What happens when someone comes out of jail or prison and has no job, no place to live, and no support system? The research says that over 60% will re-offend within three years. OAR works daily to reach the following goals:
• Make sure that recidivism rates for participants in our Intensive Reentry Program (IRP) stay below 15%.
• Give individuals the support they need to thrive in the community.
• Ensure that youth and adult Community Service participants finish their court-mandated community service hours and stay out of the criminal justice system going forward.
• Identify businesses that support second chances.
• Support faith communities and civic organizations to learn how to welcome individuals formerly incarcerated back home.
• Help community members in our area understand the impact of mass incarceration and the barriers that those returning from jail and prison face so that they will start holding politicians and key decision makers accountable for the laws and regulations they pass.
We have several strategies to meet the varying needs of our clients:
• Strength-based case management. Rather than starting with problem solving, we encourage participants to focus on what they want to do and be in the future, and what assistance they will need to reach those personal goals. This shift in our case management is yielding impressive results. The participants are in charge of their future; we are here to help.
• Involvement of participants in the program.
• Employment Support. Most of our reentry participants have experienced difficulty finding work because of their criminal record. We teach participants how to talk about their criminal past, but unless they get an interview, they never have a chance to show what they have accomplished since being incarcerated. We have a "Fair Chance Business Pledge" for local businesses to pledge their support for second chances.
• Education. We teach inside the Arlington County Detention Facility so that people can get to know about OAR and will feel comfortable coming to us once they are released.
• Links to State Prisons. We work closely with Coffeewood Correctional Center, the state prison that releases individuals to our area, so that they will know we are here to help them when they are released.
• Strong ties to Community Service Sites. We work closely with over 300 Community Service sites, as well as personally supervise Community Service participants at community events, so that we can maintain our 90% successful completion rate each year, while giving these individuals an opportunity to learn about our community through volunteer service.
OAR is celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2019. Since 1974, we have been welcoming individuals home from incarceration in Arlington County and the Cities of Alexandria and Falls Church. And, we have managed the Community Service program for the Arlington and Falls Church courts over these years. There are several core assets that have contributed to the sustained work of OAR:
• A strong and consistent financial commitment from Arlington County and the Arlington County Sheriff's Department. We have a line item in the County budget. This is practically unheard of in other parts of the country.
• A strong working relationship with the Arlington County Sheriff and her staff.
• Strong day-to-day working relationships with local, state and federal Probation and Parole officers.
• Strong day-to-day supportive relationships with the social service agencies of the three jurisdictions as well as all of the non-profits in the area working on homelessness, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, food assistance, etc. We are a part of the area's safety-net.
• The faithful support of over 100 volunteers, and another 200 volunteers that help with special projects. Almost all of our courses in the Arlington County Detention Facility are taught by volunteers who must go through a six-week process before they are cleared and trained to teach inside the facility. We carefully screen volunteers and train them for working with participants in our reentry program.
• Those Community Service sites willing to oversee youth under the age of 18 must now pass three (3) background tests at a cost of about $40 to them.
• An exceptional and consistent leadership team at OAR: one person has been with OAR for 18 years; one for 13 years; and one 8 years.
We have several quantifiable measures of our progress:
• Maintain a recidivism rate of less than 10% for OAR's clients in our programs. We are able to track the recidivism rate of those active in our Intensive Reentry Program, and it is 12%. The most challenging time for a returning citizen is in the first 60 days; the risk of reoffending goes down considerably after that. We want the data to analyze what aspects of our reentry program have the most beneficial impact.
• The number of participants who were able to find employment, and retain employment over at least six months.
• The number of volunteers who volunteer with OAR for at least six months and are able to establish supportive relationships with the participants.
• The successful completion rate of our Community Service participants – currently at 90%.
• The retention of our very capable staff at every level.
• The extent to which we reach our goal of having enough reserve to cover at least six months of operations.
In addition, we have several measures that are not easy to quantify:
• Participants helping other participants – in small and large ways.
• Participants who are able to share their experiences in meaningful ways with community members.
• Community Service participants who help sites with tasks that are not assigned, and who go back to help even when they have finished their required hours.
• Correctional officers who, in small ways, support the volunteers teaching in the correctional facilities.
Our 40 year track record demonstrates that we have been successful in helping those with criminal records find their way back to our community. The specifics include:
• Maintaining financial support from Arlington County, Falls Church, the State of Virginia and the Arlington County Sheriff's Department with no decrease, even during the economic downturn.
• Securing for the first time a grant from the City of Alexandria this year so we can hold office hours in the city, rather than having clients travel over to our Arlington office.
• Twelve faith communities who have joined the Northern Virginia Interfaith Reentry Collaborative that is planning training and monthly meetings.
• Sustaining a strong Advocacy and Leadership Program that has elected their fall leadership team and outlined their fall advocacy agenda.
• The hiring of an experienced fundraising consultant to work with staff and board on our 40th Anniversary Capital Campaign.
• Helping 27 people find employment in the first quarter of FY14.
• Maintaining a successful completion rate of our Community Service clients at 90.2% in the first quarter of FY14.
What we haven't accomplished is the recidivism study that depends upon data from the Virginia State Police, which will tell us how many of our clients have re-offended over the past two years. We also have not found the 20 or so businesses in Northern Virginia that we can depend upon to hire our clients. And, we have not succeeded in banning the box on job applications.