WWL>Topics>>1-14 1:10pm Angela, Workforce reentry program

1-14 1:10pm Angela, Workforce reentry program

Jan 14, 2014|

Is the solution to prison recidivism—re-arrest, reconviction or return to prison—a comprehensive work reentry program? How can we break the cycle of ex-cons returning to jails? Angela first hears the courageous life story of Shareef Cousins, an exonerated citizen, about being falsely imprisoned. Then she spoke with Judy Reese Morse, Deputy Mayor for the City of New Orleans, Charles West, Innovation Delivery Team director and Dr. Kim Evans Rugon of Goodwill Industries about the city’s comprehensive workforce reentry initiative, which aims to “reintegrate ex-offenders into the community through education, job-training and social services. It provides services like life skills training, mental health and substance abuse programs.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This hour of an open mind with -- Angela hill is brought to you by national furniture outlet. WW LE news dog and sports leader needs Angela and over. With the New Orleans legend and Angela hill. Call 5042601870. Toll free 86689070. More -- -- it's seventy. 87. -- That killed WW. Now. From the heart of the Crescent City appears Angela. Happy Tuesday everyone and it is a spectacular. Day. And this is the way I like to start my -- because I think this is a subject that desperately needs to be discussed in our community. Would you hire an ex con. There are thousands of men and women in this city who have prison records and often it's held against them as they search for job. Now there's a movement both by the city and independent groups to help those who have spent time in prison to get into the workforce. And most importantly. Not return to a life of crime. As we are all wary of crime and of hearing stories of repeat offenders. This is one solution to stopping that cycle. Someone in the forefront of the re entry movement is sure -- -- and who at sixteen was the youngest person ever on death row. While there he became the 77. Person to be found innocent of murder. Since his return to society he has led a remarkable life. He attended Morehouse College became an activist with the southern center for human rights. And because of his passion for helping those who have spent time in prison. Now serves as CEO of beacon industries. The center for human re development. He is joined by deputy mayor Judy -- Morse and others and we're going to be talking about. All of the reentry program but I think personable Shareef thank you very very much for joining us thank you for having. And your story is remarkable so I kind of want you to tell -- listening audience you were sixteen years old and what happened. At the age of sixteen. Or was doing -- many of -- with teenagers and young men are doing today. Which is playing basketball playing sports. I was playing for the -- recreational best recreation department. And denied of the crime we had a basketball game at this should be sent him. And there was a murder in different quarters. This was a time back in 1994. And 1995. -- New Orleans had -- willful or injured and twenty murders per year. So we talking -- very devastating time for and for this community. The victim was killed their -- quotas by. A black male. And during that time there were many crimes committed by young black males. Unfortunately. I was picked on that we photographic lineup. And subsequently. I was a convicted of murder. During this time we also ahead. Almost three police officers. To -- tried and convicted of murder someone to death -- -- life sentences. Foes who have a lot of police corruption during that time. So during that time I was also frame for the murder now when you think that. I'm talking about playing at a basketball game he was too well you can have many witnesses they can. Attest to what -- basketball players teammates coaches rep for Reese parent. Unfortunately. What happened to me I would not want to wish on any young men. During -- time march from my teammates that could have testified to -- was -- car. Unfortunately -- this returning. Hand what we call kidnapped two -- Among witnesses -- connect testify. -- young men sitting in -- hallway waiting to be called as a witness. Image seeing defense call you first witness. We called micro dose and then it goes into hope we come back no more good dogs. We we we real adult me before -- my teammates. Into all gone there would do is there an an hour ago. And we found on that it does deter they had taken down. They placed him in his office across the street and prevent them to testifying to where will that determine the crime. Mean and everybody who's hearing that is going how in the world that happened. Well. What we have to understand and and I -- -- shy away from a this topic. Is that. -- Thai society sometimes views young black -- as criminals. As dangerous. And we can -- the stereotypes. And during that time when you had a victim was way. Any crime. Committed by young black man. From a poor neighborhood. From affair with multiple siblings. I fit the stereotype of any young black man would do and that's just a reality. But that was. What they did by pulling your witnesses away and not letting them testify. That's another whole show -- it it really is but it set my mind is now -- But almond having move forward and you went to Angola yes -- and you spent how long. I spent a total of eleven years in prison. Half at a time I spent on death through as -- sixteen you which. Folk from a did not commit. It was a lot of lot activists and public and community outcry they believe in my innocence that fought for me and demanded. More release. So after eleven years that was released from prison. How did they prove it was not you. We nor the time goes a bit of videotape will be playing in a basketball game. At the time of the crime. And once all of the evidence of a lot of prosecutorial misconduct a lot of -- to police investigation. This a lot of misconduct on police department sport. Once it all came to light. Then that this return and decided not to retry the case. So Nolan has been charged with that murder -- They just found him not guilty after eleven years after eleven years he has meant a lot of people would be very bitter. You were not you've carried on with your life. For me. I'm not bitter. I'm not angry. I am I'm devastated for one. The prison. As a young black he'd. The foot you know just across the bullet is of -- dramatic experience. But for meaning. I had to have some results of resilience. That I cannot be angry because for me to be anger at when David remove all my life. And I believe that for me to have gone through that experience. He gave me the the mind since the strict. Inability to. Come home and held the next person not have to and do what I had to enter. He went on to college. Yes six months after I came home from prison. I rode in Moore house college. I had aspirations to become an attorney. To represent young men and women like myself. To prevent him from going to -- experience. While their morals. My -- Condit took another turn. I was working for the southern center for human rights as a community organizer an investigative. And during this time 200567. Louisiana had exonerated all looked almost when he meant some would it sends in so when licensees. And there were all coming home we had no conversation. Some of us were coming home -- we -- becoming drug addicts alcoholics. Unemployable. No way to live your name into problems across the bullet. And so I decided to band together a group of young men live by John Thompson. And we decided to do something for -- sales. And we create an organization called resurrection of exaggeration. Will we help. Exonerated men with housing would implement opportunities will life skills with with some basic computer litters do most things that can help. You to become on a path to opportunity. And so now you have. That's our beacon industries. Yes ma'am -- In my work -- resurrection of things on a region and in re entry. What I seen was that. We can have a person with housing we can noble person. Find employment. While we can no person would be too soft skills but if that person is not changing do we heal us he thinks. Then we are merely put in a band -- on a problem. And so what I decided to do we -- industries was a transition. Into focus in on changing behavior. That is monumental. We are talking about. We are talking about your incredible story. And really the story of those others who were exonerated to spend time who shouldn't have been there but they're now out in getting their lives back on track. But we're also talking about. What many are talking about on both sides of the -- we -- Which is important is that our criminal justice system needs to be addressed this and that we have. Or perhaps too many incarcerated. But more importantly won their lead out what happens. That cycle of going right back -- is costing a fortune is a waste of human. Intelligence and effort. And we've got to change that we just heard incredible story of Shareef clues on who. On some years ago spent eleven years in Angola for a crime he did not commit. Was exonerated and has moved not just forward with his own life but has created day company. To help others who have been incarcerated. And need that second chance get back in to a productive life. We are now joined by deputy mayor Judy Reese Morse. And also Charles west who is with the director innovation delivery team of the mayor's office who sort of set up the -- for life. And also doctor Kim Evans -- gone of goodwill industries and and -- the programs that goodwill is involved it. First -- thank everybody for being here and Judy. The bottom line is this is really about the -- trying to reduce the murder. Yes and that program of no love for life. Thank you -- so wonderful to be here with you and with all of your listeners you are exactly right. This issue has been a top priority for mayor Landrieu since he took office in 2010. It is our administration's number one priority and we understand -- very very well that we have got to make the city safe. Individuals have to feel like they can move around a city that their families are safe. And that they have opportunities and that means opportunities for every one. And so no look for life which is the city's comprehensive strategy to reduce the murder rate. Has been hard at work since 2011. We did all of the research not to come up with a strategy that we knew would work. Being comprehensive was really important because we've known for many years not just in New Orleans but in cities across the country. That you cannot arrest your way out of this. Problem and think people are learning that now understanding. No we're not talking about multiple murders -- of overcharging -- an awful lot of people go to prison who come out and can be. Good citizens absolutely and we've listened to the the very courageous story that -- shared with us. We understand that individuals who make a mistake who go to prison and pay their debt to society. When they come out they have to have an opportunity they have to have a second chance. And part of -- life includes our work around re entry. We do have a comprehensive strategy around re entry work. And mayor Landrieu says this very often while not everyone is at fault. Everyone is responsible for helping to find solutions to the challenges that we face here in the city and so we decided to include. This focus on re entry. In our work so that we would. From the city's perspective. Be able to provide those opportunities to work with community service providers. Like goodwill and total community action Odyssey house and many others who are doing really great reentry work in the city. But to be able to convene those. Providers. And to really come up with a strategy that would be comprehensive. That would provide the best resources available to individuals who are returning to society. And those who have been formerly incarcerated but who have never been able to get the opportunity. To get gained full employment. That you really. In some ways starting from scratch absolutely I wanted to interrupt just for a second go to Charles west because you did a lot of the study on. On this program known for life what did you find. You interviewed former. -- people who had been an incarcerated. In what did you learn from them. Through our study we were able to learn a number of things. The young men themselves gave us -- perspective about what it was like for them when they got out of prison. We know that one in seven -- in New Orleans is either on probation parole are currently incarcerated. So significant number of our population especially those that are incarcerated and very high rates in New Orleans are exactly the people that we years trying to serve through this program that are exactly the people that say that. They need to be able to. Get education certainly but that they have to support their families that they need to get re connected with their families that they need housing transportation. Medical care all the same things that any of us need. To have a viable life that allows us to thrive. -- There are some who get out of prison. And have the support system and can fight the good fight and but what we're talking about are those that don't. You know I can see from a personal perspective. I know many men. While imprisoned. That certifications and carpentry. Master mechanics. I got a plus certified and in in computers. And a lot of men. When they leave imprisoned with those skills what those certifications. Have an -- and you know what I'm never coming back to prison. I got to certification. I'm gonna get a job from going into this. We notice it is sticks for a -- -- -- percent of of those deadly prison go back to five years. And when you come home. It's another reality. Then I've done five years I've paid my debt to society. Yet I'm not receiving a second chance. And what did those men lose hope. Their families are affected. Because when a lot of times that you know men -- the Brit went into the family. And when we come home from prison we wanna take that there rule and all families and improve fit our kids from going down that same path. But we can get a job then. That causes another mindset. Doctor -- on with goodwill industries. Thank you for joining us as well do you have a program now. Thank you and insolent and get in the Vietnam aren't really talk about what Washington is joined in the community to work with the object of -- we were awarded a grant in 2012. -- the department of label one million dollars to actually do some re entry work in which we would. Beyond -- line we get the arm. But -- -- -- -- entry -- jail to get and case management to get them all of the necessary. Circuit that they might -- upon leaving GO. All the big -- year we actually should now with them to a background on you know what you know archery it will come out interpretations would need to find out got there early to build on the campus job. Once we get there are about what they need all we have job developer -- into the community he looked at Jack. But is it to -- a cult because. There are employers -- willing to give the actual and then get second chance with -- any employer not only to get on the packaging. And that's the problem we have land up again aunt and the -- contraction. But it is they wanna. State back. We put cycle pick 1% of operative contention in job to -- all right job get bent on jobs -- -- street -- but what we aren't out very helpful. -- -- all the work feeling contractor employer and how that worked. That we will pay the -- look at the actual act as the gallery LaMont a true. That. Ankle and that could get a ball to the working side of the business as well let's get -- -- -- get to know -- and to eat at their their job word and get it trustworthy. And hold for the time being and get the work experience country can't either. They are higher on the job control tech -- that was dead -- in to any employment situation that it was not an -- and pay. Hole we've been very successful without work experience what we're still you know you don't play it won't return about people we feel. Well although not forget that will work with try to get and that packaging. I think as a society we are looking at this for a multitude of reasons one the expense of its. For incarceration. To we don't want people going back into a life of crime going back into prison so how do we stop that. Well the mayor does have a program as others do goodwill industries we just heard from. Total community action about reentry getting people were coming out of prison. And getting them. In in many cases Fisher -- whose onset. Prisoners are coming out former president coming out with certifications. In real jobs. In real careers yes it's getting. The community to believe. To just say give it a try and I liked what doctor -- onset from goodwill that they will actually pay the salaries for the first couple months. To show the employer. Look this is a legitimate employee give them a chance and for the employee to show I really -- -- good -- mean. You know what's it is still the sentiment is that I've been dealing with duke from the justice system for the past twenty years you know from a young -- to grown man. And I have never. Seen to be aware Karl -- With take a bold. Step. In saying that this issue this problem is the parliament that everybody has as society needs to take you don't. And take the leadership position of actually hiring. Returning citizens on his staff. Now and that that that makes a statement about what we were talking in the break out band the box and box this big and but there was some controversy to it. And our box is one of the most important. Policy decisions. That I think our administration has made and and here's why. As we aren't talking about this issue today him as -- so. Beautifully stated earlier. This is an issue that is important to every person in the city of new -- whether they realize it or not. Unless everyone is given an opportunity to advance and to move forward. To find success and to have a pathways to prosperity in New Orleans. Our city cannot be the best that it can be we are not going to be able to compete. With other major American cities unless everyone in the city feels -- so they have an opportunity this is not about -- handout. This is about opportunities and it is one of the reasons why merely Andrew insisted. That work on reentry be included in the -- like comprehensive strategy so we tried to focus on two areas. Again that policy area banning the box and what that means is removing from. The city's civil service application. Boxes 98 and nine -- and those boxes used to require. The applicant to identify whether or not -- had committed a felony -- if so what that felony wise. We have in our research talked to many many many returning citizens in those previously incarcerated. For many many years who said we believe that as soon as we checked that box. Our application is going in the trash cans and we will not receive any further consideration. No matter what we've done no matter what we've done and we could have. I'm a sparkling record a sterling record about what we've done since we paid our debt to society. But as soon as we checked that box we believe that we are are out of the the competition and we have to say that that does not mean that an applicant. Will not be checked out I wanna make this clear. The overall policy speaks to whether or not one has to identify. That. On the application at that point there absolutely is a very thorough check that has to be done. And that will be done that question will be asked but it will be asked at a more appropriate time. Here's the thing if someone is not a great applicant whether you're falling car -- or not. You won't make it to the final round of two or three to be selected but if you are. And if you can make it to that point that's when you're going to get that question very clearly and very directly and you must answer the question but they'll also be a background check. To ensure that whatever your answer to that question actually matches up with whatever you're you're past. Is all about and so this is not the city saying. We are disregarding that check and we have no way of knowing what people's backgrounds are. As they become city employees but again. We are now one of fifty cities around the country that have taken this on. We are now best practice for considered New Orleans is considered a best practice in this area and in fact. We joined target. In the private sector target every target store. In the United States of America uses the same band the box policy that that we are using now in New Orleans so. We're very proud of this piece of work and we've heard from a number of individuals who have said. We're looking for an opportunity and I think -- I'd like to ask you to speak to -- point that you make quite often in your work with the city where you talk about. What the mindset is of someone who has just been recently. Released from prison. You know when someone -- recent recently released from prison. You know their mindset is one. I needed to. I'm never going back to prison. I -- take -- my family. And you know what I'm going to do right. You know everyone's intention is to do right. But again win. When you discouraged from from room economic opportunity. You know you you mysterious survive. Do you -- and what dad does is dead this trains are leading to. Car. And now you know if the business sector didn't want -- high you a return to citizens -- have to be fearful. You know so but I do wanna see -- there are a few benefit. From higher so one out of prison. 41 is that. When you imprison you work every day. -- so you're conditioned. To be a work on time to word 910. Eleven street -- was in the heart label for a few cents an hour. And so you're given a person has been conditioned for 819 years. You know early get into work on time. Two is dead because a lot of returners -- this is no -- -- and employment is is very dismal. Once -- employee hard use him or her. Didn't feel grateful. It's really become more used to that employ -- because you'll give them an opportunity. And again is because that person. Has employment. The the the high turnover rate. Would be low because the person with Angola today Jack you know because didn't mean Ambien an opportunity. End end end end there was still what you longer so is not just you know doing goof was society -- you're doing good for -- business as well. You can note that. I'm hiring this person. Then I'm helping a family. Now I'm changing I'm breaking the cycle of generational -- -- of twelve of the cycle of going back to prison. In so just high of one person. You changing generations. I've actually said this story before but several years ago I went to Angola and did a story on one of the training programs that Burl Cain started which was for auto mechanics. It was a national. Test that had to be passed. It's super certification the man who taught it was like -- who only recently got out he's now making ninety grand in Lafayette. If anybody was rehabilitated it was this person and they are people who come out of prison and they are rehabilitated. He was lucky somebody took a chance on what we're really talking about now is employers. Thinking a little out of the box and saying you know what I can help the crime situation. I can give somebody a second chance. Doctor ruby on at goodwill industries. You would mention your 51% of those who come to use your help them find jobs what do you think is the key to convincing employers. To hire. Well armed. All over the period of time that the offender and -- but will we build a tree we built up. Their record so we're help that would put them in both -- would wish we -- paired with bent toward armed. Go to their confidence level. Com tribal all the work -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- That there aren't as has been -- to hire an actual and shall we try to educate him by. You know bring in -- -- Internet and -- that if you -- -- -- and you can qualify for an intricate. Arnold is this also the the city's job one. The 5000 dollar -- that's what it is -- It's it's it's a federal navigated through state but it federal -- but it actually -- and it will complete the hotter yet had a and all we we all are probably a work event last year and we hit 63 company come to go well and I would actually do not all the health problems it would it would not aware of the work they do actual work tax credit. So we can't educated and we had a representative from the state. We educated now on the tech credit they're -- available. And I didn't hear what the list of people who attended this is how will work you can actually get -- I'm about aren't a chance. -- -- -- And I would surely they get in there. But they -- employee cop who will be they were expecting change. They have the work yet they they have to -- they have the proved themselves to be in or near. -- we get going before. It'll be on the work -- you want to but I get the job we give them incentive a three month period we don't want it the six -- we get -- it out staying on the job outlook Paramount we get -- hundred dollar Debbie did become competitive among job. Because they'll like okay what got our six month in and it wanna get a true. That give them some incentive to stay on the job we also all down the opportunity if you have a problem on -- Come back to go -- We won't work as a liaison between you ought to try to solve the problem will get -- meant to work of the vehicle between you when you bought it there -- any. Probably that is terrific. Work with -- work. Deputy mayor Judy recent or send anybody any employer out there who was listening to this who is thinking of I'm gonna do it. Needs to call her at 6584900. She's a deputy mayor Judy Maurice Morris and just some thoughts from both of view. On. Belts could convince an employer to take that chance. So we actually provide a lot of support to the mayor's leadership and his call for all of city government and for everyone actually to be a part of the solution of reducing murder in New Orleans. The mayor's office the workforce development has a number of resource available. For employers for job seekers. They are the place for someone who is getting out of Orleans parish prison or Angola who -- Orleans parish. And speaking to himself I want to find a job I wanna get on the right path. The mayor's office of workforce development who then in partnership with. Good widow with total community action with Delgado with a number of partners around the city are all prepared. Two serve those individuals and help them. And so whether it's the business community providing jobs or its individual working with those service partners and donating their time. To review -- -- or to help with any of the other services are skills that people need. They're really just looking for support whether it's churches who are able to find out individuals in their community who were ex offenders. We're looking to re integrate into their community. They're number of ways that people can join with the city joined with the mayor joined with our service partners. To really support ex offenders are returning citizens as they come home you know. I can just -- -- to -- toward Charles -- Very very important we expect within the next couple of months. To announce a comprehensive strategy. Reentry strategy -- I mentioned to our work around -- the box in partnership with. The city's civil service commission. But we also plan to launch a reentry. Program pilot program. With 100. Individuals and so we're gonna look to provide those wraparound services for them. And again in partnership with all the partners that have already been mentioned but I do wanna take this opportunity to thank the many many businesses that have responded. To the mayor's call. He has. Over and over and over again reached out to the business community to the business council to the the chambers of commerce to all the business organizations small business owners to say give. Are returning citizens an opportunity give them a chance. And someone to say thank you to all of those who have responded and thank you for mentioning the number for them to call to for those who would like to participate in the future. It's all about giving a second chance I hope you'll considerate again you can call. Deputy mayor Judy -- Morse at 6584900. I wanna think Shareef cousin coups and doctor Kim Evans of course Judy -- -- and to Charles west thank you very much.