Each year more than half a million prisoners are released back into communities. Many of these face significant employment barriers, substance abuse and mental health challenges that reduce their ability to smoothly transition back into society. As a result, the criminal justice system seems like a revolving door of re-arrest, imprisonment, release to community and re-arrest. Given the challenges faced by newly released individuals, coordinated services aimed at reducing recidivism and increasing economic independence are crucial.
Funded by the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance (OFA), there are dozens of programs across the country focused on meeting the economic and social needs of reentry populations. These grantees are funded to provide a diverse set of services, including job training and placement, referrals for housing, mental health and substance abuse, connections to healthcare and effective parenting and family stabilization. One such program is the Center for Self-Sufficiency (CFSS), a Wisconsin-based responsible fatherhood grantee funded to provide economic and social support services to families. CFSS provides case management, substance abuse treatment, behavioral health services, family strengthening activities, life coaching, educational services and employment services, including job readiness, job placement and retention.
Since 1984, David Garcia*, a Milwaukee native, has been cycling in and out of the criminal justice system. Even though David had had some success gaining employment and creating a stable family, a few bad breaks left him connected to the criminal justice system and limited his future life options. It wasn’t until a year ago, when he lost his parental rights to three of his children, that he fervently sought a way out.
Garcia began participating in CFSS responsible fatherhood and economic stability programs and received training on the Walking the Line curriculum during his sentence at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. Garcia, a self-professed loner, benefitted from the lessons, which taught him about effective communication, establishing stable relationships, making decisions and navigating re-entry activities and training programs to gain additional soft and hard skills to achieve economic and social independence. After his release in January 2014, the CFSS Transitional Case Manager Tanya Williams assisted Garcia with interview preparation and provided him with professional attire for his interviews through the Milwaukee Women’s Center’s Bottomless Closet.
Today, Garcia’s life is changing in many significant ways and his voluntary participation in the Fatherhood program and men’s’ support group have assisted him in improving his fatherhood practices and helped him enhance his skills which would be useful as he seeks to get financial aid and pursue a Bachelor’s program focused on Manufacturing. Garcia is actively seeking employment and thanks to his determination, he has secured three interviews, including one with Masterlock which he believes could help him get back on the right track, while providing the stability he needs for himself and his family, all while searching for employment. Once stable, Garcia hopes to give back and volunteer for programs like the Center for Self-Sufficiency to advocate for former offenders and make a difference in the lives of others.
The Center for Self-Sufficiency is an Office of Family Assistance grantee. Learn more about the Center for Self-Sufficiency here. Learn about other Office of Family Assistance funded Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs by visiting https://hmrf.acf.hhs.gov/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Office of Family Assistance
*Name has been changed to protect privacy