Faith Based Partnerships and Offenders – “UDC Sound Advice”
“Faith Based Partnerships and Offenders” features a discussion with a policy maker within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a Cluster Coordinator with CSOSA’s Mentoring Faith Based Program and an individual currently under CSOSA supervision.
Guests for this program:
- Cedric Hendricks, Associate Director, Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs – Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA)
- Reverend Kelly Wilkins, Cluster A Coordinator for CSOSA’s Faith Based Mentoring Program
- Tonya Mackey, an offender on CSOSA Supervision.
The show is hosted by Shelly Broderick, Dean of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law.
See http://media.csosa.gov for our radio shows, blog and transcripts.
Television Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2011/05/faith-based-partnerships-and-offenders-udc-sound-advice/
Shelly Broderick: Hello, I’m Shelley Broderick, Dean of the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law and your host for Sound Advice. In the District of Columbia, approximately 70% of convicted offenders serve some portion of their sentence in the community. As such, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (or CSOSA)’s effective supervision of convicted offenders provides a crucial service to the courts and paroling authority and is critical to public safety. Establishing partnerships with other criminal justice agencies, faith institutions, and community organizations is very important in order to facilitate close supervision of the offenders in the community, and to leverage the diverse resources of local law enforcement, human service agencies, and other local community groups. Approximately 2,500 men and women return home to the District of Columbia from prison every year. Among the challenges they face are the need for housing, health care, education, and employment. With me today to discuss how CSOSA meets these challenges are Cedric Hendricks, Associate Director, Reverend Kelly Wilkins, Cluster A Coordinator, and Tonya Mackey, successful returned citizen and day care assistant. Welcome.
Cedric Hendricks: Thank you.
Shelly Broderick: Let me start with you, Cedric. We go back many years. It’s so nice to have you on the show.
Cedric Hendricks: Thank you.
Shelly Broderick: And I don’t get complacent, we’ll get you back, too! Because you have a lot to talk about. Tell us what CSOSA’s mission is and what its reach is, because it’s hugely important in the District of Columbia.
Cedric Hendricks: CSOSA is a public safety agency responsible for supervising men and women on probation, parole, and supervised release. So we have about 16,000 individuals under supervision on any given day, and about 60% of them are on probation, meaning that they went to court, were sentenced, and went home, and then about 40% are on parole or supervised release, meaning that they experienced a period of incarceration and have come back home.
Shelly Broderick: Okay. And what are, and you know, it’s such a crime what we do, because when we send people to prison, we don’t provide education, we don’t help people get the housing they need, and we don’t, you know, we just don’t take care of business, and so often, people come back and don’t make it. And so that safety net that CSOSA is helping to provide is just critical to people being able to succeed. So how many folks work at CSOSA?
Cedric Hendricks: We have about 900 employees that work at the agency, and we’re a fairly unique federal agency because our mission is focused solely on the District of Columbia, and so the men and women that we supervise, for the most part, are residents here, and what we are trying to help them do is successfully complete their periods of supervision which can involve a few months to several years, and so what we see across the board, and this is what those who are on probation as well as those who have returned home is that, as you’ve indicated, housing, health care, education, and employment are the major challenges that they face, and so we’re very active in trying to partner with the District government, the faith community, and nonprofit resource and service providers to try and help those we supervise meet the needs that they have.
Shelly Broderick: Okay. Tonya, let me turn to you. You’re a returned citizen.
Tonya Mackey: Yes.
Shelly Broderick: You were locked up for how long?
Tonya Mackey: For about five years.
Shelly Broderick: And you came back to the District of Columbia?
Tonya Mackey: Yes.
Shelly Broderick: All set, you were ready to go, everything was perfect?
Tonya Mackey: Not -
Shelly Broderick: No, okay. It’s not surprising. How did you, you went to CSOSA, because you were required to -
Tonya Mackey: Exactly, for reentry.
Shelly Broderick: And tell me what advice they gave you.
Tonya Mackey: The advice they gave me was just some little simple things that, at first, didn’t sound so simple, but I knew I wanted my freedom and I wanted to be on the street, and so I did what was necessary. It took, it wasn’t all good, but at the end, I’m on top because I’m successfully completed, and through CSOSA, what they told me was, is that I needed to, I needed to get some help from some other women, and a lot of times, women like me never really wanted to communicate with other women because we didn’t, I didn’t think that we had anything in common but being a woman, but thank god that CSOSA sent me to a faith based program where I met Reverend Kelley, who is now my spiritual guidance, and I have a mentor from a program which is from women based empowerment, it’s a program called Empowerment for Women. Ms. Mignonne who teaches it, I got a whole lot out of it, and what they help me to do was deal with my mom, coming home in society, dealing with other women, dealing with getting an education, dealing with how to ask someone how you get housing, where to go and ask, believing in myself again and believing in God, and -
Shelly Broderick: Talk about your mom. Talk about your mom.
Tonya Mackey: My mom, who has been there with me for my whole entire life, she, I have always done, I felt like I have always done wrong to her, and now I’m trying to make a difference in her life and my life, actually my life first, and then her life, because that’s the only way I can do it. My mom is a cancer survivor, she’s been diagnosed, she just -
Shelly Broderick: She just found out.
Tonya Mackey: – just found out she was diagnosed with cancer, and I went on actually my first cancer walk with her last year, so -
Shelly Broderick: Wow.
Tonya Mackey: – to be, the grace of God, and I always say, to be, to God, because without him, I know that I wouldn’t be on this journey, and other people that help me along the way so far, CSOSA, and faith based led program.
Shelly Broderick: So you came out of all this in West Virginia -
Tonya Mackey: Yes.
Shelly Broderick: – and you came back, and one of the first things that happened is you found out your mom had cancer.
Tonya Mackey: Yes.
Shelly Broderick: Now is that the kind of stress that can really -
Tonya Mackey: – take me back out, or would have.
Shelly Broderick: That’s right.
Tonya Mackey: Would have.
Shelly Broderick: I mean, that’s the kind of thing that makes people go back on drugs.
Tonya Mackey: Exactly.
Shelly Broderick: As one of my friends, a drinker, says, what’s so great about reality? You know, right? So it’s one of those things that can just turn you upside down.
Tonya Mackey: Exactly.
Shelly Broderick: Reverend Wilkins. You met Tonya around that time.
Kelly Wilkins: Yes, actually, I did, and Tonya, when I first met her, she came to the group. It was Purpose Empowerment, women’s empowerment group. She came to the group, and she really was not participating that much. You know, she really didn’t want to be there. She didn’t really see the reason why she needed to be around a bunch of women because she had never really had any bonding relationships with women before, and so I would say about, let’s say two months into the program, they started in December, somewhere about February, we had that, we had awful snow in the District of Columbia, and I remember people in the group calling me saying, is there a way we can still meet at the church? And I’m thinking, like, no, there’s no way!
Tonya Mackey: We can’t get there!
Kelly Wilkins: So the facilitator who was just, she created the program, and she’s completely committed to it, figured out a way for them to talk on the phone, to really deal with whatever stresses they were dealing with, being locked in the house because of the snow, so I mean, awesome support for Tonya, and I saw her grow. I mean, she just grew so phenomenally from December, and she graduated in May, the first week of May. So yeah, it was a 17-week program at that time.
Shelly Broderick: What does that feel like? Was it hard at first?
Tonya Mackey: At first, yes. I was like, didn’t want to be there, I wasn’t going to participate, I was going to go pass and go through -
Shelly Broderick: Check it off your list.
Tonya Mackey: Right, right.
Shelly Broderick: Check it off.
Tonya Mackey: But after a while, you know, even after I finished the program, now I’m returning back. So it was real, it was a real blessing to me because now I have, like Ms. Kelly says, I have women that I can call, we can talk, we can bond. We can talk about anything that’s going on.
Shelly Broderick: What kinds of things?
Tonya Mackey: We talk about how we hurt our families, we talk about how we can make a difference in other people’s lives, how I can come back, and this right here is even a blessing to me, because I was like, oh wow, somebody’s calling me and asking me to be a power attraction to someone else, whereas I had low self esteem, low self worth, didn’t think that I could become better than what I am today, and I feel real good about where I am today, and where I’m at today is that I’m helping my mom, even with her cancer, the part of surviving, you still have to go back and get treatments, but I’ve been able to be accountable today. You know, I’m not stealing her money today. I’m not lying today. You know, it feels real good. You know, a lot of times, she still may have doubt, but that’s not up to me. As long as I stay on this path, I know that everything’s going to be all right, because she’s along with me to take care of her children today, that she had just started her business, her own day care business, so now I am an assistant to her, and it feels real good, and like I said, I graduated from the empowerment, women’s empowerment program, and I still go back, and I still constantly go down to the courts every now and again, and just to hear cases, and to find out how I used to be and how I can go back, and I don’t want to go back. I want to stay where I’m at today, and being here with you guys makes me feel so good, lets me know that I’m accomplishing something.
Shelly Broderick: It lifted me up, I’ll tell you that! I was a defense attorney for a long time, and I watched some of my clients go away for a good long period of time, and it’s heartbreaking, and sometimes you can feel like it can be a good thing, just put a stop in the action, get away, it’s not a good place you ever want to send anybody, but get to a place where you’re out of this environment and get it together and come back and make it work, and you know, for so many people, it doesn’t work because they come back and they don’t have the safety net and the support system and the help. You come back, you can’t get into housing. You can’t get public housing. Okay, where are you supposed to, oh, back in the old neighborhood!
Kelly Wilkins: Yeah, and let me just say, support is very critical to recovery and reentry. Without support, we can’t do it by ourselves. Even the faith, the faith based community can’t assist returning citizens by themselves. That’s why we need Court Services to be a partner with us.
Shelly Broderick: Tell me what the partnership looks like. How do you enter in?
Cedric Hendricks: We came to recognize at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency that we couldn’t do it by ourselves, and that we really needed to have solid partnerships with the natural resources, the natural systems in the community. There are many neighborhoods in the District of Columbia where you can find a church on every block, and all of these faith institutions have ministries. They’re about the business of serving their congregations and their communities in a wide variety of ways, and so what we saw to do was tap into that network. So back in 2002, we put out a call to the faith community through using a strategy called re-entry Sunday, and through having collaboration, communication with faith institutions, we were able to build a network that was willing to work with us, and from the congregations of those faith institutions, many men and women came forward to serve as mentors for those men and women who had come home from prison. So that work continues to this day, and we continue to match men and women who are coming home with mentors so that they can have someone to talk to, as Tonya indicated, many of our mentors are returned citizens as well, and we’re allied with faith institutions across the city who are opening their doors to be helpful in so many wonderful ways.
Shelly Broderick: That’s fantastic. So my first job at a college was at Lorton Prison doing group therapy with inmates. Now why did they hire a 21-year-old white girl? I don’t know! What were they thinking? But anyway, you know, I learned way more than I taught, and I had an opportunity to meet a lot of guys who it was clear to me didn’t need to be there. Guys who got in trouble when they were real young, just 20 to life, right? 20 to life is what everybody got. And they just did maybe 15 years of that, no education, no job training, just, and they were poets: smart, interesting, thoughtful people being wasted, and I think it had a huge amount to do. Actually in college, I worked at a halfway house on Euclid Street for inmates within six months of release. I was at AU, I didn’t know anything. But I was interested. I don’t know why. And then I ultimately went to law school and became a defense attorney. So this is a world that I care very deeply about, and I’m so glad to hear, because it really, it’s so important to put these families back together, because what happens is the kids don’t know Dad or Mom, and there, it’s just, it’s destructive forever if we can’t make this kind of connection and help you make it work.
Tonya Mackey: That’s what, actually, I was getting ready to say something on that part right there about you saying that a lot of times, the parents, you know, don’t really have the time to be there, and then they get subjected to some things you might have just one father, one mother trying to do the best that they can, and a lot of times, we make our own decisions too, you know, but when we get the help that we need. I know it’ll be a lot more than me that would do better than they’re doing. It’s just that we have to want to do the best that we can, and today, I’m just choosing, saying, I wasn’t great, I wasn’t good all my life, and that’s why I’m here saying that if we put forth the effort, we can be the best people that, we can be whatever we want to be.
Shelly Broderick: It’s a wonderful think. So Reverend Wilkins, talk about your church and how this came about for you and -
Kelly Wilkins: Okay. Well -
Shelly Broderick: We love your church, and we want to give them full credit.
Kelly Wilkins: I attend Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, which is on South Capitol Street SW. My pastors are Drs. Christine and Dennis Wiley, and at our church, I serve as the associate minister of social justice and reentry, and we also have a nonprofit, which is called Covenant Full Potential Development Center, and that’s really how we are able to work with Court Services is through our nonprofit organization, and our church, we have a, we’re a very progressive church. We have a very strong social justice stance in our community, so we, this is our area. We believe that helping the least of these is our calling and our job. We’re located in Ward 8, and Ward 8, which most of the returning citizens return home to Ward 8, a large portion of them, and it’s a lot of poverty in Ward 8, and -
Shelly Broderick: And not very many jobs.
Kelly Wilkins: Not many jobs -
Shelly Broderick: Not housing that -
Kelly Wilkins: That’s right.
Shelly Broderick: – folks have access to.
Kelly Wilkins: But they’re good people in Ward 8, and they just need the support, and they need the support of our faith community as well as our federal agencies, and I think advocacy is really at the top, and when we look at returning citizens, I think the environment, the whole attitude towards returning citizens has begun to change because of advocacy in the community. There are plenty of advocacy groups, and our church tries to partner with as many as possible so people know that, you know, just because you were incarcerated doesn’t mean that you’re not a person, that you’re not human, that you don’t deserve a second chance, that you did pay your dues, so it’s time to allow people to have a second chance, and so our church takes that stand as the lead institution for 7 and 8. When you say Cluster A coordinator, that means I actually recruit mentors and services for 7 and 8, but we do a lot of citywide events and services as well, and so part of our church’s stance on returning citizens is, not to be silent about it. Let’s not be silent about incarceration anymore. I think the, particularly, African American community has felt ashamed about incarceration, where you talk about the number of years that people went away, and we didn’t know the impact of that in our own families. It has exacerbated our families in our communities.
Shelly Broderick: It’s so true.
Kelly Wilkins: And so we didn’t know what the impact of that was going to be, but what has happened is, particularly the black church, but our faith institutions, have always had a strong social justice stance, and so incarceration wasn’t a part of that. So it is the tendency for churches and faith institutions to be silent about it. So we want our partners to talk about incarceration: the pain, the struggle of the family, the needs, all of that. We want to educate pastors and tell them, look, don’t be quiet about incarceration in your family. You have people in your pews who are returning home or families who are struggling because of a family member missing, and so that’s the kind of things that we want to educate our community and our faith partners on as well.
Shelly Broderick: It really, you know, when I was a little girl in Maine, there was a prison called Thomason Prison, and they had a store. They had people doing crafts. And so every time we went past there, we used to go into the store, they had prison inmates working in the store, you know, getting close to getting out, so I grew up thinking prisoners were all white, because in Maine, they’re all white, and they’re really good at crafts! I still have this set of three paintings that we got. I still have the stool in my kitchen made at the prison. My sister gave us each Christmas stocking gifts last summer, all from the prison, because that was my conception as a kid. You know, and because the prisoners I knew were getting close to coming out, it was just all very natural and, you know, we don’t do that. We send our prisoners a million miles away. They are completely hidden from society, and we don’t have that kind of easy give and take back and forth that I experienced.
Cedric Hendricks: Well, you know, one of the challenging things about the District of Columbia is that the District’s prison, Lorton, that you mentioned you worked at closed back in 2001, and all of our inmates were dispersed across the United States. And that has made it, I think, extremely difficult to maintain contact with your loved ones. So if you were locked up in Louisiana, Idaho, you’re not going to get visits from your family. It’s even going to be challenging to get phone calls from your family, and if you’re away for five years, as you’ve mentioned, and you don’t have regular contact with your support system, it does create, I think, challenges to come back, and so it is essential that we have mentors from faith institutions to kind of step in while folks are coming back trying to reestablish connections with the community, because sometimes families are slow to embrace their loved ones when they come home.
Kelly Wilkins: They’re mad. Sometimes they’re mad because you left them.
Tonya Mackey: – you took my stuff and, hey, I just don’t want to be bothered with you, I felt you have to prove a point to me, and I’ve been there, because that in and out of, coming out of jail and nobody believing in you because you said it over and over again, so when do you change? When do we stop? It has to.
Shelly Broderick: Well, you make a good point -
Tonya Mackey: But you have to make a community.
Shelly Broderick: First of all, Alderson is, what, six hours away? You were just right around the corner in West Virginia, but six hours, that’s crazy! You can’t, like, there’s no plane there. It is a trek! It is so hard.
Kelly Wilkins: And if you have children, how do they eat in the ride going down there, when they get down there, do you drive six hours, and then you visit an hour, and then you drive six hours back?
Shelly Broderick: And can you afford to stay in a hotel? Is there a hotel anywhere nearby? A motel or anything? No, it’s crazy. And then, they don’t lock women up very often unless they’ve got a history, so you -
Tonya Mackey: Yeah, I had a history.
Shelly Broderick: You did, in and out -
Tonya Mackey: In and out of jail.
Shelly Broderick: – locally and all that. So you had a mountain to climb.
Tonya Mackey: Exactly.
Shelly Broderick: You had a mountain to climb.
Tonya Mackey: Exactly.
Shelly Broderick: So talk to me about your mentor.
Tonya Mackey: Well, what happens is, a lot of times, when I go to my other program, Empowered by Women, we stay in touch, me and Ms. Mignonne, and me and Ms., my mentor, we stay in touch, Ms. Kelly, and what happens is, just like she called me today, and she was like, well, I need to kind of like, help me out. I’m in a spot. Not a problem, and that’s what it’s about, me being accountable today. Even though I was at work -
Shelly Broderick: I see that. I’m guessing you don’t wear that on Saturday.
Tonya Mackey: But thank god that I’m able to do that today! You know, thank god I was able, like I said, not just come home and get a job, because I still have some things that I have to do, but I’m just helping my mom, because like, she’s going through her cancer situation, which I know God already having, and I’m her only child to speak about it, so I took my mom, when I got locked up, she was locked up, and a lot of us don’t realize that until after we get a certain amount of clean time, people in our life who we can share the real gut level things about how you treated your moms when you was on the street, and then a lot of people don’t have their mom, so I’m real grateful today that I have my mom to talk to, and like I said, I talked to Ms. Willis and them, and Ms. Kelly, like, on a regular, because it’s like, I need people in my life to keep me on the right track when I need to stay outside of myself, when I get angry, and it feels like there’s nobody in my corner, you know, I’ve learned how to pray. I mean, it’s like, I talk to God, at first I was like, I don’t know how, I don’t know where, but I’m like, God, can you just help me. Next thing I know, there’ll be a phone call. I’m here. And that’s only through the grace of God, because, hey, I always wanted to become a positive role model. I just didn’t know how. So today, I’ve learned how to become a better person and a better human being.
Shelly Broderick: We’ve got about four more minutes. You’ve got two, and you’ve got two.
Kelly Wilkins: Okay, great!
Shelly Broderick: What else do we need to know?
Kelly Wilkins: Through the faith-based initiative, we look for faith partners. I’m always…
Shelly Broderick: You’re recruiting right now.
Kelly Wilkins: I guess, I’m always recruiting mentors, and I’m always trying to recruit services that will help our returning citizens -
Shelly Broderick: How do you become a mentor? Somebody who actually wants to, hey, you know what, I’d like to work with somebody like Tonya! I think I could do that! I like her, and I could do that.
Kelly Wilkins: Be a concerned citizen. We are looking for concerned citizens. We have a mentor training that, a mandatory mentor training that we ask that you go through. There’s the application and interview process, and then once you complete that process, then what happens on a regular basis is CSOSA refers clients to me. Their parole officers, or what they call Community Supervision Officers, refer clients to us, and we will match those clients with a concerned citizen in the community, and that person, just an hour or two a week, just to make sure they’re talking to their mentees and making sure, maybe they may have certain needs. We create a mentor plan for them, each individual in the mentor plan. So making sure their needs are getting met -
Shelly Broderick: I lied. We only have one more minute.
Kelly Wilkins: You only have one more minute? Okay.
Shelly Broderick: I’m going to give it to you -
Kelly Wilkins: No problem.
Shelly Broderick: And then you’re going to have to come back.
Kelly Wilkins: Okay, no problem.
Shelly Broderick: That’s what it’s going to have to take.
Cedric Hendricks: Well, let me just say, at CSOSA, what we’re after are people successfully completing their community supervision, and that’s why Tonya’s here with us as an example of what is possible. And so we want to let the community know that, in order to realize the success, we need help. We partnered with the faith community, we actively partnered with the District of Columbia government, so anybody listening who wants to join this effort, they should contact me at 220-5300, and we’ll pull them into the network of help and support.
Shelly Broderick: Absolutely fantastic. I am so glad, especially you, Tonya, but for both of you, just to have you on and let people know there are so many positive things going on, and there is a place to get help and to get support.
Tonya Mackey: There’s hope. There’s hope.
Shelly Broderick: If you are interested in learning about CSOSA and reentry programs regarding men and women returning home from prison, please visit CSOSA’s website at www.csosa.gov and click on the offender reentry link or call Cedric Hendrick’s at 202-220-5300. CSOSA and their faith partners, partnerships, are committed to assisting our returning citizens come home and stay home. They invite the public to assist them with achieving that goal. I’m Shelley Broderick. Thanks for watching, and please join me next time for more Sound Advice.