Prisoner Reentry Training Need Analysis
Richmond, Virginia is among the top 100 metropolitan areas identified by the National Corrections Reporting Program as receiving the most returning non-violent prisoners. In 2001, 621 non-violent prisoners returned to Richmond. In addition, over 9,000 adult men and women are released from the Richmond City Jail each year.
Many ex-offenders find the social bars of life on the outside far more confining than the iron bars of prison. Jobs, housing and healthy relationships are difficult to come by. Hence many choose to return to the safety of prison. The cost of recidivism to the community is approximately $30,000 per person a year -- plus the loss of a productive citizen's income. The need for effective training programs to aid ex-offenders in achieving emotional stability, life/work skills, housing and sustainable employment has never been more critical.
The needs of these individuals reflect – and in many cases stem from – the needs of the communities in which they live. Boaz & Ruth is located within the heart of the North District, an area representing 9% of Richmond’s population, but containing 20% of the poverty and 25% of the crime city-wide. In the 1960's, White Flight left 65% of the homes in Highland Park vacant, resulting in the eventual demise of a once-thriving business area.
Our location in Richmond's North District is strategic. According to 2002 census data, three of the seven census tracts with the highest number of released prisoners in Richmond are in the North District (within a one-mile radius of B&R) and three of the remaining four tracts are adjacent (within two miles). The North District is also characterized by significantly higher poverty, unemployment and crime than the state as a whole:
North District City of Richmond Commonwealth of Virginia
Population 18,910 192,494 7,459,827
Poverty 20.9% 17.1% 7.0%
Crime 9,046 35,464 371,035
Unemployment 7.2% 5.0% 2.7%
Current Strategies. The debilitating problems of ex-offenders and the economically depressed neighborhoods to which they return are interdependent and call for initiatives that foster the rehabilitation and revitalization of both. The strategies of Boaz & Ruth address this interdependence in a unique and innovative way that increases the level and quality of available services and positively impacts both workforce development and economic revitalization.
The current B&R program has been carefully developed over the past three years to address the root causes of unsuccessful re-entry and recidivism among ex-offenders. Our pilot program is effecting positive personal change through education, counseling, mentoring and meaningful work experience. The existing successful business ventures at the heart of the program serve not only as on-the-job training opportunities, but as catalysts for commercial enterprise in Highland Park as well as a significant source of income for Boaz & Ruth
Comprehensive re-entry training for released prisoners pursues the ultimate purpose of personal empowerment, not merely provision of services. The overarching goal is that persons completing the program will no longer look to society to support them but will look to themselves to support society.
The intensive 12 month program focuses not only on the training of specific skills in preparation for employment, but also on developing the emotional and relational competencies essential in obtaining and, most importantly, in maintaining a job and establishing positive relationships within a community.
B&R’s comprehensive approach to sustainable change requires trainees to participate in classes, counseling, on-the-job training and community involvement for an average of 50 hours per week. Most importantly, the circle of positive, supportive relationships at Boaz & Ruth becomes a family in which trainees practice the emotional and life skills they are learning.