Milwaukee Reentry Council and Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development
Launch Initiative to Support Reentry Success
July 12th, 2019 - On May 1st the Milwaukee Reentry Council, a subcommittee of the Milwaukee Community Justice Council, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, launched a new initiative titled “Home to Stay”. Home to Stay is a monthly resource-rich event to support the unique challenges individuals and their families face when returning to the community from periods of incarceration. Following the First Wednesdays model from Lucas County, Ohio, Home to Stay occurs the first Wednesday of every month from 11am-2pm. Home to Stay brings together employers and resource providers covering a wide range of services including: housing resources, healthcare resources and insurance, drivers license recovery, child support, expungement services, GED/HSED programs, literacy services, training programs and other support services.
At an October 2018 Marquette University Conference, “Racial Inequity, Poverty, and Criminal Justice”, Bruce Western discussed his findings from his new book, Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison. Western argues in Homeward that income support, healthcare, and housing are the three most urgent needs for those returning back to the community. This has since inspired the Reentry Council to start a reentry healthcare task force, a reentry housing task force and implement Home to Stay.
The Reentry Council is currently co-chaired by Conor Williams, Economic Policy Analyst at Community Advocates. The goal of the reentry council is to reduce recidivism by 50% within 5 years by broadening and deepening community engagement and commitment to this work. In relation to reentry success, Williams states, “To love is to serve and to serve is to meet people's needs. As a community we are wise to reach out to those coming home from incarceration so they are successful to their benefit and ours.” Home to Stay hopes to address a critical gap in supporting individuals in their return to our community.
Often individuals have to travel to separate offices or departments to find a job or connect to housing or healthcare resources which can pose another barrier to many individuals who don’t have access to a vehicle or another form of reliable transportation. The Home to Stay initiative is bringing all of these services together into an accessible one-stop shop at the same time each month to support successful re-entry and reduce recidivism. This collaboration allows for resource providers to also connect with one another to share information and break down silos.
The Reentry Council has been working closely with probation and parole officers so they can share this resource with the individuals they supervise. Data from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) shows that the latest three-year follow-up recidivism rate is 32.6% (meaning 32.6% of those released from prison in 2012 recidivated between 2012 and 2015). DOC data also shows that the first few months post-release are critical to an individual’s chance for a successful transition to their community. Over half of the 32.6% who recidivated between 2012 and 2015 did so in their first year.
Overall, the highest amounts of re-offenses occur within the first three months after leaving prison. Making sure Home to Stay is communicated to families and organizations that see returning individuals in their first few months post release is critical for the Reentry Council. Attending Home to Stay can also count as a required point of contact for individuals on supervision.
The Reentry Council has since hosted three events with an average of 75 participants and 35 vendors. Again, Home to Stay occurs the 1st Wednesday of every month with the next event set for August 7th from 11am-2pm at Employ Milwaukee (2342 N. 27th St.).
If your organization or business is interested in participating or supporting the Home to Stay Initiative please connect with us at [email protected]. For the latest information, please visit our website and Facebook event.
You can also check out this recent article about Home to Stay from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.