On April 6, Valerie Meade, deputy director at the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI), presented on a panel hosted by Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS&C) highlighting Louisiana’s reentry efforts. In collaboration with CJI, DPS&C is celebrating Second Chance Month by raising awareness of initiatives throughout the state and the country supporting people who are leaving incarceration. The event, which took place live in Baton Rouge as well as online, was part of the department’s Return for Good initiative, which connects businesses with skilled workers returning to their communities from incarceration.
Meade emphasized the importance of equipping community supervision officers and stakeholders with evidence-based tools to support and encourage positive behavior change during the reentry process. Toward this end, DPS&C expanded skills trainings led by CJI beyond its own staff—the traditional audience—to a wide range of community-based organizations.
Nicole George, DPS&C’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) Coordinator, underlined the importance of the state’s Emergency and Transitional Housing program. Launched in 2019, the program finds and funds safe, temporary housing throughout the state for people exiting incarceration. Those seeking emergency housing can stay for up to two weeks, and those in need of transitional housing can stay up to six months. By filling a short-term gap, the program serves as a bridge to permanent housing.
Also on the panel was Steven Barnes, Deputy Director for The Refinery, a Christian mission for men in Opelousas, Louisiana. A native Texan, Barnes moved to Louisiana in 2015 while homeless and in treatment for addiction. After a successful residence, Barnes joined the organization in a leadership role where he fosters a positive environment so residents feel like The Refinery is their home.
The Refinery is designed to provide structure and create daily routines essential to successful reentry. Residents work regular jobs with transportation provided to and from The Refinery.
Barnes sees firsthand the power of transitional housing and the way it supports and provides hope for people exiting incarceration.
In 2017, Louisiana passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform package as a result of its JRI effort. Following these reforms, CJI assisted the department as it focused on quality implementation of the JRI policies and facilitated a task force to improve the experience of women who are incarcerated and on supervision. CJI’s work and partnership with the state on these efforts was funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). BJA is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.
For more information on DPS&C’s initiatives, please visit their website.