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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable

August 2016

Advocacy, Education and Collaboration: Final Report on Addressing System Barriers to Employment Released

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) and the Reentry Roundtable hosted three forums this spring focusing on addressing system barriers to employment for persons who are homeless and/or have criminal backgrounds. The results of those conversations have been compiled into a report including an overview of the process, outlining proposed strategies moving forward, and offering a summary of feedback from the forums. Proposed strategies include participation in regional Workforce planning efforts, employer engagement, and supporting paid peer employment opportunities. A summary of feedback from the forums and the proposed strategies moving forward can be found by clicking the button below. 
Summary and Next Steps

Travis County Plan for Substance Use Disorders 

At their July meeting the A/TCRRT Planning Council received an update from Sherry Blyth and Patricia Bouressa on the Travis County Plan for Substance Use Disorders as well as subsequent implementation strategies that are being put in place. The plan shared several statistics including:
  • 60% of inmates in Travis County Jail have substance abuse problems 
  • 35% of arrests by APD relate to alcohol or drug abuse
  • 40% of child abuse victims in Texas have a caregiver with an alcohol or drug problem
The plan can be found here. A list of substance use resources can be found here

Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities is Hosting The Cross-Systems Summit

The Cross-Systems Summit is a free two day event hosted by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities. The theme for the Summit is "Equity in Texas: Bold Beginnings, Courageous Path, Igniting Our Future". This year's Summit will highlight the legacy of equity work in Texas, while honoring the people, leaders, agencies, organizations, and communities that have embarked on and embedded this work creating sustainability for the future of equity work in Texas and beyond.
Date: August 17 &18
Location: Embassy Suites San, Marcos 

Featured Reentry Advocacy Project Member: Dena Hill


What drives your passion and makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning? 
My passion is to help others who have been incarcerated overcome the obstacles that accompany incarceration, whether through clinical or policy work. I try to supplement what I learned while studying for my master’s in social work with my own experiences as a convicted felon and prisoner. My hope is that through my knowledge and experience I can help those recently released from incarceration avoid the same pitfalls I experienced and ensure that they are not a statistic of recidivism. I want to equip them with the knowledge that will give them the best chance to be a productive member of society and forever avoid any future contact with the broken criminal justice system in our country.

Why do you participate in the Reentry Advocacy Project? 
I want people to have a “real” second chance. I want the public to know that the labels placed by the court system have absolutely nothing to do with a person’s ability to change his or her life for the better. I believe that with advocacy comes more understanding and ultimately the chance for a more productive and happy life for those who have endured the criminal justice system, and their families. There is so much work to be done in regards to reentry and there is no better place to help make that change happen than sitting around a table brainstorming how to change the system with formerly incarcerated individuals.

What words of wisdom do you have for others leaving incarceration? 
Take advantage of as many programs as possible. Have patience with the programs that often move at a very slow pace and understand that the determination and motivation to succeed lies with believing in your own strength as an individual. The ability to accomplish dreams comes out of being vulnerable. So in those instances of going beyond what feels normal, you’ll find great knowledge and inner strength you never knew you had until you put yourself out there.
Read the Full Interview Here

CLASP Releases a New Report: Realizing Youth Justice - Advancing Education and Employment through Public Policy and Investment 

A report from the Center for Law and Social Policy explores how deep disparities in how schools discipline youth of color, combined with a dearth of teen jobs, significantly contributes to an ongoing cycle of involvement in the juvenile justice system. Realizing Youth Justice: Advancing Education and Employment through Public Policy and Investment recommends a framework for expanding youth justice reform and diversion strategies centered on workforce development and reengagement for students involved in the justice system. The opportunity is to take action to help youth succeed. This opportunity that arises from the intersection a movement on justice system reform and ending mass incarceration on the one hand, and on the other with a great deal of knowledge built up in recent years about how employment, career, and postsecondary pathways—along with high school experiences designed to engage and re-engage rather than push out youth —can be most successful.

HUD Releases New Guidance on Reentry Models for Public Housing Agencies 

HUD released new guidance to public housing agencies (PHAs) and other stakeholders to encourage greater efforts and collaboration in housing persons with criminal records. The guidance discusses ways HUD is supporting PHA efforts to provide housing for justice-involved individuals and highlights reentry models currently used by some PHAs, including the New York City Housing Authority, and the lessons learned developing them. The guidance also encourages stakeholders to work with PHAs to review and develop new criminal background screening policies to improve housing opportunities for people with criminal records. The guidance discourages both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect because of race, national origin or other protected characteristics. Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African Americans and Hispanics. While this does not prohibit housing providers from appropriately considering criminal history information when making housing decisions, arbitrary and overbroad criminal history-related bans are likely to lack a legally sufficient justification.

Vera Institute of Justice Releases "First-Episode Incarceration: Creating a Recovery-Informed Framework for Integrated Mental Health and Criminal Justice Responses"

The number of people diagnosed with serious mental illness in the U.S. criminal justice system has reached unprecedented levels. Increasingly, people recognize that the justice system is no substitute for a well-functioning community mental health system. Although a range of targeted interventions have emerged over the past two decades, existing approaches have done little to reduce the overall number of incarcerated people with serious mental illness. This report, modeled on promising approaches in the mental health field to people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, outlines a new integrated framework that encourages the mental health and criminal justice fields to collaborate on developing programs based on early intervention, an understanding of the social determinants that underlie ill health and criminal justice involvement, and recovery-oriented treatment.

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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable · Palm Square · 100 North Interstate 35 · Austin, TX 78701 · USA

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