Gulf Coast Community Foundation awards grant from its Criminal Justice Reform Initiative
The Gulf Coast Community Foundation has awarded a $57,994 grant from its Criminal Justice Reform Initiative to Community Assisted and Supported Living Inc. (CASL) of Sarasota for the Transition Inmates to Supported Housing Project, the Foundation has announced.
“The Transitions program provides formerly incarcerated individuals who have a mental health condition with safe, supportive housing while they continue to overcome barriers upon release from incarceration,” a news release explains. The Foundation “has awarded a total of $214,000 to the Transitions program since its inception,” the release points out, “and the results have exceeded the goals. The average recidivism rate for formerly incarcerated individuals is 65%. The recidivism rate of those within the Transitions program is greatly reduced to 20%.”
Referrals for the Transitions program come from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Re-entry Navigator program, the release explains.
“This partnership between Community Assisted and Supported Living (CASL) and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office demonstrates that when people are given a hand up, they can succeed,” said Jennifer Johnston, director of community leadership for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, in the release. “Thank you to the CASL staff and all of the participating providers who are making sure that when an individual exits jail that instead of returning to homelessness, they have a chance at continuing to recover and rebuild their lives,” Johnston continued in the release. “This is a program that strengths our community, not just for the families involved but for all,” she added.
“Individuals released from a correctional facility have numerous challenges to overcome with few resources, leading to a repetitive cycle of correctional facility stays as well as costly hospital admission and shelter stays,” the release points out. “To increase possibilities for success, there is a community focus on addressing mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, and the need for job training and literacy,” the release says.
One recent participant in the Transitions program shared that homelessness, drugs, and constant visits in jail were the norm “until the Re-Entry Navigators found him and helped turn his life around,” the release continues. That individual — identified only as CD — related the following: “I’m able to stay financially independent and maintain a stable home. It’s hard being homeless. Once you’re housed, things get a lot easier.”
“The experience CD had through CASL has provided stability and life structure,” the release adds.
“I have a responsibility now,” said CD in the release.
Of the 19 enrolled participants in the Transitions program, 10 have moved into permanent housing, the release continues. “Twelve of the 19 participants experienced homelessness over their lifetime and all were unstably housed or homeless prior to their most recent incarceration. In all, the participants experienced a combined 36.75 years of homelessness,” the release adds.
“CASL is very honored to be part of and lead the transition initiative to provide housing and other support for individuals exiting prison,” said CASL Chief Operating Officer P.J. Brooks in the release. “Giving these individuals the opportunity to thrive and lead successful lives is a humbling experience,” he added in the release. “The outcomes we have seen have far exceeded our expectations. The fact that out of the 19 individuals we have received, only one has recidivated shows me we are on the right track. We are grateful for our partnership with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, especially the Navigation Team. We are also very grateful for Gulf Coast Community Foundation for helping provide needed support in this community,” Brooks said.
As a result of Transitions, the release explains, “The total public health costs of the formerly incarcerated are reduced dramatically.” The Transitions participants had total lifetime health costs of $916,220, the release says.
Since the participants entered the Transitions program, “the costs incurred have been reduced to $15,920,” the release points out.
Support that includes housing and case management, along with such basic needs as food and clothing, “assists individuals who were recently incarcerated to gain employment and successfully contribute to our community,” the release says. The alternative — crisis care and recidivism — “is far more costly, to individuals and to our society,” the release adds.
CASL is a 501(c)(3) organization with offices at 2911 Fruitville Road in Sarasota. For more information, visit www.caslinc.org.