In her book, “The New Jim Crow”, Michelle Alexander discusses how an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rights—including the right to vote; the right to serve on juries; and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. The realities she discusses throughout her book suggests that visiting those “imprisoned” extends beyond the bars.
Steepletown’s JobStart training program is an employment-focused approach to improving the economic opportunities and outcomes for disconnected young adults, specifically low-income young men of color. These young men truly present untapped talent and skills which are critical to the success of our economy. Unfortunately they often experience several barriers to employment and other risk-factors, including having felony records.
Over the past few months Korey Anderson, Steepletown’s JobStart Coordinator, has been in the courtroom with different JobStart participants. As a result, three young men were not locked up but given an alternative sentence by the judge based on their participation in and performance at JobStart. Visiting those in prison happens on this side of the bars when efforts like these keep individuals from being locked up again.
In fact the incarceration rate over the past few years at the Kent County Jail is worth noting. While there are certainly many variables that impact the numbers cited below, efforts like JobStart need to be recognized as one of those factors:
- 2012-2014; average number of 22-24 year-olds that are booked annually is 3,230
- 2015 that number decreased to 2,855 and in 2016 that number decreased to 2,752; an average reduction of a 13% over those two years compared to the previous three years
- Biggest decline in annual totals is from 2012 (3,350) to 2016 (2,752) which is an 18% reduction in bookings*
*”Measuring What Matters”, 2012-2016 Kent County Correctional Facility Statistical Reports