The email below is from Mr. Barge, a retired pastor, from the Atlanta area, who is interested in establishing a reentry program. He had an in person discussion with FOCUS in the summer of 2012 on the details. Please see the results of his investigation of reentry programs in the email which follows.
In the last two years FOCUS has received nine requests for help in establishing reentry programs similar to its own, which inspired the idea to explore, once again, FOCUS as a replicable model. In 2005 we had begun some initial work on this idea with modest funding received from the Leighty Foundation. FOCUS is now actively seeking sufficient funding to bring this project to fruition so that we may properly share our successful model with others.
Testimonial From Kelly Barge
Yesterday, I read again the 36 page evaluation report you sent to me, “Rethinking Recidivism: A Communication Approach to Prisoner Reentry”. When I first read it in July, I was impressed by the confirmation the report gave to my positive impression of you and the FOCUS program. I was essentially absorbing the report’s information and initially seeking to make sense of it alongside other programs I was eagerly investigating.
As I read the report again yesterday, I had the benefit of a couple more months’ context from reviewing other programs and becoming more familiar with the myriad of dynamics and options involved in transition approaches. The Focus emphasis on communication – and the emergent reality that the mentor relationship creates out of this communication process - made a clearer and more significant impact on me.
During the last six months I’ve researched, visited and/or had fairly extensive conversations with about fifteen transition support programs. Your program stands out in its specificity of FOCUS (on mentoring inmates from one local detention center, with support from you and your staff and associated community professionals), in its more thorough mentor training, and in its intentional Motivational Interviewing theory. There’s a coherence to your program that includes the complementary elements of voluntary involvement, non-judgmentalism, independence from the judicial system (in reporting, while nurturing a positive relationship with the key players in the system), flexibility to respond appropriately and specifically to each individual’s needs, and continuously supportive interest and commitment. These core principles are appropriately embedded in further principles of self empowerment as the individual mentee receives support to navigate, engage and work towards re-integration with a social reality of relationships and life options.
These somewhat theoretical principles have effective applications as highlighted in the report – and reflected in your program’s effectiveness in enabling mentees to overcome re-entry challenges.
As I searched my “sent” files yesterday, I could not locate the email I thought I sent you in July, thanking you for the time you gave to Chris and me in your office. I am grateful for your time with us, sharing information about your work, and for your generous offer to provide additional information as I develop a program in Atlanta.
I especially am interested in the 15 hour training program you have developed. I recall elements of the training, including prison/judicial system protocols, realities of expectations, mental health issues, Motivation Interviewing training, and how to resource social work services. I’m surely leaving out additional elements. I would greatly value as much information as you may send me, regarding the components and details of your training program. I also am interested to know what elements of a parallel “training” you may provide the mentees, as they enter the Focus program.
The most common pattern I have observed in a number of transition programs I have seen, that undermines programs’ effectiveness, is the lack of a coherence between what a program intends to accomplish and how they follow through on actualizing that result. There are many fits and starts, that become decimated through scattered purpose and lack of coherent follow through from training, assignment of mentors to mentees, and support of the process. Your Focus program impresses me with its coherence of intention, approach, follow up, and clear convictions of principle.
Thank you for the work you do, and the model you provide for me in my planning to launch a non-profit to support men in transition. I will value additional information you may provide, particularly with regards to your training program.