The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC)
Communities around the country are beginning to explore alternative public finance models that ensure resources follow justice-involved individuals back to their respective communities. As one example of this innovative alternative, LCCL has partnered with CCJRC in a collaborative community-centric model for sharing resources and coordinating a strong reentry program for people returning home from prison.
In 2014, CCJRC, a Denver-based nonprofit that seeks to eliminate the overuse of mass incarceration and invest in non-criminal justice strategies to advance community safety and health, played a pivotal role in garnering support in the Colorado State legislature to direct funds to the community partners based in the communities where people return from incarceration. Due to their efforts, Colorado stakeholders shifted funds within the Colorado Department Of Corrections (CODOC) to carve out $500,000 in FY14/15 and an additional $1 million in FY15/16, demonstrating the state’s leadership and commitment to provide services for people returning from incarceration.
CCJRC staff spearheaded and worked tirelessly on the initiative to secure this funding and drive resources to the community partners providing support and programming directly in impacted communities. Leaders in the state realized they were not receiving a good return on their investment with the status quo and decided to directly support people returning from prison with a focus on employment services.
In 2015, the LCCL worked with CCJRC and Colorado state leaders to expand our Work and Gain Education & Employment Skills (WAGEES) program, which funds community partners that support people returning from incarceration.
Our intermediary role is one key to this successful program to handle selecting community-based partners, disbursing funds, providing technical assistance, overseeing implementation, and adapting the program based on coordination with the CDOC and community partners.
LCCL serves as a hub for information and services, as well as, providing leadership and technical assistance to WAGEES community partners to increase their capacity and efficiency.
Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC)
With the start of the WAGEES program, CDOC staff, parole officers, and WAGEES community partners were working together for the first time in a coordinated effort of this magnitude. Thus, a key component of the programs’ success was close collaboration between the LCCL, community partners, and the CDOC. It was critical for the CDOC to trust the community partners, and vice versa, and for all parties to be seen as collaborators working towards the same goal.
- Initially there was skepticism on both sides, a lack of support and trust between actors, and, in some unique cases, an outright defiance towards the new grant program.
- Key to this new partnership was the role of the LCCL as the intermediary facilitator to assist each partner in identifying and solidifying the complementary, but distinct, roles that the CDOC and WAGEES community partners could play in the reentry process.
- As the program developed, parole officers began to see the community partners as collaborators with a valuable perspective and provision of resources to fill service gaps and work towards the same goals.
- By building a collaborative relationship, some community partners began to run the parole orientation meetings at the parole offices, providing unique insight to people returning from incarceration.
- This relationship and mutual respect allows for a ‘warm handoff’ from the parole officer to community partners to ensure a person receives the necessary services and treatment.
- The program has helped ensure people received the tailored treatment and programming that would enable them to succeed.
- One example of the trust and support between the groups was the arrangement for community partner staff who have been previously incarcerated to enter facilities and recruit people to participate in the program, an exception to CDOC policies. Staff noted that in no other cases has this arrangement been allowed.
Colorado Department of Corrections and Parents on a Mission
Since 2015 LCCL has been training State and private prison staff, as well as inmates, to conduct POM classes within their various institutions. Initially prison staff admitted they were very skeptical of a program like POM and how incarcerated parents would receive it. However, once the trained staff began to teach the curriculum they witnessed first hand, to their surprise, the impact and emotional growth inmates were experiencing on a consistent basis.
After various pilot projects were completed in various Colorado prisons, DOC decided to include POM as part of their 2018 strategic plan.
Currently POM is being taught to incarcerated parents in every Colorado State and private prisons.