The idea behind the corrections system is that once someone has been through the system, that person will not go back into the system again. Their actions will have been “corrected.” Unfortunately, more often than anyone would like, the formerly incarcerated end up behind bars again in the future. Efforts to break this cycle affect:
- corrections officials
- judicial members
- community leaders
- nonprofit groups
- and the formerly incarcerated themselves
Those groups rarely have a chance to talk to each other about their shared problem or to create a collaborative solution. The Incarceration: Recidivism, Reentry and Reunification (iR3) program was created to help solve this challenge.
Through an intensive series of focus groups to define the problem, conference-style meetings to select the most pressing issues, and independent working groups researching those issues, our work will result in the first solutions proposed by all parts of the corrections ecosystem. Just as Winthrop Rockefeller changed the prison landscape of his day, this effort promises meaningful solutions to combating recidivism at all levels.
Spring 2021 Program: June 16-17
Beginning in April of 2021, focus groups comprising each part of the incarceration ecosystem have been held to establish the top issues for each group. Selected with the guidance of program partner Restore Hope Arkansas, these groups will consider the system as a whole, as well as their unique part in it.
After collecting and processing the focus group data, select members came to the Institute on June 16-17 where the group selected the areas in which they feel they can make the most impact, creating working groups that will meet in the following months to create solutions and plans. Those ideas will be presented at a second summit on September 16-17. The three focus areas are as follows:
Many challenges to reentering a normal life after being incarcerated revolve around existing laws and procedures. These include barriers to necessary documents (e.g. state identification and proof of insurance), communication policies between courts and defendants, and pipelines to alternative sentencing — all of which are topics being explored by this working group.
The stigma faced by reentering citizens is sharp and divisive and can keep them from fully settling back into their communities. Not only does it affect finding work, but also places to live. It can also make one feel like an outsider in their hometown even after they’ve completed their sentence. Helping the general public better understand the men and women returning from the corrections system is the charge of this working group, which hopes to dispel the myths about the average returning citizen.
This working group is focused on how to better the communication and collaboration inside and among the many different organizations, efforts and people working in the recidivism, reentry and reunification space. They will especially be focused on how to gather and share important data and figures, as well as how to promote increased collaboration within counties.
“I had no idea what to expect. The action plan and the way the Institute has facilitated it has just been over the top. I think it’s been amazing. We’re actually going to have a plan when we leave here!”Carrie Williams, Assistant Director of Reentry for Arkansas Community Corrections
iR3 working groups will be doing a deep dive into research, resources and possibilities over the next few months and will return to Petit Jean in September 2021 to go over their proposed action plans, make refinements, recruit help and answer any lingering questions. Then, they’ll divide up the work, set timelines and concrete goals, and begin making these plans a reality.
This first full-sector collaboration should bring the most common burdens to light and create a path forward for Arkansas — a future where the corrections system works as intended and the incarcerated rejoin their families and communities permanently.