In Boulder County, over 10,600 people are in the jail each year and one out of every two offenders returns to jail. Commander Bill Black of the Boulder County Jail has said, “We have a revolving door. A major cause of re-offending is the need for a hot meal and a place to sleep.” The FOCUS program was started to bring some encouragement and support to its clients–the incarcerated men and women of the Boulder County Jail– and help establish and maintain the network of basic needs post-release. Our goal is to help these ex-inmates move from jail to long term self-sufficiency.
When prisoners leave the jail, they leave with exactly what they had when they were arrested and a single bus toke. Arrested in June wearing shorts and T-Shirt? Then you just might get released in January in the same outfit. Even if they have weather appropriate clothing, most inmates need safe housing, employment, transportation and help with a substance abuse issues. The Boulder County jail cannot provide extensive case management services. and instead the process of trying to make it all work falls on the inmate’s shoulders alone. FOCUS helps to bear that burden for its clients.
FOCUS’ clients often have massive social needs as well. Many reside in a circle of friends and acquaintances where substance abuse, untreated mental health issues and law breaking are the norm. A FOCUS mentor is more than a channel to resources, they are the person who can model and teach pro-social and pro-health behaviors– everything from making and keeping appointments to making small talk over coffee. Long term success for reentering inmate means finding a niche in the broader society and that can take time, effort and a friendly guide.
FOCUS remains the only agency working with the issue of “ex-offender reentry” in Boulder County. We strongly encourage you to find out more here on our website or contact our offices if you would like information about supporting us financially or with your time.