Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Housing, employment barriers spur recidivism, budget cuts de-funded reentry programs

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a story ("Ex-offenders in Texas often can't find housing or work," May 28) on issues surrounding prisoner reentry, drawing on the Sunset Commission staff report which will be reviewed at a public hearing next week. Wrote reporter Mitch Mitchell:
In the three years after release, about 32 percent of Texas state jail offenders and 24 percent of the prison population will be re-incarcerated, according to a Sunset Advisory Commission review of the Texas prison system released this month. Taxpayers bear the burden when offenders are re-incarcerated at an average cost of $50.79 per day, the review says.

Finding housing and employment are crucial to an ex-offender's successful reintegration into society, experts say. But after serving their time, many ex-offenders find that they cannot get a job without a home address and cannot find a place to live without the money to pay rent. So they may end up roaming the streets.

During a 2011 homeless survey in Tarrant County, more than 76 percent of the 410 people surveyed said their criminal records were the main reason they were unemployed, according to Cindy Crain, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.

Kay Smith, founder of Texas Re-Entry Services, said: "If you are coming out of state prison you get $100, a bus ticket home and a suit of clothes. If they have a place to go they're lucky. If they aren't lucky they end up homeless."

During the past three fiscal years, funding cuts have curtailed Re-Entry Services' reach, Smith said.
Grits was interested to see a lobbyist for apartment owners suggested a version of tort reform that might induce more landlords to rent to tenants with criminal records:
The issue for landlords and property owners is not money, but liability, said John Mitchell, executive director of the Apartment Association of Tarrant County. Landlords who rent to ex-offenders, whatever the crime, increase the likelihood that they will be sued if that person commits another crime that harms a tenant, Mitchell said.

"There are a lot of great people out there who are trying to get their feet back under them, but their housing options are limited," Mitchell said. "If their risks could be limited, I'm sure landlords and property owners would open up their portfolios to some nonviolent ex-offenders."

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/05/28/3991412/ex-offenders-in-texas-often-cant.html#storylink=cpy
If that's true, then we'd only have to worry about the VIOLENT offenders ending up homeless and desperate after being released from prison ... great!

What many folks don't seem to realize is that most criminals in prison will eventually be released and the more important question than how long they stayed is how will they behave when they get out? Texas now releases (far) more inmates every year than were incarcerated in the entire prison system in 1990 when Ann Richards was elected. The Startlegram reported that, of the "75,000 inmates whom the Texas Department of Criminal Justice releases every year ... about 7,000 are expected to return to Tarrant County." That includes people who committed violent crimes. It includes sex offenders. Common sense dictates that they must be able to find a home and a job as well. Good intentions aside, if they can't, who will be surprised when, in desperation, they eventually return to crime?
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/05/28/3991412/ex-offenders-in-texas-often-cant.html#storylink=cpy


Anonymous said...

DPS and Homeland Security require two proofs of residency that makes it difficult to obtain an ID and/or driver's license. In addition a certified copy of birth certificate is needed. Would be nice if re-entry could help with giving out this information before release even helping get certified birth certificate.

DEWEY said...

"That includes people who committed violent crimes. It includes sex offenders."
Not all "sex offenders" are violent. How about "exposure"? How about urinating in public (behind a bush, but a kid sees you)? I could go on and on, but with the media trying to make the public believe that ALL sex offenders are truculent, it's an uphill battle.

Anonymous said...

At a time of major economic difficulty and job loss in our nation why would an employer hire someone who is a felon? It is an employer's market and felons likely "need not apply".

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Dewey, that's why there was a period between the sentences. The words "violent crimes" do not modify "sex offenders." Maybe the media conflates the two but this post did not.

Anonymous said...

Of those 7,000 being released back to Tarrant county, how many want to work? If you could get an honest response i bet the number would be extremely low. There is no such thing as rehabilitation, Offenders sit on their fat asses and eat shit from the commisary their entire sentence and then bitch when they get out. Offenders from ft. worth go to prison and deal with some of the dumbest rednecks in the state that work in the prison system because it's the only job they can get with a high school diploma. So you have a stupid piece of white trash trying to teach a wannabe gangster who sags his state issued uniform. What kind of "rehabilitation" do people expect? "rehabilitation" is a made up word politicians like to use to get elected and re-elected. Truth is, the majority of the TDCJ population are uneducated, illiterate and have no work ethic because it's easier for them to commit crimes than it is to wake up everyday and go to work for a living.

the oracle said...

My question is: have we as a society become so high minded, so full of ourselves, so holier than thou that we can cast the first stone? I mean come on! Who amoung us is without sin? When Adam & Eve ate from the forbidden tree the whole of humanity was doomed. Then, Cain killed his brother Abel--the first murder--man was really out of there then. And we have been on a steep decline ever since: Wars, genocide, murder, rape, you name the crime and man has done it. So just who in the hell are these "Puritans" that do not want to give a guy a second chance at life after he has paid his debt to society with a long prison stay? Message to you: get the hell off your high horse!!!

Anonymous said...

As a landlord, you want to force me to rent to tenants with a violent record? Sure, I'll do it. But, you won't like the required deposit. And, as an employer, you want to try and force me to hire employees with a criminal past? No problem. But, depending upon their offense, I might want them to agree to let me deduct a portion of my liability insurance payment out of their paycheck.

Trying to FORCE landlords and employers to do want you want won't work. What will work are good re-entry programs with a track record of success that will make ex-offenders look like better candidates for jobs and housing.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:30 writes, "the majority of the TDCJ population are uneducated, illiterate and have no work ethic because it's easier for them to commit crimes than it is to wake up everyday and go to work for a living."

Of those returning to Houston (for whom data is available), 69% had jobs before going in and 60% have jobs 8-10 months after leaving TDCJ, but by all means, don't let facts get in the way of your opinions.

Anonymous said...

Grits 8:42 writes "Of those returning to Houston (for whom data is available), 69% had jobs before going in and 60% have jobs 8-10 months after leaving TDCJ, but by all means, don't let facts get in the way of your opinions."

What data? What is the source? Is it reliable? The article was about Tarrant county, not Houston. Don't let that get in the way of your opinions. That's all your blog is, your worthless opinion.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I linked to my source, 9:36. Do you have one to counter it? Or do you have any valid reason to think data for offender employment in Tarrant is different than in Houston?
Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

Also, if this blog is "worthless," what does it say about you that you visit here so frequently?

A Texas PO said...

Maybe this will cause the state to bring back Project RIO and actually force the Texas Workforce Commission and TDCJ to properly staff caseloads and recruit employers. For all of its failures, RIO had the potential to be an awesome resource for ex-cons.

Anonymous said...

Judging from some of these comments, I would say some of the uneducated and ignorant (in regards to the justice system in Texas) are posting here. I too was ignorant of the system until a year ago. I have taken a released felon into my home to help him get on his feet and relearn how to live. He was bussed to Houston where he knew no one supposedly he was to go to a halfway house, they had no record of him and he was dumped on the street with $50. What would you do with that? It just so happens he has one of the strongest work ethics I have seen in years. The work it has been to get things in order for him to start rebuilding his life has been amazing. The parole department (depending on what officer you are assigned too) create more problems than help. There is a list of things to accomplish but no assistance in how to go about doing it. Think how many things have changed in the last 10 years, if you know nothing about computers,(do you really think you have the chance to learn that in prison?) you must get a license but you have no papers, car or the $25 it costs for the test. These people are thrown into a world where decisions have to be made on the fly and that in itself is difficult considering they have not had the use of decision making for a long time, not even in regards to the most basic choices like when to wake, shower, eat,ect. "sit around eating commissary and getting fat" If they have money in commissary. Do you know what they feed these guys. and only twice a day now? You are the ignorant one. Have you looked at all the laws lately you yourself might be a felon. I for one am trying to make a difference, I wish I had the resources to help more than one but it is a full time job and hope to help make a change one person at a time. Look at the numbers, how many are returned for technical violations (maybe they missed a meeting because they could not find a ride) that's all it takes..not new crimes. And many people incarcerated are there because they did not have the money for the "right lawyer"or were born to parents that gave them nothing of the skills it takes to survive in "polite society". There is no rehabilitation going on in TDCJ... Educate yourself, try talking to someone who has been there. The justice system in Texas is a money merry-go round.

Anonymous said...

TO 5/30/2012 08:30:00 AM

Based on your post you sound like a prosecutor hopeful trying to get a vote??

Anonymous said...

The suit of clothes released inmates get are used clothes...in winter, just a shirt and maybe a pair of thongs for the feet and no socks. The $100? They get a bus ticket and the $$$. If on parole, they have to pay half to their parole officer. Then they have to pay for counseling, whether they found work or not. And now re-entry programs de-funded where's the logic in that. It's cheaper to pay for funding help programs than paying to support them back in prison....or is that what the powers that be REALLY want. Gotta support those jobs, you know.

Anonymous said...

If everyone with the exception of the poster who has taken in an ex-felon would do so, their negative opinions would be changed. I have now had three parolees living with me (at different times since I only have room for one at a time). All three went through the time consuming misinformation from their parole officer(s); with no transportation I drove them to kingdom come and back to obtain birth certificates, drivers licenses etc. How do you think they get to the parole office without a car...they're not on bus routes. The sucess rate for their men is 100%. They all, after a long search for work, are gainfully employed, two are engaged to be married and living a honest and normal life. Maybe just maybe most of these men need a helping hand.

inthedoghouse said...

I go into Hutchins State Jail 1-2 times a month as a Chaplain's assistant and spend the morning visiting with inmates there. Sometimes I get to stay for lunch and I don't mean eating with the staff. So, when I talk about what attitudes "offenders" have, or what they eat, or what they do to pass the time, it is current real time knowledge. That said, I will comment on my experiences as they relate to your....what's a nice way to put it....pontifications.
1. Far fewer of the inmates are fat than are those of us outside because they aren't fed enough calories to become so. Guys at Hutchins, when they do manage enough money, spend it on shoes, toothpaste, or condiments - not "shit".
2. Work there is VOLUNTARY and all but two of the many guys I know work 6-10 hours daily. And yes, there are a few loafs that lay around.
3. I know 7-8 Correctional Officers well enough that they call me by name. I find them to be generally bright, well trained and dedicated criminal justice professionals. None of them are what you would call mean, nor stupid. I know of COs who are reputed to be mean and stupid but they are the exception, not the rule.
4. I met one guy a couple of years ago who couldn't read and the rest of them have been able to both read and write, some most eloquently.

I think that you are basing your opinions on what you heard on TV or your own imaginations.I dare you to shut the blow hole in the middle of your face and go spend some time in your nearest state prison unit. Then come tell us all about it.

Anonymous said...

As the soon to be ex wife of a felon, I can tell you that not all of them want to work or want a stable environment. After 18 years in prison, my husband left me 8 months after he paroled for a woman he met in his ordered AA class. Not before I helped him get an awesome union job though. He has the same parole officer that was assigned almost 4 years ago. She hasn't drug tested him since November and he is now using meth. He totaled my car then took off to return to the woman from AA. His P.O. never does unannounced home visits or drug tests, and despite being arrested twice, yes, twice for public intoxication, had done nothing different.
To all the felons that truly are trying to better their lives, I wish you all the best. There are people out here that will help you if you look hard enough.

Lawyer said...

Try Bright Stars, brightstarswaco@gmail.com! The Master has answers for every problem. We just need to tap into His unlimited wisdom & knowledge, then be unafraid to think & act 'Outside The Box!'. Email me tdcj, ppd, anyone, I know the way and can illuminate your path.

Atticus said...

Fantastic discussion thread, Scott. Too bad there's not some way to unite those of us with the time and interest to spend on re-entry projects but who are totally ignorant on how to obtain the necessary funding. I'll bet you there are many "senior" criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and, even judges, with great experience in our criminal justice system who would be interested in making meaningful contributions in such a project. Senators Whitmire and Ellis, are you listening?

Anonymous said...

11:52:00 AM
You have no clue. When someone is released from either the walls unit or one of the regional release units, they are given $50, if they are on parole. When they report to the parole office, they are given a check for the other $50. They don't pay anything to their parole officer. You are an uneducated idiot.

Anonymous said...

05:56:00 PM..
I was going to the hutchins unit before you were out of diapers. Those are state jail offenders, all there for 2 years or less. They are petty criminals who choose to commit crimes so they don't have to work. They chose to use drugs, steal and generally take from others so they don't have to take on any responsibility. I'll take my blow hole, tell you to shove it and get really educated about what goes on in this world.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

Great thread good input from most. Sorry 8:30 your day in the barrel, I guess you should think before you speak next time, you obviously didn't this time. I went to prison in 1971, did 3 1/2 calendar years. After release I worked steady for 40 years sometimes 7 days a week. I know I'm not the only one.
There are many offenders who get it, and want to do well, but when faced with the attitudes that 7:01 and 8:30 have displayed, I would have run screaming into the night, afraid to ever apply for work again. Landlords, if you treat people with some common decency you will not have so many problems. Employers, there are good people available, Scott mentioned Kay Smith at Texas ReEntry Services, call them they have an excellent Job Readiness program. They can help you find good employees. Please dont condemn all Ex-Offenders over the stupid actions of a few people, and the stupid opinions of others.

I remain your humble servant