Newsletter of the Judicial Process Commission
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In This Issue
Hope.....Never Stops At all
Mentoring for JPC
Helping the Community One Person at a Time!!
Meet Kamilah Richardson
Saving the Criminal Justice System
Spreading the Word About JPC
JPC Agency Info/Mission/Vision

   

      January/February 2011


HOPE.....NEVER STOPS AT ALL

                                                            Dorothy Siegel            

 

Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all.  

                                                        Emily Dickinson

 

 The birth of a new year is like the birth of a baby- there is a fresh beauty that causes feelings of joy and excitement at what the future may hold. All things are possible! In spite of knowing that this lovely infant in a few short years will be a teenager, and knowing full well that we have seen more new years than we care to admit, joy and excitement still bubble in our chests and bring their offspring-hope.

 

As I look back on my nearly 40 years in reentry work and all the troubled men and women with whom we have worked, I know without question that there is always hope for change for any individual. Carrying that hope is necessary for all who work in this field. Sometimes we get to see the fruit; sometimes we plant seeds, having faith that they will grow in their time. The day-to-day interactions with some clients can be stressful and difficult but as we learn not to take it all personally, we can rest in knowing that all the services we provide stimulate growth. There is a bigger plan and all we must do is our part.

 

To all the staff and volunteers who have provided service this past year, I say thank you! Your work has great meaning and lasting effects. The hope that bubbles up in this New Year will surely bring good things for all of us at JPC.

 

 MENTORING - TO DO OR NOT TO DO

                                                Suzanne Schnittman, PhD

William Johnson

  For at least fifteen years I've avoided becoming a mentor for JPC.  I had ten very good excuses:

1.      Mentoring would take too much of my time, especially since there was a one hour a week commitment for perhaps a year or more.

2.      I would become a slave to my mentee, who would call me day and night.

3.      My mentee might not demonstrate adequate gratitude for my sacrifice.

4.      I don't have the expertise to guide a mentee through myriad re-entry steps.

5.      My approach to solving problems has always been from the policy, not hands-on, angle.

6.      The training - two days! - was too long.

7.      Once I signed up, I'd never get a break from the obligation, even during vacations.

8.      I can't solve the severe problems that ex-offenders face, so why frustrate myself?

9.      There is nothing special about my life that can serve as a role model to a mentee - we have nothing in common so they'll resent me.

10.  Ok, I admit it - I was a little bit afraid of going into the jail.

            On December 8, 2010 all of this changed. Having been trained by the JPC staff as well as deputies from Monroe County, I entered the Correctional Facility in Henrietta. With sweaty hands and a nervous demeanor, I joined the line that gathered for visiting hours at 1:30 that Wednesday afternoon. I waited among toddlers, girlfriends, husbands, and parents who congregated to meet with their loved ones for one of two hours that inmates are permitted visitors during the week.

            My mentee came out a bit later than the others. She was just as nervous as I, but we hit it off. My hesitations began to dissolve as we spent an animated hour getting to know each other. Now, it's a month later, and hard to remember why I ever faltered. Sure, I sound like a Pollyanna, a born again convert to the mentoring process after a short time, but for now I'm enjoying the honeymoon. To quote my mentee,

            "Suzanne, you and I are in this for the first time together. We'll learn the ropes and see if we're a match or not. So far, so good.  But I don't expect you to remain with me if you don't see progress and I know you'll understand if it doesn't work for me. Actually, I have a good feeling about it. I think we'll make it."

            Now, how are my excuses looking today?

1.      One hour a week is nothing when I see how I spend the rest of my time.

2.      My mentee does not and will not have my phone number. She will call JPC staff members in emergencies.

3.      It took three weeks before my mentee vocalized a thanks, but before then the thanks I received was the look in her eye when I walked in. She hasn't had a lot of folks in her life that she could trust.

4.      I don't need any expertise to help - the JPC staff knows all there is to know. I just tag along, offering an ear and a shoulder.

5.      My connection to mothers, a passion I have long held, will be more effective as I witness first hand how systemic changes can help mothers in my mentee's position.

6.      The training was flexible - don't assume you can't manage it.

7.      Whenever I leave town, my mentee feels supported by the JPC staff so does not need my weekly session.

8.      I can't solve my mentee's problems, only journey with her as she does this herself.

9.      The fact that I am successfully living a drug-free, crime-free life infused with my individual brand of spiritual life is all I need to be a role model.

10.  Going to the jail (downtown Rochester) and/or correctional facility (Henrietta) is a breeze, especially for a JPC representative. Parking is easy, deputies are cooperative, and inmates and their visitors are friendly. JPC's track record makes the facilities welcome us with open arms. And the people who live there? They've made mistakes, some serious mistakes, but deserve the "Second Chance" that the women's project affords.

The least I can do is pitch in my time.

 

I'll be back with a subsequent report as my mentee re-enters the real world and we continue our relationship.

 

Meanwhile, the next JPC mentor training is Jan 17-18.

Do you have any excuses?

(The Women's Project is a federal grant that JPC was awarded along with RIT to work with pregnant women and mothers of young children who are now or have recently been incarcerated. This grant began its second year on January 1, 2011).

   HELPING THE COMMUNITY ONE PERSON AT A TIME!!

William Johnson  Are you interested in learning how to effectively assist men and women exiting the criminal justice system?

Attend JPC's Faith Community Adult Mentoring Training

  

 Monday and Tuesday, January 17 & 18, 5:00 to 9:00

Next session will be held in April.

Call JPC office at 325-7727 for more information.

 

    MEET KAMILAH RICHARDSON    

                                                                                             Dorothy Siegel

 

Compassionate is the adjective that best describes Kamilah as she talks about her job at JPC as Senior Service Coordinator. She has been with JPC for 4 ˝ years starting in the Work Experience Program, then as one of the first to go through the Monroe County Transitional Employment Advancement Program (TEAP) and finally as a full time hire in her current position.

 

Among her duties are taking fingerprints, interpreting rap sheets, and applying for certificates of relief. She does intensive work directly with clients and with Monroe County Legal Assistance Center to help with all the issues that inhibit clients as they adjust to living and working in the community. She says, "I love my job and wouldn't trade it. I have learned so much and I see what life is like for people coming out of jail or prison, trying to find a job. Even though they have committed a crime, everyone deserves a shot."

 

She describes how meaningful it is to her when someone she has helped calls back to say thank you. Recently a woman called who was formerly a client who had many convictions. Kamilah helped her get her job reinstated with the Dept. of Health. Another grateful call came from a man who had earlier been kept from taking his nursing board exam. Kamilah helped him get a certificate of relief.  He took his boards, passed them and is now employed as a nurse. The most challenging part of her job is dealing with the clients who have serious mental health issues. They require a great deal of close attention and are sometimes resistant to having someone help them.

 

A typical day starts about 8 am with checking messages and answering the phone. She does fingerprinting; mailings; lots of paperwork with certificates of relief or good conduct and disposition requests; deals with clients and the general public. On Mondays and Tuesdays there are walk-in hours. Wednesday through Friday she schedules appointments to meet with clients one-on-one. Her day at JPC ends about 4 pm.

 

I asked if burn out is a possibility. "Absolutely!" she said emphatically. "It is in any job but especially in this one. I spend so much time listening to people's problems. It is a lot of work. I keep from burning out by leaving the problems here when I go home."

 

She shares her home with her fiancé and her four children. Her fiancé is also one of her heroes. He has struggled in his life and his accomplishments are "amazing". Her other heroes are her parents for the way that they raised her: to be respectful, to do your best and to help others.

 

In five years she sees herself doing exactly what she is doing now, with perhaps some expanded duties. "JPC is a wonderful place to come and obtain services. If we can't help, we will definitely find someone who can."

 

SAVING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

                                                                                                     Dorothy Siegel

 

 

Saving the Criminal Justice System

 

This article was written in the online magazine Stanford Lawyer by Joan O'C. Hamilton. The focus is the unique situation in the US caused by the economic downturn, the need to save money in any way possible, and the focus on the expense of running prisons in general and maintaining death row.  To quote:

 

..severe budget pressures across the country are inviting a new, nonpartisan conversation about criminal justice. Policymakers are eager for empirical data from academics and policy think tanks that may offer solutions-and also help answer this key question: Are we receiving an adequate return in terms of public safety on the huge investment we are making in law enforcement and incarceration? Together these factors have created a climate in which lawmakers are receptive to considering new ideas and reforms involving such issues as sentencing laws, the structure of courts, and breaking the cycle of crime-particularly with nonviolent offenders. The shift is quite profound. There used to be a theology that we don't engage in cost-benefit analysis when it comes to criminal justice-we just spend what it takes. Well, when times are difficult, criminal justice becomes a significant factor in budgets.

 

The article goes on to look at areas where change may be possible, such as specialty courts, sentencing, and better prison and parole programs. Any positive change in the criminal justice system benefits the clients of all reentry programs. And of course anything that invites nonpartisan conversation is worth being excited about. If you are interested in reading further, the full article can be accessed at stanfordlawyer.law. Click on Table of Contents Issue 83 and then click on Cover Story.

Check this link out!

 

 

PeaceWorks Rochester offers free services to the Greater Rochester Progressive Community.

The PEACE DIRECTORY has descriptions and contact information for local groups.

CONNECTIONS provides a way to learn more about groups in your interest area.

There is a PROGRESSIVE CALENDAR to promote events and check possible conflicts of dates when planning events.

Use the ANNOUNCE LIST as an email listserve to promote events.

 

Check this out at

 

 

www.peaceworksrochester.org  

Spreading the Word About JPC      Helen Cheves
 

 

Stay Tuned!

 

The JPC Communication Committee is working with Carvin Eison, the General Manager at Rochester Community Television (RCTV), Channel 15, the public access television station for the city of Rochester.

The Communication Committee has taped one segment with the station, and has plans for 2011 to tape monthly information programs. Watch our website for details.

JPC Information

The JUDICIAL PROCESS COMMISSION
 
285 Ormond Street

Rochester, NY14605

585-325-7727; www.rocjpc.org; email: [email protected]

We welcome your letters and Justicia article submissions by e-mail or postal mail.

VISION

The Judicial Process Commission envisions a society with true justice and equality for all.

We understand that in a just society, all institutions will be based on reconciliation and restoration,

instead of retribution and violence.

MISSION

The JPC is a grassroots, nonprofit organization that challenges society to create a just,

nonviolent community which supports the right of all people to reach their fullest potential.

We do this by: providing support services for those involved in the criminal justice system; educating the public; advocating for changes in public policy.

BOARD MEMBERS:

Susan K. Porter, Executive Director, CEO

Mary Boite, Chair, Fundraising Committee; Meeting Convenor

Gregory Bouie

Helen Cheves, Chair, Communications Committee

Jane Coons, Treasurer

Duncan McElroye
 
Isabel Morrison

Gail Mott, Secretary

John Mourning

Clare Regan (1927-2006), Editor emerita, Justicia
 
Fred Schaeffer, Chairperson
 
Suzanne Schnittman, Vice chairperson

Dorothy Siegel, Editor, Justicia

John Perry Smith
 

STAFF

Cynthia Consaul, LCSW-R, Women's Reentry Project, Therapist

Jeanette Gartland Creighton, LMSW, CASAC, Women's Reentry Project, Therapist/  Case Manager

Mavis Egan, Client Navigator/Project Evaluator

John Mourning, FCAMP Outreach

Kamilah Richardson, Senior Service Coordinator

Valerie White-Whittick, Mentor Coordinator