The FOCUS Reentry Mentoring Program of Boulder County was founded in 2005 at the request of Boulder County Sheriff’s Department to address a critical gap in social services–the lack of an organized offender reentry program. In the words of former Commander Bill Black, “The jail has a revolving door because offenders often recommit, not only because of habitual criminality, but also because on release many of them have no housing, no employment and no support system whatsoever.”
Our founder, Tania Leontov, took up the challenge to start a formal mentoring program for offenders coming out of the Boulder County Jail with no support system of any kind. A task force was organized to motivate social action and volunteering to provide opportunities and services for inmates leaving the Boulder County Jail.
The first FOCUS mentor began work in April 2005. For the first two years only a small number of mentors were trained and matched, but as the word spread the program gained momentum in the community and jail. By 2008 there were over a dozen successful graduates of the program and a formal training in place for new, incoming mentors.
In 2010, FOCUS was recognized as a successful program when it received the NOVA Award from the Boulder Community Foundation for its innovative programming. It has been supported by local and federal government and community foundations that understand the impact FOCUS makes on individual lives, and the County’s bottom line.
In 2011, FOCUS conducted a third-party evaluation by Northpointe Institute for Public Management, Inc. to determine the effectiveness of the program. This study found that FOCUS has achieved a 17% recidivism rate, drastically lower than the 57% National average of individuals returning to incarceration by the end of the first year (National Institute of Justice).
In 2012, FOCUS began a new program to target the highest at-risk group for recidivation: youthful offenders age 18-25. Through partnering with Allies for Youth, FOCUS will be working to help them understand the terms and conditions of probation, since technical violations are one of the leading contributors to reincarceration.
In 2013, FOCUS said good-bye to its founder and long-time Executive Director Tania Leontov. Her vision for a compassionate, non-violent outreach to Boulder County Jail inmates and a safer community with reduced recidivism continues to inform the core of FOCUS’ activities. At the departure of Ms. Leontov, Nicky Marone became the new Executive Director.