Monday, August 19, 2019

Working to Reduce Recidivism

This sponsored post is provided by Families First. 

The red brake lights of vehicles brightly illuminated the road ahead. One after one the vehicles stopped on a normally, well-traveled interstate. The steady flowing pace of traffic abruptly came to a standstill that gradually spanned across miles. The culprit for the crippling traffic, a wreck on the road ahead, created a ripple effect of standstill traffic, causing miles of disruption.

Similar to the ripple effect caused by a wreck on a busy highway, the life choices we make during our journey in this life can have a ripple effect with cascading results. Behind bars and incarcerated in Mississippi’s jails and prisons are people whose choices, ones made quickly or collectively over time, have intersected with consequences. The ripple effects of one’s choices have a vast impact that changes the course of one’s life story and that of others: choices that make innocent victims senselessly suffer, or choices that create fatherless or motherless families, or choices that created sorrow-filled lives.

The future for many of the incarcerated will be spent as a life behind bars. After they serve their time, what is ahead for those who genuinely want to renew their life for good once they are released back into local communities?

For the incarcerated men and women in Mississippi jails and prisons, the thought of a new start after being released seems almost insurmountable and overwhelming. There are extensive barriers and setbacks these individuals face. Upon release, for many the road towards recidivism begins as the result of: a lack of proper treatment for mental health issues and addictions, low rates of education and poor literacy skills to obtain a job, and a lack of a support system to navigate life’s setbacks and celebrate successes.

Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) looks to be an avenue for second chances for those Mississippians currently incarcerated, and upon their release MCEC strives to offer assistance to navigate life after serving time. “We are here for those incarcerated and parole-eligible inmates to offer resources for adequate services for second chances for a restored life filled with promise. We want those entering back into our community after serving time to know that we are a network of supporters to help them succeed,” said Dr. Nancy New, Executive Director of Mississippi Community Education Center.

Mississippi has the third-highest overall incarceration rate in the United States according to U.S. News & World Report and information obtained from the Department of Justice in May 2019. In June 2019, the Mississippi Department of Corrections stated that the average daily inmate population was 19,600. According to the NAACP, between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in America increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million. Today, the United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has nearly 25% of the world’s prison population.

“When many of these individuals are released from custody, they don’t have a support group or family or friends that they can turn to and help them as they are adjusting back into society. While individuals are incarcerated, teaching life skill classes like anger management, parenting, and how to manage your finances are important. I think we can partner with some of our community colleges to make sure people who are being released from custody have marketable jobs skills, whether that be things such as welding or plumbing or mechanics and those type of skills that are often in high demand. Also, the individuals should have access to continuing their education in some form of GED or form of online junior college classes. As a society we can do a better job of preparing individuals as they are getting ready to leave the Mississippi Department of Corrections and prepare them to reenter into society,” said Congressman Michael Guest.

Pivotal factors that set into motion reoffending are untreated substance abuse and undiagnosed mental illnesses. “If you have someone that has a chemical dependency or substance abuse issue of any kind and they go to jail and it is never treated, when they get out, they are going to return to that chemical dependency. There is this myth, ‘Put them in jail and that will clean them up and teach them their lesson.’ The reality is they just had a stop gap of using, but that does not constitute treatment; that just constitutes a lack of availability. The addiction has not been treated or the underlying causes nor have they been taught coping mechanisms, so when they are released, they are back in the same place they were when they entered jail,” said John Owen, CEAP, CAS, of Recovery Consultations and Addiction Educator Director.

Through offering Adult Addiction Education Program free of charge, resources are provided to begin the process of healing and recovery for those suffering with addiction. “We are here to connect the dots to get those suffering from addiction the adequate services they need to help support addiction recovery,” said Dr. Nancy New, Executive Director of Mississippi Community Education Center.

Looking beyond the statistics and facts on incarceration, Mississippians need a plan of action coupled with a proactive approach to reduce rates of recidivism in our state. We need to meet vital needs during incarceration to set forth the best chance for successful reentry into local communities. “The citizens of our state need to ask themselves, ‘Do they want those who are formerly incarcerated coming back to their community basically at the same place that they left the community?’ Or do they want that person to have prospects for jobs, become a valued member of society, and the community to be a safer and healthier environment because they received the necessary help and support during their incarceration,” said John Owen, CEAP, CAS, of Recovery Consultations and Addiction Educator Director.

In an effort to reduce the rates of recidivism and to help with post-release success, the Mississippi Community Education Center through its Families First curriculum teaches life skills from parenting and anger management classes, to workforce development courses, and classes to receive an accredited high school diploma to currently incarcerated men and women at select county jails in Central Mississippi. “During the time we’ve taught classes to the incarcerated in county jails in central Mississippi, we see many who have burned all the bridges and do not have a support system or resources for help. Those incarcerated come with so many barriers that hinder them from being able to succeed once they are released and it is really heartbreaking. For me and the work of our group, we want to be the boots on the ground and help others. The goal for the classes is to help these individuals successfully reenter the community upon release,” said Donte Jones, Program Coordinator with Mississippi Community Education Center.

In April 2019, around 40 incarcerated men and women in the Rankin County Correctional Facility Trustee Program were honored in a graduation ceremony to culminate the completion of life skills and workforce development courses. “These men and women have changed our outlook on people who are incarcerated. We are excited to be a part of their next step in turning their life around and becoming productive citizens in our communities and with their families,” said Jon Weeks, Mississippi Community Education Center Field Educator. Mississippi Community Education Center’s employees taught parenting, fatherhood, life skills and workforce classes in conjunction with the current efforts underway in the Trustee Program by Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, Judge Kent McDaniel, District Attorney John K. (Bubba) Bramlett Jr., and Jon and Tomeka Weeks.

“By offering classes to help these inmates receive an accredited high school diploma free of charge, we want to lay the groundwork for success once they reenter into the community and into the workforce. To receive the best possible job opportunity, receiving a high school diploma can provide new opportunities for career choices. In addition to taking classes while incarcerated, Families First for Mississippi has resource centers located throughout the state of Mississippi, where they can complete required courses in computer labs,” said Kevin Myers, Community Liaison for Mississippi Community Education Center.

Mississippi’s prisons and jails are filled with people of all races, creeds and incomes whose futures ended because of wrong decisions and unrelenting habits. The months and years spent behind bars for many bring transformation, reflection and a desire to have a new start when they finish their sentence.

In addition to practical skills to help with reentering society, having hope and support from the local community is central to the core of success. Faith-based groups throughout Mississippi graciously share kindness and hope to those who are currently incarcerated. Emily Kiker, a volunteer mentor in Central Mississippi for incarcerated women with a Christian mentoring group, said, “The opportunity to spend time with these women is so very humbling and eye-opening to realize that it really could be any of us and just a choice away. They are able to have a smile on their face and good attitudes because even in the darkest and lowest place in their lives they know that God doesn’t abandon them. The joy they have is because they know God loves them and is with them.”

Reflecting on choices that led to his time incarcerated, Warren, a current inmate in the Mississippi prison system, finds hope in knowing that his past doesn’t have to be his future. “We all make mistakes; some are bigger than others. But the most important part of moving forward in your life is accepting responsibility and forgiving yourself and accepting God’s forgiveness. It’s extremely important to know there are people who are able and willing to help upon release because an inmate had spent the majority of his or her sentence feeling alone, discarded by society. Someone who’s willing to help alleviates a lot of the stress of reentry into the world because it’s so much bigger than the microcosm of the penitentiary. There are so many options, choices and responsibilities that it can be overwhelming. Having a support system can be, and often is, the difference between making life-changing decisions and recidivism,” Warren said.

The Mississippi Community Education Center looks to reduce recidivism and provide new opportunities to make the right choices for individuals as they are reentering communities. “We hope our work creates a positive ripple effect – that one thing we may do can help change the life of another in a positive direction. There is a lot of downstream results that no one ever dreams about, that by helping one person, can change the course of the future for good. We are truly honored to be able to work alongside the efforts of others in our community,” said Kenneth Magee, Special Projects Liaison for Mississippi Community Education Center.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS