I have selected the Second Chance Act Comprehensive Community-Based Adult Reentry Program as my choice of discussion today. Its goal is straightforward, i.e., ensuring smooth and healthy transition of elder inmates to society. To fulfil this, fairly recently in 2017 it had awarded The Osborne Association, Inc. one million USD to help elder inmates (typically over 50 years old) reintegrate with society.
Some of the specific requirements set by the funding agency was that the awardee (i.e., The Osborne Association, Inc.) was expected to provide services including but not limited to peer-mentoring, risk/needs assessments, financial assistance, and many more. Note that the awardee is renowned for its current elder reentry initiative that assess older adults’ needs on a case to case basis and develop a personalized, age-appropriate plan.
One uniqueness of this approach is that there is no “one size fits all” and each person gets a personalized plan. The awardee also provides other services such as financial assistance, appropriate housing placements, medical services, services for LGBT seniors, and many more. Instead of focusing on the Second Chance Act Comprehensive Community-Based Adult Reentry Program as a whole, I have decided to focus on the functionality of The Osborne Association, Inc. as the pro and cons of the program can be more easily distinguished. The three assigned topics cover three distinct facets: (1) how eliminating the social/racial/legal tag via a law can act in favor of the sole discrimination it is trying to fight, (2) influence of family and peers in the life of previously convicted felons, and (3) what kind of support works best for the inmates participating in the reentry program. Insight obtained by the study done by Agan and Starr 1 regarding “Ban the Box” policy that discusses on how eliminating the social/racial/legal tag can act against its own goal cannot be generalized as the all the participants were between 21 and 22 years old. However, it shows a racial stereotype that people typically have against African-Americans.
I believe this issue is beyond the limit of any one particular organization and the awardee should not be held accountable for the overall perception of the society. The awardee currently does not have any program to address this issue and may consider it in their future agenda. The other two studies by Boman 2 and Visher et al. 3 can shed light on how the steps taken by the awardee will potentially perform in achieving its goal. Study done by Boman 2 focus primarily on the effect of family and peer group as protective factors against recidivism.
The Osborne Association, Inc. helps the elders by ensuring local senior centers membership and financial assistance so that they have positive influence in their lives as well as an income source to prevent them from going back to their old troubled life. As this program is for elders, family support is often times not present due to being apart from their families for so long, still the awardee tries to provide as much support and encouragement as possible to families and elders to reconnect and reestablish the broken ties.
The study by Visher et al. 3 is also an empirical study that shows that services oriented towards reentry preparation, life skills programs, and employment services do not reduce the likelihood of arrest after release. However, services for individual change such as cognitive-focused programs, improving personal relationships may have modest to good beneficial effects on post-release outcomes. The awardee helps in both aspects as it understands that at the advanced age cognitive improvement and social bonding are more beneficial compared to life skill programs or employment services. Mental enlightening and happiness are more conducive to rehabilitation of elders and the organization works diligently towards it. However, it also focuses on services oriented towards practical needs to fit in the society as without these skills’ reintegration may also be challenging. There is a fine line between compassion and burden (due to not contributing economically to society despite being able), and the awardee constantly is trying to achieve that balance.The motto of the awardee fits the goal of the program in its entirety.
However, it is challenging to measure its success as the award was only given last year. To the best of my knowledge, there is no published report on its success yet. The major challenge in my view that the Osborne Association, Inc. will face is the acceptance of this elderly people by the society, particularly by their families. If this can be ensured, the other aspects (e.g., employment) can be achieved by traditional structured policy implementation.