More Than 240 Prisoners Attend Community Resource Day

CSOSA joined with government and community partners on June 18th in presenting the latest Community Resource Day event, providing information about key services and programs in a videoconference to more than 240 returning citizens who will soon be released from incarceration.

The all-day program was attended by District of Columbia inmates who were viewing it in 22 prisons, with the biggest group watching from the Rivers Correctional Institution in Winton, N.C. The topics covered included release planning and supervision, family strengthening and support; education; employment readiness, training and placement; health care, housing, faith-based partnerships and Justice Involved Individual community partnerships.

Four times a year, the Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs (OLIPA) partners with the Rivers Correctional Institution, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), various D.C. government agencies and community-based resource and service providers to help people get ready for re-entry. More than 30 speakers presented on June 18th.

The presenters included representatives of CSOSA, the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA), the University of the District of Columbia, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and a host of other partners. They described the services they provide, offered advice, and answered questions from the attendees. Some of the speakers were returning citizens themselves who have successfully transitioned into the workforce and community.

OLIPA also produces a Community Resource Day package, which is distributed to Rivers and federal corrections institutions that house a significant number of D.C. inmates.  The package includes reference materials for those who want more information or who missed the presentations.

A team of CSOSA employees, organized by OLIPA’s Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Specialist (ICAS) Denise Reed, presented the event at the CSOSA field site located at 2101 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. CSOSA’s Office of Information Technology provided support on the broadcast. CSOSA launched the Community Resource Day program more than 15 years ago. The next videoconference is expected to take place in September 2019.

CSOSA Director Tischner Tours Milwaukee Jobs Training Program

Joseph Project

Director Tischner is with Pastor Jerome Smith Sr., of Milwaukee’s Greater Praise Church of God in Christ

CSOSA Director Richard S. Tischner and other key agency staff members recently visited a faith-based program in Milwaukee that has successfully trained scores of returning citizens and helped them find well-paying jobs in manufacturing and other sectors.

The mid-May fact-finding mission was arranged at the suggestion of Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who talked about the program – called the Joseph Project – during the Director’s confirmation hearing. Senator Johnson chairs the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and has supported the Joseph Project since its founding.

CSOSA has its own array of training and employment programs, including its Community Engagement and Achievement Centers (CEAC), and is planning to expand its outreach even more by building on its own success and successful efforts elsewhere.

“We appreciate the invitation from Senator Johnson to learn about an employment readiness program that improves employment outcomes and success for those under supervision,” said Director Tischner.

Founded in 2015, the Joseph Project began as a constituent service through Senator Johnson’s office. Senator Johnson found that manufacturers throughout the state were struggling to fill positions, while people in the central city of Milwaukee were facing challenges in finding employment. Staffers with Senator Johnson’s office began working with Pastor Jerome Smith Sr., of Milwaukee’s Greater Praise Church of God in Christ, to identify people in need of employment who were ready for a change. The church runs the program.

The Joseph Project is a voluntary initiative designed to assist unemployed Milwaukee residents secure and maintain permanent employment through providing resources, education and support. With a more than 70 percent job retention rate, the program focuses on stabilizing some of the most disenfranchised citizens of Milwaukee, many of whom are returning citizens. Although Wisconsin’s economy heavily relies on manufacturing, the manufacturing plants are located quite a distance from the Milwaukee city limits, creating additional employment obstacles. To assist participants in overcoming this obstacle, the Joseph Project provides participants transportation to and from work via their shuttle service that runs 24/7.

Once a month, a new group of 15 to 20 participants attends free week-long sessions, taught by volunteers at the church. The participants undergo four days of intensive, boot camp-styled job readiness training, where they work on subjects including workplace etiquette and attire, résumé writing, interview skills, time and stress management, and conflict resolution. The fifth and final day is interview day, in which the participants are interviewed for positions with the Joseph Project’s many manufacturing partners. During Director Tischner’s visit, for example, nearly 20 people took the class and emerged with job offers by the end of the week.

“Because the Joseph Project recognizes that employment is one of the most important factors in helping those under supervision live stable and productive lives, they have been able to connect hundreds of Milwaukee residents to meaningful careers and place them on a better path,” Director Tischner said.

For returning citizens, employment security can begin while still incarcerated. Individuals incarcerated at the Milwaukee county jail who participate are permitted to leave the jail daily in order to attend classes so that they are ready to work if offered a position after their release.

“We are grateful to Senator Johnson and Pastor Smith and the dedicated program staff at the Joseph Project for taking the time to share this innovative approach with CSOSA,” said Director Tischner. “We hope to draw from the best practices we observed  in Milwaukee in expanding CSOSA’s employment outreach initiatives.”

Accompanying Director Tischner on the trip were Congressional Affairs Specialist William Miles, Vocational Development Coordinator Tony Lewis, and Special Assistant Hyun-Ju E. Park.

#TeamUpToCleanUp2019

WASHINGTON – More than 70 employees and officers of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) worked together in a citywide clean-up to launch of the District of Columbia’s Summer Crime Initiative.

The May 31, 2019 event – “Team Up to Clean Up” – started with a kick-off rally at the Mary Virginia Merrick Community Center, in the 4300 block of 4th Street SE, before volunteers from CSOSA, MPD, and other agencies headed to more than 20 locations throughout the District of Columbia. During this day of service, the volunteers cleaned up trash from blocks and streets and promoted community pride to launch a summer of activities. CSOSA, MPD and other law enforcement partners will work together throughout the summer on public safety measures and participate in a series of community events, including the annual National Night Out.

“This is about being out in the community, working, and showing that we care,” said Associate Director Marcus Hodges of the Office of Community Supervision and Intervention Services. “We want to improve the community and will do everything we can to do it.”

“A clean community is a safer community and that’s what this is all about,” said Associate Director Cedric Hendricks of the Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs. “It’s also about partnership, showing our collaboration with the community.”

 

The locations included sidewalks, public parks, curb areas, and streets, such as the 1900 block of 15th Street SE; the 2700 to 2900 blocks of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE; the 5000 blocks of B, C, and D Streets SE; the 5000 block of Benning Road SE; the 3100 to 3600 blocks of 14th Street NW, the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Canal Street SW, and many other neighborhoods. At many locations, residents came out to greet the volunteers.

This was the third annual “Team Up to Clean Up” event. As in the past, the District of Columbia’s Department of Public Works provided support at the many locations.

Second Chance at Work

In recognition of April as Second Chance Month, CSOSA invited leaders and representatives of business and training programs to Second Chance at Work – an event drawing attention to the obstacles justice-involved individuals face when entering the workforce and highlighting the work that CSOSA and our partners do to prepare people under supervision for the workplace.

President Donald J. Trump declared April Second Chance Month to “draw attention to the challenges that former inmates face and the steps we can take to ensure they have the opportunity to become contributing members of society.” For too many returning citizens, the obstacles imposed by a criminal history compound their employment struggles. Beyond highlighting these challenges and celebrating those who have successfully reintegrated into the community, Second Chance Month provided an opportunity to express sincere gratitude to individuals and organizations that have provided the support, resources, and jobs that facilitated their success.

“Although our mandate is to provide community supervision, we have long recognized that people are more likely to successfully complete supervision when certain stabilization needs are met,” said CSOSA Director Richard S. Tischner. “Steady and gainful employment is one of the top needs. Unfortunately, about half of the employable people under our supervision are unemployed.”

During the Conversations with the CEAC segment of the event, guests toured one of CSOSA’s Community Engagement and Achievement Centers (CEACs) and learned how our staff prepare clients for entry into the workforce directly or provide skills acquisition through completion of a vocational training program. Guests also heard from CSOSA partners including Building Futures, DC Central Kitchen, the EZ Street Music Industry Academy, and the Hope Project about the value of giving a second chance.

The second part of the program — Second Chance Successes – featured successful CSOSA clients who have obtained employment or occupational certifications, achieved stability, and are compliant with the conditions of their supervision, sharing the stories of their struggles and achievements in their own words. The triumphs of these clients are not only a testament to their hard work and determination, but they also demonstrate what can be accomplished through the collaborative partnerships established by the CEAC.

Guests heard remarks from Congressman Danny K. Davis, United States Representative from Illinois’s Seventh Congressional District and co-sponsor of the Second Chance Act; Ahnna Kim Smith, Executive Director of the Workforce Investment Council of the District of Columbia; Elissa Silverman, At-Large DC Councilmember and Chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development; and Antwanye Ford, Board Chair of the Workforce Investment Council of the District of Columbia.

Finally, during What’s in it for My Business?, representatives from the United States Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services educated guests about the benefits of hiring returning citizens, including funding opportunities, bonding, and the Workforce Opportunity Tax Credit.

Our work does not stop because Second Chance Month is over. We have asked each of the employers that participated in the event to commit to hiring one person who is or has been under CSOSA supervision. If you are an employer or training program interested in partnering with CSOSA, contact Michael Bonds, Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Specialist, at Michael.Bonds@csosa.gov or (202) 220-5458.

Pathways to Supervision Success

As CSOSA works to effectively supervise adults on probation, parole, and supervised release in the District of Columbia, in order to enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, support the fair administration of justice, we collaborate closely with our criminal justice partners and the community. These partnerships are integral to promoting accountability, inclusion, and successful reintegration for those under CSOSA supervision.

One recent partnership began in 2018, when CSOSA joined forces with the District of Columbia’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) as it launched the first cohort of the Pathways Ambassador Program. The Pathways Program is a nine-month program that targets individuals who are at high risk of becoming either victims or perpetrators of violent crime. Pathways provides workforce readiness training and conflict resolution skills through a three-month workforce development module and a six-month, subsidized job training module.

In order to facilitate interagency collaboration and accountability among participants, CSOSA embedded a dedicated community supervision officer to supervise the program participants who were also under our jurisdiction. Moreover, CSOSA personnel were part of a team of on-site case managers, credible messengers, and other staff that provided the wraparound services that contributed to the efficacy of this program. Our partnership with ONSE is one way CSOSA places special focus on the highest risk individuals under our supervision.

The most recent cohort of 24 Pathways graduates included 19 who are under CSOSA supervision. Read more from the Washington Post about the recent Pathways graduation (February 2019).

Welcoming Our New Director

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia welcomes Richard S. Tischner as our third presidentially-appointed Director.

Mr. Tischner has been a public servant for more than 33 years. He has served as an attorney for the Federal Government of the United States at the Merit Systems Protection Board as well as the Federal Trade Commission. He has spent the last 30 years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Department of Justice, most recently serving as the Chief of the Superior Court Division at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Nominated by President Donald J. Trump in July 2018, Mr. Tischner appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in November 2018. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate in January 2019. On February 11, 2019, Mr. Tischner was sworn into his six-year term in office by United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu.

Returning Citizen Sunday in 4D

On Sunday, October 21, 2018, the Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ opened its doors to returning citizens in collaboration with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), Georgia Avenue Family Support Collaborative, and the Assembly of Petworth.

After Peoples Congregational’s morning service, justice-involved individuals received clothing; book bags; and information on voting, housing, employment, and other social services.

What originated as a desire from one of CSOSA’s Fourth District (4D) Community Justice Advisory Network (CJAN) partners, Reverend Venita George, to help a few of CSOSA’s clients “became much bigger when we pulled in more resources,” says Elba Gonzalez CSOSA’s Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Specialist for 4D.

CSOSA has CJANs in each of the District’s seven police districts. CJANs are comprised of residents and key stakeholders, such as Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, faith-based institutions, schools, non-profit and civic organizations, businesses, government agencies, and local law enforcement entities. CJANs meet regularly and mobilize community resources concerning public safety; identify and address community public safety issues; share information about the challenges justice-involved individuals face; and educate the community on public safety issues and the work of CSOSA. CJANs create an environment where issues are resolved at the community level and community resources can be leveraged to enhance and expand services that support the successful reintegration of justice-involved individuals into the community.

Returning Citizen Sunday was the fruit of the Fourth District’s Community Justice Advisory Network. Rev. George and Ms. Gonzalez called on sponsors and solicited support from DC Councilmembers. CSOSA community supervision officers participated giving those under supervision an opportunity to earn community service hours and contact credits.

Gonzalez recalls, “The most powerful part of the day, was the message from David Bowers. He highlighted that we are all returning citizens, we are all returning from a sin or a wrong doing and asking that we be received. He stressed for us to think of how we can be proactive in reentry and to talk about reentry more.”

 

Obstacles to Employment

In a recent publication from the DC Policy Center, Robin Selwitz explores the myriad obstacles individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system face when seeking employment.

Involvement in the criminal justice system leads to a litany of aftereffects, commonly known as collateral consequences, which can result in unanticipated burdens to those trying to reintegrate into society and lead productive, law-abiding lives. These collateral consequences can make it difficult to secure stable housing and gainful employment, among other issues. Mounting research indicates that there are significant benefits for our communities in helping justice-involved individuals overcome barriers to employment and other collateral consequences.

In the District’s highly competitive and saturated job market, gainful employment remains an intractable challenge. For some, it is further compounded by the additional challenges posed by their history of involvement with the justice system. One promising mechanism to address unemployment for men and women with criminal histories is entrepreneurship. Watch our latest episode of DC Public Safety to learn more about the innovative approaches to addressing this issue in the District.

Read more on Obstacles to Employment for Returning Citizens in DC  on the DC Policy Center website.

Thank You, Former Director Nancy Ware

It is with great fondness and appreciation that the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency bid farewell to our former director, Nancy M. Ware.

Appointed by then-President Barack Obama, Ms. Ware served as director of CSOSA from December 2011 to December 2017. Her accomplishments over the past six years are numerous. A few of the highlights from her tenure as director include:

  • Developing and implementing a full training curriculum for our Community Supervision Officer Academy.
  • Specialized programming and focus on young adults under CSOSA supervision.
  • Expanding the number of and improving the programming at CSOSA’s Community Engagement and Achievement Centers (formerly known as Day Reporting Centers).
  • Implementing behavioral health teams for those under our supervision.
  • Implementing the Triage Screener to expedite the process of assigning those under our supervision to appropriate teams.
  • Expanding Community Resource Day videoconferences to nearly 30 Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities housing District of Columbia inmates nearing release.
  • Instituting Family Reunification Videoconferencing for incarcerated mothers to stay better connected with their children.

These and other efforts undertaken and completed during her tenure embody CSOSA’s guiding principles of community, accountability, and justice. Moreover, Ms. Ware’s many intra-agency efforts to improve effectiveness and operational efficiency reflect a sentiment that she continuously emphasized – One Mission, One Agency.

A native Washingtonian, Ms. Ware has devoted her professional career to public service, working to ensure that the nation’s capital remains safe for those who reside in, work in, and visit the District of Columbia; and striving to afford juveniles and adults who have become involved in the criminal justice system opportunities to contribute and thrive.

We thank Ms. Ware for her years of dedicated service to criminal justice in the District of Columbia, especially the past six years as our director.

We wish her the best of luck and full success in her future endeavors.

Entrepreneurship Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals

Mounting research indicates that there are significant benefits for our communities in helping men and women that have been involved in the criminal justice system find employment. Unfortunately, some employers remain reticent to hiring someone who is or has been involved in the justice system, as evidenced by the need for laws such as Ban the Box, which, among other things, makes it illegal for an employer to inquire about criminal history prior to making a conditional offer of employment.

In the District’s highly competitive and saturated job market, gainful employment remains an intractable challenge. For some, it is further compounded by the additional challenges posed by their history of involvement with the justice system. In order to realize gains in public safety, it is imperative to remove barriers that can empower these individuals to take control of their destinies. One such mechanism for empowerment in the employment sector is entrepreneurship which provides a promising approach to address unemployment for men and women with criminal histories.

Check our latest episode of DC Public Safety to learn more about this important topic.

 

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