Post-Prison Education Program 
10th Anniversary Newsletter
10th Anniversary Memories ~ the good, the bad, exciting, and heartbreaking
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005 at 3:28 p.m., the Post-Prison Education Program began with an email from me to Michael W. McCann, then the Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship at the University of Washington:  "the primary issue that prompted me to think in terms of contacting you could justifiably be put under the heading of 'saving lives.'"  I had just met a 47-year old man"All at one time, one guy is dealing with probation and parole, obtaining gainful employment, having family members in jail, manic-depressive illness, etc., etc....  I just kept thinking 'this guy is so smart'; 'he has so much potential'; 'getting him into a community college or UW could not only center his life, change his life, but save his life.'"  
One month later, on Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, Kim Ambrose, Robin Hennes, Mike McCann, and I met at the University of Washington Faculty Club and agreed to establish a Working CommitteeOn Wednesday, March 22, 2006 -- 491 weeks ago -- more than 20 of us sat down at the University Of Washington School Of Law with a 21-item agenda. At the end of the day, we voted unanimously to incorporate, win tax-exempt status, and strive to help former prisoners and their families build lives worth living.
As a whole, we were the epitome of naive.  We had not thought about serious mental illness. I had never heard the diagnosis "schizoaffective disorder," and knew nothing of comorbidity.  I had no clue as to Washington State and U.S. Department of Justice rates of recidivism, and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought any politician would ever allow people to die rather than challenge politically tough issues which might put their reelection at risk.  We've learned as we've grown.
Highlights from the last 10 years....
  • In October 2007, our first graduate was honored for having finished the Washington State University nursing program with honor and accolades.  Later that year, our second graduate walked the stage at Clover Park Technical College.  
  • In 2009, for the first time we were forced to hire attorneys to defend a student against false charges. We made those hires, simply stated, to reject those institutions and individuals who would deny humanity.
  • The same year, I attended my first funeral due to drug overdose (heroin).  
  • On Friday, September 25th, 2009, Google, Inc. and Googlers turned the lives of our applicants and students upside down with an invitation to be part of gift-giving programs which have now spanned seven years and enabled the Post-Prison Education Program to meet its Mission of "saving lives."
More highlights from our "First Ten"
  • On Friday, January 15, 2010, researchers from the University of Washington led by David G. Lovell, Ph.D., MSW, reported to the Washington State Legislature that after four years' work our non-profit had no one recidivate -- not one participant.
  • Six months later, on Saturday, July 10th, Doris Buffett's foundation, The Sunshine Lady Foundation, Inc., entered our lives when their Director wrote, "your organization is of interest to us."  Like Google, Inc., and Googlers, The Sunshine Lady Foundation's support of our work has been crucial, life-sustaining.
Which brings us to the present, the 10th anniversary of when we began work.  Next week, leading researchers in the fields of sociology and criminology will announce results of their assessment of our Phase II Outcome Data, including the number and percentage of our participants who have successfully established themselves "on the outside."  We are confident that they will report that since 2006 we have consistently saved lives, offset humanity denied, helped families to build lives worth living.
Going forward, I am thrilled we have an extraordinary, involved, super-dedicated Board of Directors.  We have a staff growing not only in numbers, but in expertise.  And we are now moving into Phase III and looking forward to December 2018, when we are confident researchers will report our success helping an even larger population of former prisoners to reintegrate and find successful, connected lives.  Phase III of our work will produce evidence that smart policy can simultaneously save big dollars, reduce crime, and structurally rebuild families.  Our targets for that evidence are departments of corrections across the country, the Washington State Legislature, the public...and last but far from least, you, our first-line supporters.  We invite you to join with us as we pursue this mission and continue to change communities across our entire State.
Thank you,

Ari Kohn
Ari Kohn
Founder and President
Some snapshots of our past
Our First Graduate
Becky Heffling, R.N.
Candidates Respond to Opportunity
Ari Kohn in our first office surrounded by applications and student files. 
Published Engineer
Chris Jones, Electrical Engineer and co-author of "Considerations for an Intra-Solar System Laser Satellite Data Network," Penn State Department of Electrical Engineering.
New blog!!  Ari Kohn Unhinged ~
Our Vision of the Future:  Fiscal Responsibility, Safety and Human Dignity
The vision of the Post-Prison Education Program is simple:  dramatic, systemic reform of "corrections" in Washington State--sharply reducing crime, taxpayer expenses, and the inter-generational cycle of family dysfunction that plagues so many of our neighborhoods.
We envision a corrections system in Washington State which actually serves the interests of the citizens of the State.  We envision a system that equips prisoners for success upon release.  This vision contrasts starkly with our State corrections system today. The current approach to "correcting" prisoners ensures that all former prisoners endure indefinite suffering and marginalization, neglect of emotional needs, and disregard for psychological disabilities and chemical dependencies.  As a result, the current model ensures ballooning costs for taxpayers...costs that include more crimes, more court and legal expenses, and years of additional incarceration costs.  
Why reform the corrections system?  Because it imposes a stunning burden on State citizensThe biennial budget of the Department of Corrections (the third-largest agency in the State) alone comprises more than $1.7 billion.  Further, many people do not realize that the current method of "corrections" results in more than 50% of releasing prisoners returning to prison, most for crimes committed within just a scant few years after release.  These are crimes that largely could be avoided.
In other words, more than half of Washington State's prisoners end up back in prison.  And in all likelihood, assuming not all are arrested, an even greater percentage returns to "bad old ways." What kind of "corrections" is this?  How are you served by programs that act only to drive former prisoners to the brink of emotional, psychological, and financial breakdown?  How do you benefit from policies that ultimately force former prisoners back into the only modes of survival they can find: substance abuse and crime?
This is a titanic failure!  As a State, Washington is failing neighborhoods which seek better security in place of more crime.  Washington is failing taxpayers who want to direct billions of dollars toward, say, K-12 schools instead of incarceration costs.  Washington is failing those who have offended, served their time and deserve an even shot at survival--the same as anyone else.
Day in and day out, the Post-Prison Education Program works with the hardest-to-serve former prisoners (people who haven't a chance of survival on their own) to help them find their way.  And year in and year out, our participants overwhelmingly demonstrate that they can achieve independence and success, at radically lower cost than it takes to simply house a prisoner.
Why does the State of Washington persist in its current inmate-bashing policies when evidence exists that a different approach to "corrections" would result in far fewer than 51% of prisoners returning to prison...and in turn, dramatically lower crime rates, policing costs, court costs, and costs of housing inmates???
The answer:  Legislative Cowardice.  Legislators are afraid to appear "soft on crime."
At the Post-Prison Education Program, our goal is to ensure that legislators see the light and make critically needed systemic reforms.  Our strategy is to make it breathlessly easy for them, providing ample "protection" from criticism in the form of unassailable data, data demonstrating the value of education in a true program of corrections.
Stay with us!  The entire corrections sector is poised for renewal and new birth across the whole of the United States and we plan to be (very active) midwives.  Keep up-to-date and join the battle.  We are launching a new blog today that will put you "in the best seat in the house." See you there!

Peter Heymann
Peter Heymann
Board of Directors

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