By Gregg Keesling, RecycleForce
Daily, more than 14,000 Marion County residents are under criminal justice monitoring. Historically, 70 percent of those on oversight are violated, most of them for technical rule violations. Research suggests that immediate employment reduces technical rule violations. To stop this revolving door, RecycleForce uses a transitional jobs model – wage paying work ($10 per hour) accompanied by skill acquisition, educational and support services, permanent job placement assistance, 12 months of follow-up and most importantly, assisting returning citizens to adhere to their individual criminal justice mandates. A unique element of its transitional model is a concept RecycleForce calls the peer model.
Peer Leaders have a major impact on RecycleForce program participants. Returning to the community from incarceration and attempting to find employment and housing, reconnecting with family and adhering to criminal justice oversight is often overwhelming. Peer Leaders provide the opportunity to connect with someone who has successfully walked the same walk..
An important component of the Peer Leader training is recognizing when someone is struggling and knowing how to offer help or guidance. Much like the evidence-based practice of Question Persuade Refer (QPR) for suicide prevention, Peer Leaders learn to ask the right questions, persuade the distressed person that there is hope to address the stressful situation and refer the individual to appropriate assistance. At RecycleForce, depending on the issues, these referrals may be to the production director, a case manager, or onsite behavioral health counselors.
The peer model is now at work with the Indianapolis Office of Public Health and Safety which has adopted a collaborative strategy to address root causes of violence to reduce the number of homicides and nonfatal shootings in our city. This evidence-based strategy, identified through research and assistance form the National Institute on Criminal Justice Reform, consists of elements from Operation Ceasefire and Cure Violence models tailored to address the violence trends in the city of Indianapolis. The model includes several partner agencies – law enforcement, government, community, and various businesses and organizations. RecycleForce is one such partner agency.
RecycleForce has several Peer Leaders who were formally among the most wanted people in the Indianapolis community. Three who are deeply rooted in this work and play critical outside roles in the RecycleForce peer model are Charles Neal, Shane Sheppard and Thomas Ridley. Ridley is featured in a video promoting the Pathway Home project. RecycleForce was recently awarded a $4 million U.S. Department of Labor Pathway Home grant to serve 400 people returning to the community from incarceration. This video, featuring Thomas Ridley, promotes the Pathway Home program and is currently playing at Marion County Jail.
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