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The Mission Behind Project Restart- Reducing Recidivism

When people have asked me why I’m passionate about the work I do or why I do what I do, I ask them, “why not?”.  Many of us have been blessed to have found our way in life most likely through a combination of intrinsic motivation and vision and some external guidance and assistance. Nobody is self-made including me.  Growing up, I saw so many people, primarily black males, make decisions that led to dire consequences, including incarceration, largely because 1. they lacked a clear vision for their futures 2. nobody told them what they expected of them for their future and 3. They didn’t get exposed to someone or something that inspired them.  I truly feel that these are the most critical missed opportunities that must be embedded into youth as well as adults.  Why?  Without vision and without these expectations vocalized, we look at our immediate environments for signs of what our futures should look like, and unfortunately, what we see modeled is not always healthy. 


I learned early in life that the more exposure someone has to healthy options for their life, the more likely it is that they will avoid pitfalls and pursue pathways that lead to prosperity and wellness. The more often a trusted adult conveys their hopes and expectations for a person’s future, the less likely it is that they will choose another path, because well…someone is counting on you to win. Someone spent their time and energy providing you with valuable insight. One person, one connection, one experience, one moment in time of feeling empowered and connected to a higher purpose can lead to a lifetime of success and generational change.


Put simply, the mission of Project Restart is to reduce recidivism and increase success outcomes among formerly incarcerated individuals through education, entrepreneurship training, mentorship and capital.  What is recidivism? The cycle of people leaving and returning to incarceration upon release. According to an analysis conducted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, 43% of people return to incarceration within one year of release and 82% return within a ten-year period. If people believe that the criminal justice (legal) system serves as a system designed for victims of crime to find justice and for offenders to face a consequence, then when someone has served their sentence, a second chance should be possible.


Our mission is to keep more people in their community and out of jail cells by assisting them in determining a viable pathway to long-term self-sufficiency.  When someone returns to their community from incarceration, they are faced with the many pressures of finding housing, employment, child custody or reconnecting with their families, paying restitution, securing transportation, meeting parole or probation demands, adapting to the new world, balancing freedom with restrictions and discipline and often, avoiding a high-risk lifestyle.  I have seen so many people return home to a minimum wage job at a chicken factory, warehouse or at a fast-food restaurant, which makes it impossible to meet the financial demands of life, we aim to ease this transition and connect people to game-changing people, programs and pathways.


Project Restart offers an opportunity for a person to open the doors to self-exploration initially so that they can determine how to combine their strengths, aptitudes, weaknesses, passions, education and experiences into a pathway that is appropriate for them personally.  Members learn critical life skills including budgeting, building and maintaining credit and banking basics.  In addition to these topics, we explore conflict-resolution, goal-setting, interview and presentation skills and the basics of entrepreneurship.  We introduce members to partner resources, which helps them to begin to focus on their post-program goals. Mentors check in with members weekly to ensure that they are aiming for appropriate and realistic goals and once they near the program end, they pitch for funding to be used toward education, entrepreneurship or employment-related costs. This can be a game changer.

 

The truth is, there are no winners when a crime is committed.  There are no winners when a crime is not committed, yet someone sits in a jail cell waiting for a hearing or is wrongfully sentenced and sent to prison. People do indeed need to serve time for a crime committed, but with the many inequalities in almost all systems from education to healthcare, hiring practices, banking, policing and the criminal legal system, an excessive number of Americans, but primarily Black citizens land behind bars.  The majority of these individuals will return home, it is up to us to provide the tools necessary for them to reintegrate and continue or begin to become a contributing member to society. This is true shared-value for all and Project Restart is here for it!


Visit www.projectrestartatl.org to learn more, partner, donate or apply for our upcoming cohort program.



“Knowledge is a resource that is only valuable if demonstrated or shared”- Tiffany Kirk

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