Second Chance Bulletin - February 2012
We are excited to send this third edition of the NC Second Chance Alliance Bulletin, an e-newsletter providing updates of our growing movement to break down the barriers facing the thousands of North Carolinians who have criminal records. Below you will find information on the consolidation of several state criminal justice agencies into the Department of Public Safety, application procedures for certificates of relief, a member feature on The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, and Theresa Godfrey’s reentry story. Also, please visit our newly updated website: Second Chance Alliance Website.
As always, we are looking for updates from you—what’s happening in your communities and with your organizations to break down barriers facing those with criminal records? Pass along updates to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll include them in future newsletters.
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Governor Perdue Creates the Department of Public Safety
This New Year brought a dramatic reorganization of the state’s criminal justice infrastructure. By executive order, the Department of Correction, Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety were consolidated into one super agency, the Department of Public Safety. Governor Beverly Perdue signed Executive Order 85 in March 2011, but the consolidation and reorganization did not go into effect until January 1, 2012. According to the Burlington Times-News, the reorganization is the biggest shuffling of state agencies in 40 years. In the executive order, Gov. Perdue described the economy as a “challenge” and cited her responsibility to “spend tax dollars wisely and efficiently.”
The Department of Public Safety is now the state’s largest government agency with approximately 25,000 employees and a budget of almost $2 billion. The new agency is headed by Reuben Young, who had been the Crime Control Secretary. Mr. Young is a native of Tennessee and graduated from Howard University and the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Christine Mackey, press secretary of the governor, was quoted in the News and Observer as saying, “Consolidation will make state government more efficient, more streamlined, and more responsive to our citizens…this is about doing more with less—while maximizing results.”
North Carolina’s consolidation of state agencies is similar to the efforts of many other states responding to huge budget shortfalls. However, there remain questions as to whether the consolidation will save money while still providing the same level of services. The Governor has not offered estimates of potential cost savings.
Visit the Our Updated Website here: Second Chance Alliance
Coordinators of the Second Chance Alliance often receive calls from individuals looking for reentry-focused resources. While the Second Chance Alliance does not provide direct services to individuals, we do our best to connect individuals to reentry resources. At the same time, a primary effort of the Second Chance Alliance is educating the general public and community leaders across the state of the reach and costs of collateral consequences of criminal convictions. The Second Chance Alliance’s website is now both more reflective of this work and an important tool in it. Please visit the website to see regular updates of the Second Chance Alliance’s work, access an extensive collection of local and national reentry resources, and learn more about the reach and toll of collateral consequences.
Medicaid and Inmate Care: The implications of Health Care Reform for reentering prisoners
Ellen Whelan-Wuest is a second year master's student at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy and she is focusing her graduate research on the intersection of health care, access and prison populations. Specifically, Ellen is researching the expansion of Medicaid in 2014 under President Obama's health care reform bill, and the potential impacts this new policy will have on reentering prison populations. She is hoping to speak with programs that work directly with reentering prisoners or in health care access for under-served populations to discuss these issues further. If you are interested in speaking with Ellen, or have any suggestions for her research, you may contact her directly at email@example.com.
Guidance on Petitioning for a Certificate of Relief
This past legislative session, we celebrated passage of a bill establishing certificates of relief. The law became effective December 1, 2011. Eligible individuals may now apply for certificates of relief. Please visit Guidance on Petitioning for a Certificate of Relief for an overview of eligibility and application procedures for the certificates (the document is also posted under the Reentry Resources tab of our website). Information provided in this document is not legal advice. For legal advice, please contact your local Legal Aid office. If you have more general questions, please contact the Second Chance Alliance at (919) 861-2061.
We Lose An Ally in the General Assembly, But Gain An Ally at DPS
In our last newsletter, we celebrated the several legislative victories of 2011. Much of that success is attributable to the work of David Guice, who at that time was a state representative from Brevard County. After championing criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing recidivism, increasing safety, and lowering costs, Guice has left the General Assembly to shepherd the reforms along as chief of the Division of Community Corrections. He started his tenure as chief on January 1, 2012. The former republican legislator was selected to run our state’s probation system by Governor Beverly Perdue, highlighting the bipartisan nature of the issue of reentry.
Before his election to the General Assembly in 2008, Guice spent a long career as a probation and parole officer. As quoted in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, Guice said, “I know that by working together and constantly placing the people first we can once again make North Carolina the land where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.”
While the Second Chance Alliance is losing a great friend and advocate in the General Assembly, we are gaining a strong ally in a key position during a dramatic period of change. David Guice will no doubt continue to believe in and promote second chances in his new position. We wish him the best of luck and will surely find an occasion to drop by soon.
Read more here:
The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, based in Winston Salem, North Carolina, helps individuals with criminal records obtain the skills, guidance, and support they need as they return to North Carolina communities. The Project also provides assistance to individuals who have been wrongfully incarcerated, having grown out of Darryl Hunt’s determination to help others after serving more than eighteen years for a crime he did not commit.
“A successful transition for our constituents helps prevent them from returning to a life of crime and adds to the rolls of productive, tax-paying citizens in Forsyth County,” said Pam Peoples-Joyner, Executive Director of the Project.
The Homecomers Program offers an array of services, including job skills training; counseling for psychological, family, and substance abuse issues; job placement; and assistance with housing, food, clothing, and other needs.
The Project’s reentry program was formerly called the Ex-Offenders Program. “Homecomers” is meant to be a positive alternative to “ex-offender,” the description most often given people who have been formerly incarcerated.
“People who are rejoining their communities after serving their sentences deserve a second chance to change and become productive citizens, “said Darryl Hunt. “That change begins with the label we give them. Words are not neutral, and the term ‘ex-offender’ continues to follow them in a negative way even while they are trying to turn their lives around.”
A special congratulations to Darryl Hunt, who will receive an honorary degree from Duke University this coming May in recognition of his activism on behalf of all individuals entangled in the criminal justice system, especially those unjustly incarcerated.
Faces of Reentry: Theresa Godfrey
As an employment counselor and recruiter at StepUp Ministry, Theresa Godfrey splits her time between convincing individuals with criminal records that they have a genuine opportunity for change and convincing employers of the value of hiring individuals with criminal records. To do both, Theresa describes her own involvement in the criminal justice system and how her successful journey of reentry passed through that same seat two years ago.
“When people arrive at my desk, they are at their rope’s end,” said Theresa. “After listening to what they have to say, I share a little about myself so they can think, ‘if it can happen to her, it can happen to me.’”
Theresa was released from prison on January 1, 2010, having served 18 months for crimes motivated by substance abuse. At the time of her last arrest, she was alienated from her family, miserable, and ready for change. Told by an officer that she was being arrested, Theresa responded, “No, I’m being rescued.”
“At that point, I made the decision that I didn’t want to come out the way I had come in,” said Theresa.
With that mindset, Theresa’s last period of incarceration proved to be an opportunity to find out who she was.
“I went to prison, but there was a calm that went with me. I had always believed in God, but this time I was so far down and so alone that I had no choice but to really trust in my faith and grow it.”
A month after her release and as dedicated as ever to good, Theresa enrolled in StepUp Ministry’s job training and placement program. “They gave me encouragement and empowered me to go out and get a job.”
In her free time, Theresa began volunteering at StepUp to pay forward the support she had been given. Recognizing how strongly new participants responded to Theresa’s story and spirit, StepUp Ministry soon offered Theresa a position as an employment counselor and recruiter.
“Theresa is probably the most inspirational person I have ever met,” said Steve Swayne, Executive Director of StepUp Ministry. “She’s incredibly humble and passionate. She has a unique ability to communicate her past in a way that looks toward her future. Every day here, she’s using her own experiences to make a real impact in other people’s lives.”
“Very rarely do people get away from me once I start working with them,” Theresa said with a hint of satisfaction.
When Theresa talks to or on behalf of individuals with criminal records—whether as part of her employment at StepUp, a member of her church’s prison ministry, the project director of a transitional home for women, or a member of the Advisory Board to the Division of Correction’s Treatment for Effective Community Supervision Program—her message is the same: “your life is not over—change can happen if you are ready for it.”
Using her own life as an example, Theresa’s message is one of empowerment and growth. “People have a lot to offer—we made a mistake, but we do not have to be victims of the mistakes we made. We can take control of our present and our future by changing the ways we react to society and the choices we make.”
This past March, Theresa had a powerful and unique opportunity to reflect on her reentry journey when she unexpectedly bumped into the judge who sentenced her to 18 months imprisonment. He told her, “I was trying to save your life.” As Theresa shared with him details of her new life, both shed plenty of tears for Theresa’s many successes.
Read more: StepUp Ministry Website
Remember, share this newsletter with your friends and let us know about any events, best-practices, or highlights from your work by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your NC Second Chance Alliance coordinating team