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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable
Quarterly Newsletter

March, 2015

Recap of the 5th Annual Statewide Reentry Conference


On January 21st 2015, the Travis County Criminal Justice Planning Department in partnership with the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Goodwill of Central Texas, and the Texas Inmate Families Association hosted the 5th Annual Texas Reentry Conference. The conference brought over 250 reentry advocates, educators, administrators, service providers, and policymakers from across the state together to discuss reentry initiatives and share strategies around reentry issues in Texas. Panel discussion topics included behavioral health, client intervention, employer investment, employment services, government advocacy, housing, and assessment. We received very positive feedback on the conference from attendees, and we are looking forward to supporting the Reentry Conference again next year!
 

National Council Health Justice Learning Collaborative Kick-Off Event


Some exciting news: The Travis County Sheriff's Office and Austin Travis County Integral Care were selected to participate in the National Health Justice Learning Collaborative, a collaboration between the National Council for Behavioral Health and the National Sheriff’s Association aimed at improving access to behavioral healthcare for incarcerated individuals and improving retention in care for those released from jail. Travis County was selected as one of three counties in the country to participate and we are excited about the opportunities that this partnership brings to our community. ATCIC and TCSO are holding a kick-off event with National Council representatives on April 1st from 1:00-3:00pm. The Reentry Roundtable will sponsor the kick-off with refreshments. Stay posted - invitations will be sent out soon! For more information, please contact Sherry Blyth at sherry.blyth@atcic.org.

Upcoming City Council Deep Dive Policy Workshop on Public Safety


Austin City Council is convening deep-dive policy workshops around key topics of interest identified by Council Members. The purpose of these policy workshops is to bring the Austin City Council together to develop a shared vocabulary and understanding of key issues, perspectives (pros/cons), key decision points, and the role of council. A workshop focused on Public Safety has tentatively been scheduled for Monday, March 23rd. Click here to view the current proposed schedule for the workshops; note that dates and topics may change. 

MacArthur Foundation Launches $75M Initiative to Reduce America's Use of Jails


The MacArthur Foundation has announced an initial five-year, $75 million investment that seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. The Safety and Justice Challenge will fund up to 20 cities and counties across the country to design and implement fairer, more effective local justice systems that use innovative, collaborative, and evidence-based solutions to improve public safety, save taxpayer money, and lead to better social outcomes. They have particular interest in addressing the disproportionate impact of over-incarceration on low-income individuals and communities of color. Click here for more information and to download the request for proposals for the competition.

Recap of the Seedling Foundation Mentor Training on Reentry


The Seedling Foundation supports children challenged by parental incarceration with innovative, research driven, school-based mentoring in Austin. In January, the Foundation held a training for mentors focused on the impact that a parent's release from incarceration has on both the parent and their child(ren). Laura Sovine, Chair of Planning Council of the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable and Shira Ledman, Executive Director of Seedling Foundation presented at the training. The varying responses of the group led to a candid dialogue about the sobering challenges awaiting individuals released from prison. Mentors discussed the difficulties that ex-offenders face in accessing basic needs such as housing, food, and employment when they are released. 

Mentors sometimes wonder if they are still needed when their mentee’s parent returns home from prison. It is a rare case when the answer is no. While each story is unique, it is helpful for mentors to have insight into what the parent of his/her mentee faces. Click here to read a full summary of the training. 

84th Texas Legislature Update: Filed Legislation Related to Reentry 


The A/TCRRT will be following a list of bills that have been filed related to reentry and will vote on whether to formerly support them. This list is not comprehensive and none of the bills have been formerly endorsed by the A/TCRRT at this time. Find out more about each bill here and visit Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s new Public Policy Center website.

Applying Disparate Impact Claims to the Fair Housing Act


The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project case on January 21, 2015. The issue before the court is whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. Disparate impact claims involve allegations that a law or policy has a discriminatory effect, even though the discrimination was not on purpose. In Texas, there is a notable disparity between the races and ethnicities that make up the population and those who are arrested. For instance, even though African American individuals only make up 12.3% of the population, they make up over 25% of those arrested. And even though White non-Hispanic individuals make up 44.5% of the population, they account for only 38.43% of those arrested. Keep up with the latest news on the case here.

New Reports on Reentry Issues

Mental Health Of Prisoners Goes Unconsidered On State And Federal Levels


A new long-term study of medication rates and recidivism shows that the majority of American prisoners' mental health needs are not met. With greater mental illness rates overall and less attention paid to prisoners’ health, researchers find the chances of second and third offenses go up, burdening the taxpaying public. Mental illness no doubt contributes to elevated levels of crime in everyday life, which may partly explain why illness rates are higher among prisoners than the general public — roughly 26 percent compared to 18 percent. Among other things, prisons are tasked with getting those inflated rates back to the average. But without an organized and systematized way of fielding new inmates, assessing their level of illness, and keeping them on their medication regimen, too many prisoners fall through the cracks.

Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms


In January, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center released a first-of-its-kind study on the results of Texas’ bipartisan effort to improve the state’s juvenile justice system. The report provides empirical support that secure correctional facilities are ‘no place for kids,’ and evidence-based practices, when applied properly, do work for Texas! The CSG study, which draws on an unprecedented dataset in Texas – 1.3 million individual case records spanning eight years, assembled from three state agencies – demonstrates highly effective investments by Texas policy-makers in community-based supervision and programming. For example, the study found that youth incarcerated in state-run facilities are 21% more likely to be rearrested than youth who remain under supervision closer to home.
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