This February, the Cornerstone Builders program started services funded by a new grant earmarked from the criminal justice reform savings to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. The goal is to provide resources to decrease the prison population and ensure that formerly incarcerated individuals receive the appropriate wraparound services so that they do not return to prison and can become productive members of society after reentering the community.
Until recently, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate not only in the country but also in the world. Due in part to the advocacy efforts of Ronnie Moore, Community Coordinator, and CCANO staff, Louisiana has been able to move the needle on incarceration, and this grant will make a significant impact to the future of the state. CCANO will serve 60 clients in Orleans Parish, 60 in Jefferson Parish, and 15 to 20 in St. Tammany Parish. These clients have been identified as medium to high-risk offenders with a high risk to recidivate, have previous drug and mental health issues, and have spent 5-40 years in prison.
Led by Stephanie Mills, CCANO’s cutting-edge approach is currently a unique one. Looking at the factors that have historically caused offenders to recidivate, the team has developed strategies to address those issues while clients are still incarcerated. This profound difference means that offenders will have resources within the first 72 hours of their release, which is a crucial time when many formerly incarcerated individuals recidivate. With this approach, our case managers will develop a plan with the inmate to address specific needs like family support, medical care, transportation, substance abuse treatment, securing an ID, and more while they are still imprisoned. Family support is a huge component of an individual’s success after prison, so our case managers will arrange bus trips for family members who have previously been unable to secure transportation to visit their loved ones.
One of the most pressing issues that causes recidivism is lack of employment, which the program addresses head on. Upon release, clients will immediately have a part-time, temporary job with CCANO, which has been arranged with partner organizations through New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and St. Tammany Parish. While receiving hands on job training, clients will work with case managers on workforce development skills, such as resume writing, interview skills, and applying to jobs. In addition to assisting the client to find full time employment once the 100 hours of employment with CCANO ends, the case manager will also be visiting the clients’ site supervisors to review their work and determine how they can improve their soft skills.