home.
Within just one year, the group had grown from a small handful of participating
clergy to an established 501(c)(3) with a board of directors, 25 active member churches,
20 community organizations, five law enforcement entities and partnerships with several national organizations. The group continued to offer an increasingly large set of
services and events, such as gang interventions, youth peer-counseling sessions, festivals and concerts, retreats, prayer vigils and forums. It also sponsored a small grants
initiative to fund area churches’ efforts to further one of the seven points. As funding
had grown, so too had the staff, to 10 members by late 2001, who worked in an office
building in the heart of the neighborhood. Youth-violence-prevention activities continued apace, and by the summer of 2001, circumstances led the organization to direct its
attention to ex-prisoners.

ERCPCP B egins

to

W ork

with

E x -P r isoners

ERCPCP and CSOSA were acting on parallel tracks—pairing clergy and the justice
system to reduce crime and recidivism—but not in any formal collaboration. CSOSA,
in July 2001, called its first meeting of the Faith Advisory Council. CSOSA had asked
Rev. Motley to chair the council, but, citing other responsibilities, he recommended Rev.
Isaac, who agreed.
Meanwhile, in his capacity as leader of Inner Thoughts, Rev. Motley had trained
some ex-prisoners to serve as mentors to at-risk youth in the neighborhood. ERCPCP
had also built relationships within the criminal justice system and in the faith community. The organization recruited volunteers for a burgeoning prison ministry and ex-prisoner mentoring program. By the time CSOSA put out a request for proposals for lead

30

call to action

agencies in its Faith Community Partnership, ERCPCP was primed to fulfill that role for
Cluster A, in the southeast section of the city, and was selected to do so in May 2002.
The organization would now be funded to train mentors for returning ex-prisoners.

W orking

with

M entors

Now with more staff, ERCPCP was better equipped to formally recruit mentors to
help ease ex-prisoners’ transition back into the community. The organization’s “cluster
coordinator” took primary responsibility for this task. That person worked with five
congregations and another faith-based organization: Upper Room Baptist Church,
Paramount Baptist Church, Higher Ground CME Church, Grace Apostolic Church, Faith
Presbyterian Church and the Anacostia Men’s Employment Network (AMEN).
A pool of 150 trained volunteers interested in prison ministry and reentry formed
the basis for their efforts. The cluster coordinator, in cooperation with other Partnership
staff, continually worked to recruit additional houses of worship to participate. But as
Isaac explains it, “Just because your church, mosque or synagogue realizes the faith
mandate to work with this population, not everybody is suited to this work. Some
might do better writing letters or working with the children of prisoners.”
For those who were suited to the work, CSOSA’s nine-hour trainings equipped them
with the knowledge and skills necessary to become mentors. Early on in the trainings,
says CSOSA’s Cedric Hendricks, “We tended to overwhelm people with information
about agency operations, but we cut back on that. We added more material about
how to break the ice with ex-prisoners and about the importance of talking and listening,” as opposed to lecturing or preaching. Mentors were trained to learn about
mentees’ lives, experiences and goals and how they could best serve them. In time,
CSOSA found it increasingly important to document these contacts. Reporting on the
relationship helped mentors reflect on and improve their own performance, and it
helped CSOSA effectively monitor the program as the number of referrals increased.
ERCPCP calls its mentors “life coaches.” Rev. Isaac notes that much of the literature
on mentoring comes from Big Brothers/Big Sisters and is not applicable to working
with adult ex-prisoners. Participants felt they didn’t need a “mentor” as such and that
the very term belittled them. With the input of the ex-prisoners, ERCPCP arrived at the
more descriptive term “life coach.”
“This population isn’t going to run to you with open arms,” says ERCPCP’s reentry
director Julia Irving. In order to successfully recruit and retain participants, she says,
a program needs good mentors. “We’ve learned that you definitely want to partner
with an organization that has a strong men’s ministry, and you need the buy-in of the
pastor,” she says.
At first, ERCPCP paid faith institutions that recruited life coaches to cover costs they
incurred and to appropriately value the time and energy required to recruit and manage
the coaches. Money complicated matters in two ways, however. It called into question
the validity of the information that participating faith institutions gave to ERCPCP, such

w a s h i n g t o n c a s e s t ud y

31

as number of mentors or hours served. In addition, some churches came to expect the
funding. So when that pool of money dried up, some of the faith institutions stopped
participating. ERCPCP had to recruit more aggressively and state clearly that the
Partnership could not provide any funding. Participating churches had to be motivated
strictly by a desire to serve.
“I’m pulled to those who are less fortunate,” says Rev. Lula Bell, a life coach and an
associate pastor at Paramount Baptist Church. “I came from a family of poverty, but
the Lord has been good to me. I’ve been blessed, but I haven’t forgotten where I came
from.” Though on staff at Paramount just since 2001, she has been a parishioner for
more than 30 years. In 1972 she started a day-care center and also began to work with
“those who seemed to have fallen.” Many of them, as it happened, were ex-prisoners.
Once Paramount linked up with ERCPCP to do more formal mentoring, Bell went
through the training program for mentors, even though she had already had plenty of
informal experience. The training covered how to approach ex-prisoners, avoiding getting into sticky situations, personal safety, providing referrals and dealing with ex-prisoners’ families. ERCPCP provided ongoing practical and emotional support.
Participants presented such problems as substance abuse, HIV and other health
issues, trouble finding housing and a tendency to slip into their old ways. Bell says,
“You’re not just focusing narrowly on the job situation. It’s about working with the
whole person.”

W orking

wi th

P articipants

If it was faith that led mentors like Rev. Bell to work with “the whole person,” it
was also faith that led some ex-prisoners like Kenny Glover to allow themselves to be
helped. In the fall of 2002 Glover was back in southeast Washington after a six-year
prison sentence and a stint in a halfway house. “By the grace of God, I landed here at
ERCPCP. Rev. Isaac didn’t have a job for me then, but I would leave the halfway house
and rake leaves or do odd jobs. I told him that God told me to be here.” By Glover’s
account, Rev. Isaac prayed on it and helped him get a job with a small remodeling business as a test of his commitment. He was later hired as an intake specialist at ERCPCP.
“When I was doing the intakes on these guys”—ex-prisoners like himself—“I was
actually working on myself. By helping them, I was helping me, too,” he says.
Glover had grown up on the other side of southeast DC from ERCPCP’s offices. “It
was a typical thing, going to school, getting in trouble, smoked my first joint at age
11—and my childhood was gone. From that point on I was off to the races—arrested
70 times and incarcerated maybe 20 times up until I was 28. I broke into 15 stores in
downtown DC and broke into a hotdog stand right by the FBI building—that’s how
down I was!” At 28 he started serving a six-year prison term and also resolved to
become clean and sober. At age 34 he was released and calls his time since then “the
most productive of my life.”

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call to action

By the time he was hired as an intake specialist at ERCPCP, Glover was well enough
along in his own recovery and reintegration to be able to help. Soon after release from
prison, Rev. Isaac says, many people are eager to contribute to the program. “What we
found is that you have to be very cautious and intentional in how you allow a person to
‘give back.’” As a rule of thumb, Isaac says that a person should be out of prison, clean
and sober for 18 to 24 months before being allowed on staff. That time allows a person
to acclimate to the city where he or she lives, stabilize in their sobriety, integrate the life
and job skills they are taught and hence be better equipped to help other ex-prisoners.
And even then, not every program participant is fit to work for the program itself.
Aside from walk-ins like Glover, participants are usually referred to ERCPCP by
CSOSA or another community agency, such as Rev. Motley’s Inner Thoughts or
Redemption Ministry. Previously, ERCPCP had worked with youth ages 14 to 24, then
expanded it to include youth age 12 to 26 and finally, as CSOSA’s lead agency for
Cluster A, removed the age limits altogether.27 In practice, however, the bulk of clients
were still young people.
Case managers on ERCPCP’s staff would stay in regular contact with program participants and assign them life coaches where possible. Case managers also helped
participants to find housing, manage their finances, navigate the system for such
essentials as driver’s licenses or food stamps and, of course, secure employment.
ERCPCP referred Kenny Glover to Miller & Long Concrete Construction, where he
was hired. With the support of ERCPCP, “I was persistent and came to work on time,”
Glover says. “They sent me to school and paid for it. They wanted me to succeed.”
“For years I just wanted my mom to say she was proud of me, but I had never
given her something to be proud of. When I came home she told me she was proud
of me. That was one of the biggest days of my life, and I knew that I had changed
my life around.”

W orking

with

E mployers

Miller & Long Concrete Construction was among the first employers to take workers
referred by ERCPCP. Miller & Long and other companies were part of the network of
employers that Rev. Motley had developed through Inner Thoughts and another organization he had formed in 2001, the Jobs Partnership. He shared those relationships,
creating the foundation for a growing number of employers affiliated with ERCPCP.
Other employers included union companies, factories, warehouses and major chains
like Safeway and Home Depot.
Job developers on staff were responsible for recruiting additional employers willing
to hire ex-prisoners through the program and communicating with those employers
about particular job candidates.
“Early on, we had some major employers at the table,” remembers Rev. Isaac. “We
made a high number of referrals, but we had a low level of retention. At the request of

w a s h i n g t o n c a s e s t ud y

33

employers, we went back to the drawing board to see how we could present a more
job-ready worker.” The organization hired job readiness trainers to prepare candidates
for job interviews, workplace etiquette, conflict resolution and communication. They
also beefed up the mentoring or “coaching” component of the program. The result
was a higher retention rate, more satisfied employers and a greater ability to recruit
and retain other employers.
The way Jesus Hidalgo earns the trust of ex-prisoners who come to work at Miller &
Long Concrete Construction, where he is the human resources director, is to tell them a
bit about himself. “I tell them I’m an immigrant, started working here as a laborer and
that I had goals and dreams and really wanted to do something with my life. I wanted
a career,” he explains. “For them to see that I was talking from my life experience,
about the things I’d overcome, it made them realize that they can do it, too.”
Miller & Long started hiring ex-prisoners from ERCPCP in early 2003. “We’d been
operating since 1947 and figured this was a good way to give back to the community,”
says Hidalgo. The company’s owner had started to build relationships with various faith
leaders two years before, including Rev. Motley, who made a personal appeal for the
company to hire ex-prisoners. At first it was just a few people. Some stayed on only
until they got a paycheck or two; they had some money and wanted to return to their
old lives. But as ERCPCP started to provide more intensive wraparound services, the
employees became more reliable and stayed on longer.
Hidalgo says he learns something new every day from ex-prisoners, perhaps most
importantly that “it’s never too late to turn your life around.” He cites as an example
Kenny Glover, who started work with the company in his mid-30s. As Hidalgo recalls,
“One of his first days on the job, he exclaimed, ‘What an opportunity, to have someone
who believes in me!’”
But it’s not just the good feeling that inspired Miller & Long to hire ex-prisoners.
Hidalgo says it also helps the local economy to hire local workers, who will spend their
money right in the District. “It’s just good business to hire ex-prisoners. The business
we’re in, we need people.”

M ai ntaining B alance
As the program grew, Rev. Isaac found himself having to strike a balance between
two aspects of the program. His organization was part of a growing national movement to reintegrate ex-prisoners back into the communities they came from. The
grassroots temperament of a movement was sometimes at odds with the more formal
temperament of a nonprofit program, as required by funders.
“Programs have a start date and an end date. A movement is ongoing,” says Rev.
Isaac. “Programs have an isolated view of what they’re doing. In a movement, you’re
connected to people you don’t necessarily know. Programs generally look at the
funding source as the ultimate authority, whereas a movement looks at the Supreme

34

call to action

Being as what will bring ultimate success. There is built-in tension between those two
paradigms. Along with compassion, there must be competence. We don’t compromise our mission, but we remain responsible to the funders.”
With substantial experience in navigating the worlds of faith and public policy, Isaac
was well equipped to add to the conversation behind Ready4Work. And Ready4Work’s
founders were likewise eager to bring the best of both worlds—grassroots faith-based
work with formal nonprofit capacity-building—to bear on the problem of bringing exprisoners home.
ERCPCP became a member of Ready4Work in October 2003.

w a s h i n g t o n c a s e s t ud y

35

—chapter

five

—

Conclusion
P ioneers

in

R eentry

W

	
hen these three programs started,
they were responding to needs they saw in their local communities, and without the
benefit of a national initiative to guide their efforts. There were no established best
practices, no national conferences on working with ex-prisoners, no steady funding
streams and no Ready4Work. They were, in a word, pioneers.
Each program was the product of the people who made it and the circumstances
and communities in which they were working.
In Jacksonville, Kevin Gay put his experience in the homebuilding industry to use by
restoring homes for low-income residents. Then his Operation New Hope started to
integrate itself still more into the community by hiring local people in need of a job to
do the work. Rev. Garland Scott and other clergy provided an ongoing source of support, to keep workers hooked into counseling, recovery and training services. In time,
the organization would benefit, and benefit from, a broader community interest in
reentry sparked by the Jacksonville Community Council report. Business, faith and other
civic organizations would all make this homegrown effort a success.
From one point of view, the Second Chance program in Memphis could not be
more different than Operation New Hope. Conceived and supported by the mayor,
Second Chance would seem to take a top-down approach, rather than the bottom-up
approach seen in Jacksonville. But in its own way, Memphis responded to local needs
as well. Ex-prisoners approached the mayor in the first place, inspiring his efforts, and
the program was designed and administered by Yalanda McFadgon, an ex-prisoner who
went on to create the “Second Chance family.” The program structure she created was
strong and flexible and would help the organization accommodate more participants
and more employers than originally anticipated.
In Washington, DC, parallel efforts being made by community organizations and
government entities eventually converged, creating a unique response to the local
reentry problem. CSOSA sought the participation of local faith-based organizations.
Meanwhile, ERCPCP had been working with youth in the criminal justice system, and

38

call to action

so it needed stronger ties with police and corrections. When CSOSA asked for proposals from agencies to collaborate on reentry, ERCPCP was ideally positioned to serve in
that role.
A businessman’s homegrown effort that develops structure and staff—and a focus
on ex-prisoners—over time. A mayor’s program to put ex-prisoners to work to reduce
crime and recidivism. A local faith-based nonprofit and a city government agency working together to further the same ends. These initiatives made way for Ready4Work, and
the lessons they learned in their early days of programming are still valuable today, even
in light of the strong infrastructure that has since been built.
Their experience shows that internal components (including model, structure,
services, staffing and leadership) and external relations (with local government, the
criminal justice system, community organizations, churches and employers) are key to
creating a successful reentry program:

Internal Components
Services
Structure

Staffing

Model

Leadership
Mission
to Serve
Ex-Prisoners

Local
Government

Employers

Criminal
Justice

Churches
Community
Organizations

External Relations

conclusion

39

I nternal C omponents
The workings of an organization—its model, structure, services, staffing and leadership—are the nuts and bolts that make it go. The experiences of the organizations profiled here suggest lessons for how other programs might structure their work to help
ex-prisoners succeed in their transition.

M odel
A successful program model must address the needs identified in the organization’s
mission and draw on the resources available in and outside the organization to meet
those needs. The needs an organization identifies may be those of ex-prisoners,
employers, the community at large or others. For example, Operation New Hope realized that, even when they had a job, many clients were falling through the cracks;
once the program teamed up with a substance-abuse-recovery organization and started
informal mentoring, participants were more able to stay on track with work. In this
way, Operation New Hope adapted its program model over time, as experience dictated. A successful model should also balance program capacity with program demand.
Staff in all three cities spoke of a similar frustration: The problem is so great, but they
are so relatively small. For all their successes, these programs are serving only a
fraction of the number of ex-prisoners reentering their communities every year.
However well intentioned they may be, organizations that try to serve too many people
risk spreading their resources too thin. This may set clients up for failure, as Yalanda
McFadgon puts it, by not providing enough wraparound services and support. By creating a sustainable program model—such as the way Second Chance accepts only as many
participants as it can place in jobs—an organization boosts its chances for ongoing success. In order to create this balance, reentry programs should assess both the demand for
their services, such as through surveys and discussions with partners in the criminal justice
system, and their ability to meet that demand, especially in terms of resources available.

S t ru cture
A similar evaluation process is needed in order to create a strong, flexible organizational structure. A successful structure must plainly outline roles and responsibilities, and facilitate the flow of information among staff, board and other personnel. In
Washington, a clear system guides CSOSA’s work with community-based organizations.
The lead agency for each geographical cluster has a liaison to relate with CSOSA. The
lead agency contracts with local churches to recruit mentors, and a mentor coordinator
manages these relationships. At ERCPCP, a workforce development specialist recruits
employers who are willing to hire ex-prisoners. At every level, staff communicate with
one another in regularly scheduled meetings and through program documentation.
This structure helped them manage a large number of volunteer mentors and answer
the reporting needs of CSOSA, a government agency. In Memphis, the Second Chance
program was structured to meet different needs. While each staff person has a title and
a role, executive director Yalanda McFadgon says that all staff are trained and expected
to handle job functions outside their specific purview. For example, an intake specialist
should be equipped to speak with a prospective employer. This more flexible structure

40

call to action

worked well for Second Chance, whose staff members all worked in the same office
and so had easy access to one another. In both cases, these structures ensure that all of
the organization’s functions are fulfilled and that information about program needs are
understood by all involved. In order to design such a structure, an organization must
assess what roles and responsibilities must be fulfilled, what personnel are available to
perform them and how to achieve them with maximum communication and minimum
redundancy. Whatever the structure, it must be well defined and communicated
within the organization.

S ervi ces
As all these programs have discovered, ex-prisoners must have various other
needs fulfilled—such as transportation, health care, substance-abuse treatment and
education—in order to get and keep a job. Fully-funded reentry programs may be
able to provide the necessary services in-house. More fledgling organizations might
partner with substance-abuse-recovery groups, soft-skills training organizations, or
public-transit fare-discount programs to make sure workers are indeed ready for
work. Mentoring—informal and formal—seems to help participants stay on track
for success and provides them with an important social outlet, especially critical for
those whose family ties were broken while they were in prison. Ex-prisoners also
need career-enhancement opportunities, such as vocational-training classes, job networking or brushup courses in the latest computer programs. Vocational training
should be targeted in areas where living-wage jobs are projected to be available.
For example, Second Chance partners with the Workforce Investment Network to
assess the job market; Operation New Hope works in an area that sorely needs quality, affordable housing; and ERCPCP stays in contact with its network of employers
to see which jobs are available and in demand. In all these cases, reentry programs
are making legal work more attractive and sustainable and thus are reducing the
incentive to return to crime. There are certain widely agreed-upon services that most
ex-prisoners need, such as substance-abuse recovery or skills development; however,
a program can customize its services by assessing its clients’ specific needs. This
may be achieved by means of surveys, focus groups or informal conversations. In
Washington, CSOSA stressed the need for its mentor trainees to listen to participants’
needs; in Jacksonville, Operation New Hope had workers pick up their checks at the
office, so as to stay abreast of their circumstances and needs. Clearly, a program’s
funding influences its ability to provide services such as those described above. The
first (ongoing) step is to assess clients’ needs for services and then to fulfill the most
critical needs in-house or by establishing partnerships with outside agencies that have
complementary missions.

S ta ffing
In staffing, reentry programs should mix “compassion and competence,” as Rev.
Isaac puts it. To do so requires hiring people with appropriate skills, hiring ex-prisoners
when feasible and providing staff-development activities. Programs sometimes hire
from the heart and not enough from the head. Reentry work requires good intentions,
but it also requires specific skills and characteristics. Excellent communication skills,

conclusion

41

honesty, firmness, a nonjudgmental attitude, professionalism, salesmanship and vision
were all cited as important qualities for people working in the reentry field. Also, hiring ex-prisoners is essential to building trust and responsiveness. Program participants
may be more likely to trust and identify with program staff—especially those they come
into contact with most, such as case managers—who are also ex-prisoners. Ex-prisoners can also help design a program that responds to their needs and perspectives in a
way that an “outsider” might not consider. In Washington, ex-prisoners proposed the
term “life coach” instead of “mentor” since the latter term made them feel diminished. Having ex-prisoners on staff also sends the message that participants are active
and empowered in the program, not simply “objects” of a social service. But, as Rev.
Isaac in Washington cautions, programs should take care to bring ex-prisoners on staff
only after they have had sufficient time to stabilize in their lives and their sobriety; in
his experience, this usually means 18-24 months after a person completes his or her
sentence. Recently released ex-prisoners may have the passion but not the abilities
required to do reentry work and only jeopardize the stability and security that program
participants need. All staff—ex-prisoners or not—benefit from staff-development activities, such as trainings in ex-prisoners’ needs, computer skills or other relevant areas.
Program staff may complement one another but will almost inevitably have differences
as well. Such conflicts may be complicated in the case of interracial partnership, such as
in Operation New Hope. Building trust within the organization—such as through staff
retreats, facilitated workshops and internal communications—can help make the program more effective for the people it serves.

L e a dership
Faith-based reentry programs need leaders who can navigate the religious and secular spheres. Faith played a key role for all three programs. Their leaders were motivated
by a religious sense of charity and justice. Life coaches in Washington were recruited
from churches, and mentors in Jacksonville were clergy. All three organizations tended
to take a broadly religious, or holistic, view on participants. As important a role as faith
played, the programs often operated in the secular sphere, such as with foundation or
corporate funders, government agencies or social service organizations. In other words,
these programs drew heavily on the resources of both spheres and also had to follow
the traditions and guidelines of each. For example, Rev. Isaac expressed himself in religious terms in the churches where he recruited mentors; he used more programmatic
language when documenting ERCPCP’s work to funders. To navigate successfully within
and between these two spheres, the three programs in question had to draw on skilled
leaders. Rev. Isaac in Washington is an ordained minister with more than 20 years of
experience in city-government finance. In Jacksonville, Kevin Gay and Rev. Garland
Scott teamed up to garner support and resources in the mostly white business community and the mostly African American community that Operation New Hope serves.
And in Washington, the government agency CSOSA assembled a Faith Advisory Council
to inform its work. In these and other ways, organizations made sure that secular, programmatic demands did not squelch the religious faith that fueled their work but rather
enabled their faith to have an impact.

42

call to action

E xternal R elat ions
A reentry program needs to work with others in the community—local government,
the criminal justice system, community organizations, churches and employers—to maximize its effectiveness. Representatives from any of these sectors may be invited to serve
on an advisory board or board of directors for the reentry program to strengthen their
ties. The work of Operation New Hope, Second Chance and ERCPCP points to lessons
about how to build and maintain those relationships.

L o ca l G overnment
Government agencies and politicians can be valuable partners for reentry programs. In
Memphis, Mayor Herenton exercised substantial political will to get the Second Chance
program up and running. He was able to do so because he was a highly skilled and
popular third-term mayor. But even the most nascent program can learn from his case. It
was constituents, ex-prisoners and their families, who told him of their plight and asked
for help. Herenton says this was not a targeted campaign to get him involved in reentry
work; nonetheless, it is an object lesson in how to garner support for a particular issue.
Once he had decided to launch Second Chance, Herenton maneuvered politically in a
way that is instructive for anyone hoping to start a reentry program. He anticipated arguments against the program and answered those challenges when he rolled it out. Not all
programs need political support to get started—all it took in Jacksonville was a couple
of committed staff with a good idea—but political support may help them expand.
Operation New Hope garnered the awareness and support of some local politicians,
which enabled it to get more funding and rise to national prominence. Organizations
should weigh the pros and cons of seeking the support of the public or politicians. A
fledgling program may be harmed by too much public scrutiny too early in its development, or it may become burdened by government bureaucracy or reporting requirements.
On the other hand, a reentry program might need the support of a key politician to
advance its agenda. Whatever the case, an organization should assess the political
climate, its own needs and how the one might support the other.

C r i m i n a l J usti ce S ystem
Judges, parole officers, correctional institutions and others can all help programs
serve ex-prisoners and the communities to which they return. In Memphis, criminal
court Judge McLin ordered parolees he supervised to participate in Second Chance. In
Washington, CSOSA—and through it its lead agencies, like ERCPCP—worked in collaboration with the main correctional facilities to start the mentor relationship well
before prisoners’ release, which eased the transition back into society. In Jacksonville,
Operation New Hope began a relationship with the sheriff’s office, which flourished
into a full-fledged partnership. Reentry programs and the criminal justice system can
help each other fill their shared missions of reducing crime and recidivism. In order
to develop these relationships, reentry programs should conduct research on the criminal
justice system to determine any possible areas for collaboration, prepare a presentation of

conclusion

43

their work for people in criminal justice, seek out people in criminal justice whose interests are aligned with those of the reentry program, and explore options for cooperation
with those who become friends of the program.

C o m m u n i t y O rganizations
Community partners helped programs in these three cities to serve ex-prisoners and
their communities. Operation New Hope found that many participants had trouble
keeping a job because of substance-abuse problems, so it engaged with a recovery
service organization. Second Chance partnered with its local WIN to provide soft-skills
and vocational-skills training to program participants. ERCPCP worked with the Jobs
Partnership to recruit employers who would hire ex-prisoners. As they have evolved,
some programs, like Operation New Hope, have found it more effective to bring all
their services in-house; but for fledgling organizations, mutually beneficial partnerships
help to fill out all necessary program components. Aside from providing services, community organizations can also be a source of referrals. Reentry programs should bear in
mind not just what they get out of a relationship with a community partner, but what
they give to it and how they can help those partners fulfill their missions. For example,
Second Chance is a source of qualified workers for local companies, and that supports
the WIN’s mission of serving workers and employers alike. An additional benefit accrues
to reentry programs that formally partner with other community organizations; many
foundations favor grant applications for collaborative projects. Collaborations can present their own difficulties, but they can also present new opportunities for partners to
fulfill their own missions in a way that is appealing to many funders.

C h ur ches
Churches are a great source of experience, wisdom, relationships and volunteers.
Of the three organizations profiled here, only one—ERCPCP—had a formal mentoring
component before becoming part of Ready4Work. Their experience yields several
insights for other programs. First, gather all information and create a system of communications to facilitate the relationship. Pastors who attended ERCPCP’s meetings
filled out registration forms with complete contact and other information, making
communication easier. Second, anticipate and address churches’ concerns. One pastor in Washington spoke for others when he expressed trepidation at getting involved
with ex-prisoners. Whether it’s simply a matter of time and resources or concerns over
safety, churches may have their worries about this field of work. By providing ample
orientation, information and time for questions, reentry programs can make churches
their full partners. Third, make room for churches to help create the program, instead
of just signing on to it. ERCPCP’s Seven-Point Plan was created by participating pastors,
who as a result felt more buy-in than had they just signed on to a preexisting program.
Fourth, provide training and support. As ERCPCP’s Rev. Isaac says, just because someone’s faith mandates this sort of work does not mean he or she is personally suited to
it. Church volunteers can play any one of a number of roles, apart from just mentoring.
Place volunteers in positions appropriate for them, and provide ongoing training and
support so they can do their jobs well. CSOSA’s training covered the fundamentals, and
Rev. Isaac and his staff were always available to mentors for ongoing support.

44

call to action

E m ployers
Many reentry programs start with the purpose of serving ex-prisoners and the communities they come home to. But in order to help ex-prisoners find and keep livingwage jobs, reentry programs need to develop strong relationships with employers,
and that means treating them as customers. The example of Second Chance is
especially instructive here. Yalanda McFadgon observes, “We’re selling a product—exfelons—that nobody wants.” She uses a variety of selling strategies. She breaks down
employers’ preconceptions about ex-prisoners by personalizing their lives and struggles.
She emphasizes that hiring her trained, prescreened, case-managed workers is good for
the bottom line. She gives employers control in the process by opening program participants’ case files to them and allowing them to rule out any candidate or even any
category of felony conviction. She matches workers with jobs according to their interests, skills and temperaments; this makes for a happy employee and, hence, a happy
employer. Finally, she maintains her relationships with employers through calls, cards
and personal visits so they will want to continue to hire Second Chance participants.
On the participant side, she provides thorough training and enforces a zero-tolerance
policy on program violations, so all the workers she sends out are top quality. The result
is a diverse set of satisfied employers who will continue to hire ex-prisoners.

C ontinuing

to

P ioneer

Operation New Hope, Second Chance and the East of the River Clergy-PoliceCommunity Partnership raised awareness about the importance of reentry; they experimented with program strategies; they prayed for guidance and wisdom; they made
friends in the worlds of business, criminal justice and social service; they built organizations and did the nuts-and-bolts work required to welcome ex-prisoners back into their
communities as contributing members.
These organizations and others like them made the Ready4Work initiative possible.
Their hard work inspired and educated policymakers, funders and other practitioners to
take reentry more seriously. And now Ready4Work has advanced the reentry movement
with funding, relationships, technical assistance, information-sharing and documented
outcomes. Even with all that Ready4Work has accomplished since its founding in 2002,
the pioneering spirit that these home-grown organizations displayed in their early days
is still vital to the movement’s continuing success.
Building a movement is an ongoing process. Just as in the years before Ready4Work
started, the reentry movement still needs people who take initiative, experiment, respond
to local needs, draw on available resources and build new relationships. It still needs
pioneers. Those pioneers can come in the form of foundations that provide funding, lawmakers who create policy to support reentry, correctional institutions that team up with
outside organizations to ensure a successful transition for prisoners, employers that hire
ex-prisoners, community organizations to provide wraparound services and reentry programs that assemble these people and resources. This growing movement can welcome
ex-prisoners back into their communities to live satisfying, productive lives.

conclusion

Summary of Recommendations
Internal Components

External Relationships

Model

Local Government

•	 Assess the needs identified in the organization’s

•	 Assess the reentry program’s needs and how

mission and the resources in and outside the
organization.
•	 Design program model that applies resources to
meet needs.
•	 Balance program capacity with program
demand, such as by accepting only as many participants as the program can manage.

Structure
•	 Outline all roles and responsibilities to be fulfilled in order to serve the mission.
•	 Create an organizational structure that ensures
those roles and responsibilities are filled.
•	 Facilitate communication among staff, board
and other personnel.

local government might help.
•	 Assess the risks of political or government support, such as reporting requirements or political
entanglement.
•	 Anticipate arguments against reentry programs,
and prepare a case in favor.

Criminal Justice System
•	 Consider the organization’s needs and how the
criminal justice system might assist.
•	 Research the programs and players in the criminal justice system, with an eye to possible collaborations. Look for common goals.
•	 Develop allies in the criminal justice system for
support and in a possible advisory role.

Services

Community Organizations

•	 Assess ex-prisoners’ service needs through sur-

•	 Partner with community organizations for

veys, focus groups or conversations.
•	 Arrange for services to ex-prisoners, whether inhouse or by partnering with outside providers.
•	 Arrange for career-enhancement opportunities

referrals and to provide services to program
participants.
•	 Seek out ways the reentry program may support
the missions of community partners.

for participants, based on their interests and

•	 Consider creating formal partnerships with com-

information about the labor market derived

munity organizations for collaborative grant

from workforce development organizations,

applications.

government agencies or employers.

Staffing
•	 Hire from the head, not just from the heart.
Reentry work requires skills, not just good intentions.
•	 Hire ex-prisoners who are stable in their recovery
and reintegration to build trust and responsiveness with participants.
•	 Conduct staff development activities, such as
trainings, on-line skills development, retreats,
etc.

Leadership
•	 Bring aboard leaders who can navigate the religious and secular spheres.
•	 Recruit advisors or committees to help bridge
the religious and secular spheres, and bring
resources to bear in support of the program’s
mission.
•	 Bear in mind the religious and secular demands
on the organization and possible conflicts
between them.

Churches
•	 Gather information from interested churches,
and create a system of communications.
•	 Anticipate and address churches’ concerns
about working in the reentry field.
•	 Make room for churches to help create the program, instead of just signing on to it.
•	 Provide ongoing training and support to pastors
and volunteers from participating churches.

Employers
•	 Treat employers as customers.
•	 Break down employers’ preconceptions about
ex-prisoners by personalizing their lives.
•	 Emphasize that hiring trained, prescreened,
case-managed workers is good for business.
•	 Match workers with jobs according to their
interests, skills and temperaments.
•	 Maintain relationships with employers through
cards, calls and personal visits.

45

46

call to action

endnotes

47

E ndnotes
1	 US Bureau of Justice Statistics, annual report 2003.
2	 US Bureau of Justice Statistics, annual report 2003. The number of people leaving incarceration has continued to rise since 2002, to some 750,000 (including juvenile offenders) per year
as of 2006.
3	 “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” by Patrick Langan and David Levin. Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 2002. Cited in When the Gates Open, by Joshua Good and Pamela Sherrid,
October 2005.
4	 The Ready4Work initiative is comprised of 11 adult sites and 6 juvenile sites. The adult sites
are in Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Memphis, Milwaukee, New York
City, Oakland, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. The juvenile sites are in Boston, Brooklyn,
Camden, Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle. For more information on these programs, go to
www.ppv.org. See also the reports When the Gates Open and Just Out, cited in footnote 5.
5	 When the Gates Open (October 2005) describes the emergence of Ready4Work. Just Out, by
Linda Jucovy (February 2006), examines the early implementation of Ready4Work and reports
on emerging best practices in four key program areas. Ready4Work In Brief (September 2006)
explores interim outcomes from the initiative. Available at www.ppv.org.
6	 Gavan, Barbara. “Rising from the Ashes: Springfield’s Historic District Returns to Life.” Florida
Times Union, April 14, 2005.
7	 Bauerlein, David. “Homes: Property Values on the Rise.” Florida Times Union, September 9,
2002, B-1.
8	 Weathersbee, Tonyaa. “Mean Streets Nothing New for Pastor,” Florida Times Union,
May 10, 1998.
9	 Dr. Andrew Billingsley interview with Kevin Gay and Garland Scott.
10	 Maraghy, Mary. “President Taps Duval Effort as National Model: Jobs Program for Ex-Cons
Reflects Faith-Based Goals.” Florida Times Union, June 29, 2002.
11	 Services for Ex-Offenders: A Report to the Citizens of Jacksonville. Jacksonville Community
Council Inc. Spring 2001. Available at www.jcci.org/projects/reports/2001_services_exoffenders.aspx. Quotes are from pages 2, 9, and 16.
12	 Dr. Andrew Billingsley interview with Kevin Gay and Garland Scott.
13	 Maraghy, Mary. “President Taps Duval Effort as National Model: Jobs Program for Ex-Cons
Reflects Faith-Based Goals.” Florida Times Union, June 29, 2002.
14	 According to the Tennessee Department of Correction, more than 12,000 ex-felons were
released into the state in fiscal year 2000-01. The Annual Report for that year does not show
which counties they were released into, but judging by population and the conviction rates
in Shelby County, one fifth or more of the total people released would likely go there. See
TDOC Annual Report for fiscal year 2000-01. Available at www.state.tn.us/correction/planning/annualrpt.html.
15	 Horatio Alger Award. www.horatioalger.com/members/member_info.cfm?memberid=her88.
16	 Dries, Bill. “Herenton Urges Jobs for Ex-Felons.” Memphis Commercial Appeal, April 18, 2000.

48

call to action

17	 “Reentry Sunday” became “Reentry Weekend” in 2003, to better integrate other faith practices, including Seventh Day Adventists who worshipped on Saturday and Muslims on Friday.
The event was expanded to “Reentry Week” in 2004.
18	 Wagner, Arlo. “Churches Help Reform Parolees.” The Washington Times, January 9, 2002.
19	 The number of people under CSOSA’s supervision at any given time has continued to rise;
Associate Director Cedric Hendricks says in 2006 the figure was roughly 15,000.
20	 Broadway, Bill. “A Spiritual Path to Freedom: D.C. Agency Urges Congregations to Help
Inmates Make Transition.” The Washington Post, January 12, 2002.
21	 Mauer, Marc and Tracy Huling. “Young Black Americans and the Criminal Justice System: Five
Years Later.” The Sentencing Project, October 2005. Available at www.sentencingproject.org/
pubs_08.cfm.
22	 CSOSA Fact Sheet: Re-Entry System. CSOSA Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental, and
Legislative Affairs, July 2002. Available at www.csosa.gov.
23	 CSOSA website, www.csosa.gov.
24	 Statement by Paul A. Quander, Jr., Director, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency
for the District of Columbia, before the United States House of Representatives Committee
on Government Reform, February 2, 2005. Available at www.csosa.org/Olipa/testimony/
house_reentry_020205.pdf.
25	 Cauvin, Henri, “Helping Inmates Find Their Way Home: Program Pairs Ex-Convicts with
Houses of Worship.” The Washington Post, February 12, 2004.
26	 McGinnis, Joyce. “First Year of Partnership Brings Hope, Help to D.C. Offenders Coming
Home From Prison.” CSOSA/Faith Community Partnership newsletter, April 3, 2001.
Available at www.csosa.gov.
27	 Once it was funded by Ready4Work, ERCPCP used Ready4Work resources only for people in
the age bracket designated by the program’s guidelines.

Ready4Work is an initiative of
Public/Private Ventures

Public/Private Ventures
2000 Market Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Tel:	 (215) 557-4400
Fax:	 (215) 557-4469
New York Office
The Chanin Building
122 East 42nd Street, 42nd Floor
New York, NY 10168
Tel:	 (212) 822-2400
Fax:	 (212) 949-0439
California Office
Lake Merritt Plaza, Suite 1550
1999 Harrison Street
Oakland, CA 94612
Tel:	 (510) 273-4600
Fax:	 (510) 273-4619
http://www.ppv.org

March 2007

 

 

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