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PACEs in the Criminal Justice System

Discussion and sharing of resources in working with clients involved in the criminal justice system and how screening for and treating ACEs will lead to successful re-entry of prisoners into the communityΒ and reduced recidivism forΒ former offenders.

Putting Their Prison Pasts Behind Them (


These social entrepreneurs aren't just working to reform the criminal justice system - they're a product of it too.

America's criminal justice system currently housed more than 2 million people - that's more per capita than any other nation on earth. Even worse: Many are repeat offenders who haven't been offered the support or resources to get their lives back on track once released.

A new initiative, backed in part by the singer John Legend, is hoping to reverse those dire statistics. Unlocked Futures is a joint project of the philanthropic fund New Profit, Bank of America and Legend's own nonprofit, FreeAmerica.

Over the course of 16 months, the accelerator, which recently announced its inaugural class, will provide support, funding and mentoring to eight people chosen for their visionary prison-reform efforts. These social entrepreneurs have more in common than just a dedication to helping former inmates flourish on the outside: All of them have been either incarcerated themselves or impacted by the criminal justice systems in some way.

The initiative will support entrepreneurship as a powerful pathway out of the incarceration cycle, which costs America $ 80 billion a year in hard dollars and untold billions more in its negative impact on vulnerable families and communities. By amplifying organizations built by those whose lives have been rocked by the judicial system, Unlocked Futures also hopes to change public perception about the humanity and potential of people who refuse to be defined by their worst mistake.

To read more of Helaina Hovitz' article, please click here.

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I first attended a 'leadership academy' at Postprandial Toastmasters (Club # 3259) - where I could also 'polish' my communication skills. The international by-laws were changed as a result of an initiative taken by a club member who was also a board member on the International board, so I was able to apply for membership, and have my application voted on by the club. All the members of that club at the time were aware that I'd been in prison (Adjudicated as a "Youthful Offender" [not "convicted"]-though I saw the inside of Attica when N.Y. State began placing 'parole violators' in the nearest 'facility').

I had later been in a different 'Correctional Facility' when the state program director for VISTA flew up to that prison to tell me I had passed the FBI/NCIC criminal record check. The VISTA position would not start immediately, so some friends located a temporary position for me at an OEO Legal Services Project, as an 'Investigator' until the VISTA term began.

My previous job, on parole was 'Social Work' and the parole officer didn't think 'ex-cons' should be doing Social Work-even though I hadn't been "convicted", and the Director of the county Council of Social Agencies thought it was okay for formerly incarcerated persons to do so. Having 'authored' "The Prisoner's Employment Assistance Brochure for NYS"-which listed agencies and/or organizations in each N.Y. county that help prisoners locate jobs for parole eligibility, before I was released on parole the first time, the attorneys I worked with let me send a copy of it in 'law office stationary' [subject to attorney-client priviledge] to same inmates in the print shop at Attica... which the Warden later showed at a 'warden's conference' and the Warden at Comstock wrote me requesting permission to reprint it also.

Later, I ended up serving my VISTA term as a paralegal at the OEO Legal Services Project...

While awaiting 'Job Offer Approval', I received an unexpected visit from a 'few folks-one of whom was the State Program director for VISTA [domestic 'Peace Corps']--who informed me that in spite of 'my incarceration', I'd passed an FBI/NCIC Record Check (I'd been 'Adjudicated' a 'Youthful Offender', supposedly 'No Criminal Record') and he'd flown up to to the prison from N.Y. City to let me know that I could 'serve my country' as a VISTA Volunteer-with the agency the other two 'visitors' were from, but the term wouldn't start for three months. Another friend found me a 'temporary position' [for the interim period] as an Investigator for an OEO Legal Services (Poverty [civil cases] Law) firm. The Legal Services project had an open case [the previous investigator hadn't -in two years- been able to locate the person who ran a 'Dummy Computer Training Program', and bilked a whole bunch of 'Welfare Mothers' [trying to get marketable job skills] out of the tuition they'd paid... and it 'took' me Nine Days from when I was released from 'the joint', until I "found him"- AND had the documentation to prove it-from the state Secretary of State's office... I hope this serves to inspire similar efforts with these eight folks, and others in 'similar circumstances'.

The OEO Law Office also aided my publishing and distributing "The Prisoner's Employment Assistance Brochure for New York State"- which listed agencies/programs in each county of New York which help prisoners get jobs to be eligible for parole. Some inmates at Attica requested permission to reprint it in the prison print shop, and I consented, and sent an updated copy of one to them. The Warden at Comstock prison saw the Attica reprints, and he asked if he might have it reprinted at Comstock, and I graciously consented.

I hope this serves to inspire similar efforts, both with these eight folks noted here, and others in 'similar circumstances'. And 'Godspeed' to all those affiliated and supporting "Unlocked Futures"...


Last edited by Robert Olcott

That's fantastic, Becky! Thank you for forwarding to one of the Assistant Commissioners of state corrections! Please consider inviting them to join our ACEs in Criminal Justice community on ACEs Connection. With so many solutions shared in many communities and criminal justice systems (such as, the most humane prison in our world - Norway prison system), learning from so many innovative approaches, and community-driven solutions, the site would also benefit profoundly from the Assistant Commissioner's expertise.

Very exciting!

Dana Brown posted:

Thank you, Becky! Concurring with you, it's so uplifting knowing there are wonderful pockets of inspiration on lives transforming and thriving! What an exemplary pathway John Legend has created for individuals re-entering their communities. My hope is Unlocked Futures will be a model many others will learn from and initiate in their communities.

Agree completely!  Prison is not rehabilitating and more incarceration DID NOT equal less crime over the past 20 years.  States are looking for innovative ways and resources for improving reentry success rates.  Since reading this, I already forwarded the article to one of our Assistant Commissioners of state corrections.

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