Last week I was in West Palm Beach at the Reentry Summit: Inspiring Change. My greatest inspiration were the speakers with lived experience, Tonier Cain brought us all to tears and laughter while reminding us to ask “What happened to you?” The change in her life came in dialogue with a therapist about the trauma she had experienced and a one year course on being a mother. “Where there is life, there is HOPE!” Tonier asked us, can you see the woman I am in the photo of me, the drug addict… what if we had eyes to see potential? From almost every speaker came the realization that we can hire referees and enforcers, but what we really need are coaches and trauma informed care providers.
The Reentry Coalitions are examining barriers and gaps in services. I was struck that the most glaring barrier could be service providers that don’t do their jobs, listen and respond. Every returning citizen needs a plan that reflects their greatest strengths and personal risk factors. There are some risk factors that are static, that can’t be changed, which includes everything that has happened in the past. Other risk factors are dynamic and can be changed, but that kind of change doesn’t happen by accident. It takes time to change thought patterns and ways of doing things. It is important to have prosocial activities to take the place of antisocial activities, to have a job rather than being unemployed and to have a place to live rather than being homeless.
On the way home I watched Oceans 8; criminal thinking at its finest, Hollywood style… a well-thought out and perfectly executed plan that brought better results than promised. What if we as communities used the same precision in forming our reentry teams? I took out a piece of paper and envisioned the perfect team for Fairbanks. Who do we need? Our team would have champions, a project coordinator, a forensic psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, a criminologist who loves data, case managers and forensic peer recovery specialists. Together this team would prevent recidivism and break the generational ties that lead to incarceration.
We can dream!