Please join us at USC on Saturday, January 16th as Sister Teresa will take part in County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Empowerment Congress Summit. Please register here. This year the Safety Committee will inspire with proven approaches to adult re-entry. There’s a difference in the strengths and challenges of the long term incarcerated. For the most part, they don’t have addiction problems and don’t need to be “contained” in a closed facility. In 2014 almost 800 people with life sentences were paroled in California. Less than 8 will return to prison according to CDCR statistics. Lifers found suitable for parole must prove their worthiness and demonstrate a history of non-violence, personal insight and remorse. They must take advantage of whatever program is available in prison for personal growth. Some come out with 50 or more certificates.
Many of our residents have been to the parole board more than 10 times, being told to wait three to fifteen years between reviews. It’s easy to lose hope in such a system. But through changes of policy in Sacramento and Sister Teresa’s hard work convincing other organizations to serve those we cannot, the number of lifer parolees has greatly increased and the number of organizations openly requesting to serve lifers has more than tripled. Another requirement for this latter day pipeline to freedom was Sister Teresa convincing the Board of Parole Hearings to allow those with The Francisco Homes in their parole plans to enter specific other programs like Amity Foundation and Health Right 360 when our homes are full. Now, people go to the parole board with several letters offering transitional housing. Sister Teresa played a major role in this evolution.
But transitional housing is much more than a roof at TFH. Each resident begins with an individual service plan. Many have completely lost their identity in society. We help them find their birth certificate and/or military identification. Many times social security numbers have been stolen and used by others. Sometimes that person is dead with death benefits paid. It can be a real mess.
There are also those whose approved plans have fallen apart and a surprising number aren’t accepted by other programs. Sister Teresa always keeps at least one spot for this most vulnerable population; those not served by anyone else. After all, it’s a ministry, not a business.