Let's Keep Hope Alive!
January 30, 2009
To Ms. Julie H. Weber, President of the 2008 Board of Directors; Ms. Charlotte Jorgensen, President; Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Kevin Downey, Ladies & Gentlemen!
Redemption as Key to a Functional Society
If there's any prayer central to much of our profession of faith, the Lord's Prayer reflects a great deal of it. I always think of the word "as" as its most powerful word. Remember: Don't forgive us more or less but "as" we forgive those who have trespassed against us.
I wish I could tell you that Bexar County's effort to pursue Re-Entry is simply to honor the Lord's Prayer's admonition. It is not that simple. Yes, we want to hear the message of the Lord's Prayer. But very importantly, we want to stop the hemorrhaging of money into our jail with precious little to show for it.
The Current Status of our Jails & Prisons
Think about it:
- We have a "one size fits all" approach to our jails and our prisons. For the most part, you're either in or out of a maximum security prison.
- The very thing your parents tell you as a kid is, "Tell me with whom you run and I'll tell you who you are. Yet, we take marginal or lesser offenders and in the name of our own security or penalizing these individuals and surround them with some of the worst influences you could find on God's green earth!
- Furthermore, when they get out of these institutions, we expect them to be functional!
- Every 400 inmates at the BC Jail costs us $8 million per year and we regularly have over 4,000 inmates in our jail. That's $80 million annually!
- And, over 80% will commit another crime and return to the Bexar County Jail.
- The U.S. has 5% of the world's population and 25% of its incarcerated population.
- Every month, 5,000 individuals leave the County Jail and Central Magistration. Another 1,700 leave State Prison every year and come back to Bexar County. Every day, 2 or 3 individuals leave Federal Prison and return to our community.
- Because of these sobering statistics and a very broken system, I have spearheaded the development of the Bexar County Re-Entry Council as a long overdue solution.
How We Will Help Cure a Sick Penal System
- It will serve as the community's think tank concerning re-entry strategies and projects;
- It will be responsible for developing a county-wide model for re-entry;
- It will help leverage existing community resources;
- It will recommend changes in legislation and policies that foster successful re-entry; and,
- It will identify and facilitate strategic collaborations between government, private and non-profit providers such as Crosspoint!
CRITICAL INITIATIVES OF OUR REENTRY COUNCIL
The following Committees will determine what under these areas we should work on:
- Workforce - Education of the Formerly Incarcerated
- We need to start within the institution;
- Family members must be included;
- Housing & Social Services
- our community and its neighborhoods have a responsibility for re-integrating our sons and daughters back into our community instead of shirking our duty and dumping it on other communities.
- Mike Lozito of State Parole has tried for seven years to get a post conviction facility here in Bexar County.
- Medical Issues
- As the major medical provider, Bexar County has a huge vested interest in prevention of disease and in the overall health of our workforce!
- This Session of the Legislature should address the Blue Warrant Bill passed last Session but vetoed by the Governor.
- HB 530---vehicle for addressing formerly incarcerated persons (Check this out.)