Last Week MN Representative Samantha Sencer-Mura & Senator Zaynab Mohamed stopped into the ReUse Warehouse Store to quickly chat about their Bill to support Better Futures Minnesota.

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On January 30th, PJ Hubbard our CEO & President spoke in-front of the MN House Committee on Jobs and Economic Development about the work Better Futures does in workforce development. Tino Jones a Better Futures MN Alumni and ReUse Warehouse Store sales manager also spoke briefly about how Better Futures has made a major impact in his life. Check out the link below to hear the discussion. 

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On Wednesday, January 15th PJ Hubbard & Tino Jones got another chance to speak in-front of the Committee on Jobs and Economic Development on why Better Futures MN should receive funding for our workforce development program. 

Check out the video below:

Minnesota's mass incarceration problem 

While the national prison population is on the decline, Minnesota's numbers are rising. A May 2017 Vera Institute of Justice study found that Minnesota was one of just 15 states (out of 45 reporting) that saw both increased prison populations and rising costs between 2010 and 2015. In fact, Minnesota's prison population increased 4.1 percent during that five-year period, while costs increased 3.2 percent to $403.7 million.

Mass incarceration in Minnesota is also disproportionately impacting people of color. While whites represent 83 percent of Minnesota’s population, they make up 47 percent of the state’s prison population, according to the most recent data from Prison Policy. By contrast, African Americans represent only 5 percent of the state’s population, but 31 percent of the state’s prison or jail population. These systemic, racial disparities represent a troublesome, growing trend in our state.

What's more, Minnesota has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. Nearly 40 percent return to prison, a startling figure shedding light on a costly system that is ineffective.

According to a recent story in Minnesota Lawyer ("Tom Roy Looks to Data in Push to Cut Recidivism"), Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy is seeking new models—such as "cognitive restructuring" and work programs-—to help reduce the number of men who return to prison and stem the tide of the revolving door that is leading to mass incarceration in Minnesota.

For Roy, it's important to look at the data to discover a cost-benefit analysis that shows a real social impact. In other words, when it comes to looking at the prison population, data is driving the best next steps.

From the story:

[Numbers] can be useful in Roy’s legislative messaging—and he is more than willing to trot them out. But DOC digs deeper than many other states by ferreting out cost-benefit ratios on various inmate programs and services.

Some of those programs, the state says, have proven recidivism reduction rates and positive cost benefits per dollar spent, as measured through such factors as lowered medical expenses, decreased property damage and reduced victimization.

In December, Minnesota Management and Budget published a cost-benefit analysis using data supplied by the DOC. It indicates that a number of prison programs are “proven effective” at reducing recidivism, either through the use of randomized control trials or high-quality local evaluation.

At Better Futures Minnesota, numbers are important to us, too. We want our men to be successful, and we want to create real change to a costly system that is ineffective and keeps men out of opportunities to become productive citizens, fathers, employees, and neighbors. We believe in addressing core traumas and providing men with the immediate supports they need—like housing, workforce training, health and wellness engagement, and life coaching—to begin a new life.

While numbers don't show the whole story—the personal, human transformation of men we see every day—they do tell one story: Our integrated-care model works to reduce recidivism and help men walk on a path to success.

Our social impact: giving men a second chance while reducing costs 

In Minnesota, the cost of incarceration per prisoner annually greatly exceeds the cost of education per student. According to the most recent report from the Vera Institute, the government/taxpayer cost to educate an elementary/secondary student per year is close to $10,000. Yet the government/taxpayer cost to keep one inmate imprisoned in Minnesota for one year is $40,000.

By contrast, the annual cost for each participant at Better Futures is $17,388—more than half less of incarceration—and it provides the essential wrap-around services, such as housing, job training, health and wellness engagement and services, life coaching, and additional mental and physical health support that men need to transform their lives and begin building their own success stories.

The social return on investment at Better Futures Minnesota has been phenomenal. Each dollar investment per participant has resulted in $2.31 return on investment.

What’s more, the $17,388 investment in one participant results in $39,929 in benefits to local municipalities, the state, the federal government, taxpayers, and society at large.

These positive social and financial impacts are seen in wages earned, taxes and child support paid, and victims, prison, and Medicaid costs avoided.

Through this unique public-health intervention model, we can address the root causes of chronic poverty and homelessness, dependency on public assistance programs, racial disparities in physical and mental health outcomes, and the high rates of untreated trauma and illnesses that often lead to incarceration and increased recidivism.

Learn more about our model and how you can support the men we serve and change the costly system of mass incarceration.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union released its report on the successes of corporate policies geared to giving formerly incarcerated Americans a fair chance at re-entry. The results show what we at Better Futures have known all along: Second chances are good for people, good for communities, and good for businesses.

Today, 70 million Americans—one in three adults—have a criminal record. These are people who have or will reenter their communities and need gainful employment to build stability and find success after incarceration. The report shows that when companies reduce barriers to employment and implement fair hiring practices for people who have been incarcerated, it's a benefit to companies, communities, and society as a whole.

By denying employment opportunities and advancement, businesses hurt their bottom line and play a role in perpetuating the cycle of poverty and mass incarceration.

From the report:

A lack of stable employment increases the likelihood that an individual will return to jail or prison; research has found that joblessness is the single most important predictor of recidivism. The impact on black and Latino communities has been particularly destructive.Pervasive racial disparities in the criminal justice system exacerbate bias in the employment arena. For African Americans, the adverse effect of a criminal record on getting a job interview is 40 percent greater than for whites with similar histories.

What's more, the report finds, business leaders are in a strong position to make a positive difference for these individuals and their communities. By expanding the hiring pool to include people with criminal histories, companies can improve their bottom line, reduce recidivism and incarceration costs, avoid discriminatory practices, and increase public safety.

At Better Futures Minnesota, we work hard to be an example of a model that provides formerly incarcerated men with the job preparation, skills, and confidence needed to excel in the workforce. We know that poor communities have a disproportionate number of its members incarcerated, and that one significant strategy to reducing poverty in this country is to develop practices that are aimed at full employment for every community. For us, that includes strategies to target formerly incarcerated individuals.

What's more—access to a job, to supports like life coaching, health and wellness engagement, and support from people in the community who believe in second chances—has shown to have a dramatic impact on reducing the likelihood the men we serve will return to prison for re-offending. In fact, more than 90 percent of our participants of the last two years remain out of prison--a number higher than the 40 percent average for a similar population who doesn't receive the same supports.

We are buoyed by this report, and by the forward-thinking businesses and organizations working to reduce barriers to employment.

Learn more about how you can support Better Futures Minnesota and hire the men we serve who are building their own success stories!

Better Futures Minnesota engages men who have had a history of incarceration, homelessness, poverty, and untreated mental and physical health challenges to help them achieve self-sufficiency and a better future for themselves and their communities.

Ronald shares his story about how Better Futures Minnesota helped him walk a positive path in life.

How did Better Futures help you transition in the first few weeks?

I got right into all of it right away. They didn’t have to say anything. I just had to commit. I had to get integrated. I got a job the second week I was in the program, matter of fact.

What was your day like, work-wise?

I got a job cooking at a company that makes a lot of frozen foods. For me, it was just a stepping stone, because I am trained as a carpenter. But I eventually got there, too.

I did deconstruction for Better Futures. I learned how to tear things down very carefully, saving 80 percent of the materials. That was good training. And I work in a cabinet shop now. I get to do cabinetry work that I like.

What are some things other things that Better Futures taught you?

I learned about patience. Humbleness. And I also had to learn that extra drive, because I don’t want to be a pawn piece. I also learned about manhood. I learned to stop chasing the old idea of manhood. I learned it was different than what I thought it was.

What did you learn manhood was, for you?

I learned it’s about responsibilities. About humbleness. About respecting yourself. Because out of respecting yourself, you will respect others, too. You have no choice in that. We all need each other. That was a huge thing for me to learn.

How does the Better Futures model that focuses on compassion and life coaching continue to help you today?

I have my own place now. My son and I just moved into a duplex. Every day I learn something about being a father. Just little negative behaviors that I can’t do. Something as small as leaving some papers on the floor. They start adding up. And I have to be a role model for my son.

What advice would you give people who are just starting the Better Futures program?

I would remind them that they are just starting to grow. It will be hard. But without friction or agitation, you won’t know you are advancing. If you’re not having difficulties, then you’re not growing. There are times when it feels like it’s not going to stop, but you have to keep going. That’s how you advance.

Mass incarceration is a growing problem, and it's a growing problem in Minnesota. As MinnPost reported in June, harsher penalties for DWIs, drugs, and other offenses caused the state’s prison population to spike in recent years.

From Minnpost:

Since 2000, the rate of incarceration — the number of inmates per 100,000 residents — went up 42 percent. During that same time period, the crime rate in Minnesota dropped significantly. According to a study from the Brennan Center for Justice, the rise in imprisonment didn’t have any significant impact on the crime decline.

This integrated and innovative approach has been used by Better Futures Minnesota since 2007, and we are proud to say that a community-based, compassionate, integrated-care model has shown real results. For the men at Better Futures MN less than 20 percent are returning to prison for a new crime within a year of release, a rate that is about three times lower than other documented results. What's more, 86 percent of the men living in housing financed by Better Futures are employed or in school. Since our inception, Better Futures has employed more than 550 men in our lines of business.

We believe change is a collaborative exercise. It takes a coordinated team working together to rebuild a life. Through trauma-informed integrated care, we seek to help men transform their lives and build a better future for themselves, their family, and their community.

To learn more about Better Futures Minnesota, Visit our website.

Better Futures Minnesota seeks to disrupt this growing public health crisis through effective, compassionate practices and services that work to avoid victimization costs and provide men with the opportunities they need to become productive citizens, fathers, employees, and neighbors.
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