Welcome to the Urban League of Greater Atlanta’s e-newsletter, a bi-monthly publication to share with you the accomplishments that youth, adults and families throughout the metro Atlanta region are achieving through Urban League programs and services that would not be possible without your partnership and support.
In this issue, we celebrate a successful initiative, Think UP (Unlimited Possibilities), which is a part of our New Beginnings Transitional Employment program. New Beginnings aims to reduce recidivism by helping newly released inmates and individuals with barriers to employment to reenter society, reconnect with their families, find employment, enhance job readiness and occupational skills and explore career pathways.
Each e-newsletter will feature staff or board members so that you can get to know our Urban League family who are working collaboratively to “empower communities and change lives.” In this issue, we shine the spotlight on Ayana Domingo for her leadership of the featured project.
[googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”35px” margin=”10px 0 10px 0″]Think UP “Unlimited Possibilities”[/googlefont]
One of the most critical issues of our time involves the criminal justice system, with disparities having dire implications for low-income and non-white families and communities throughout the nation, and on all taxpayers who bear the burden of a costly system of incarceration and recidivism. Georgia is no exception:
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, in 2013, the State of Georgia averaged 56,593 inmates within its custody. During fiscal year 2011, the cost to incarcerate an inmate was between $14,118 and $18,863 depending on the type of correctional facility.
The majority of Georgia’s prisoners are Black/African American (62 percent) and are between the ages of 20- 49 (81 percent.) These are men and women who will be coming back home after serving their time. The United States Department of Justice estimates that at least 95 percent of all state prisoners will be released at some point to return to their former communities.
The Urban League of Greater Atlanta created the New Beginnings program because we understand that formerly incarcerated men and women deserve a second chance to work and earn a living wage, enhance their educational attainment and occupational skills, live a productive and quality life and positively contribute to our communities.
Recognizing the ULGA’s growing expertise in the “re-entry” area, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council awarded funding to the ULGA to carry out the Think UP: Unlimited Possibilities for Your Future program (Think UP) as an intensive platform to serve up to 60 returning citizens under the League’s New Beginnings Transitional Employment Program.
[pullquote align=”left”]“Thank you for affording me the opportunity to be a part of this work. I have been forever changed by the participants, partners, and the evidence we have experienced that the New Beginnings Program made a difference in the lives of those we touched and beyond. A very special thanks to the staff of the ULGATL and all who collaborated to make the New Beginnings Think UP initiative a new beginning for those we served.” – Rod Reese, ULGA program instructor: Youth Empowerment Program/New Beginnings 2.0[/pullquote]
The New Beginnings program was guided by a steering committee led by Sally Quillian Yates, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and the multi-agency coordinating council. The collaborative included the ULGA, Morehouse School of Medicine, United States Department of Pardons and Paroles, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Justice Project, the Davis–Bozeman Law Firm, Gate City Bar Association and the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency.
Through Think UP, 57 formerly incarcerated men and women participated in an eight-week program that included case management and referrals to supportive services; a guided intensive job readiness and search program that helped them with developing resumes; interview skills; job searches; career exploration; job sustainability and advancement and computer literacy. Participants also completed a series of life skills workshops that included self-discovery, goal setting, critical thinking, character development, legal issues, anger management, problem solving and financial literacy. Of the 57 participants, 43 completed the program for a 75 percent success rate.
[pullquote align=”right”]“The New Beginnings program for me is a choice that I made because everyday that I wake now is a new beginning for me. I have learned to deal with my barriers; I’ve learned that what I did … I made a mistake but it doesn’t define who I am.” — Deborah West[/pullquote]
The majority of participants, 76 percent, were male (33), which is consistent with Georgia’s prison population: 93 percent of inmates are men. Ninety-three percent of the program participants were African American, 5 percent self-identified as being multi-ethnic (two) and one participant classified as being of Hispanic/Latino origin. The participants ranged in age from 26 to 78 years old with an average age of 42.
At the start of the program, 86 percent (37) of participants were unemployed and seeking employment. The majority had at least a high school diploma or GED (79 percent; 34) prior to enrolling in the program.
By the end of the program, 74 percent (32) had gained employment: 12 in the construction/manual labor/landscaping fields; five in restaurant/dining services; six in sales/retail; two in maintenance work; two in administrative services; and the rest were placed in the cosmetology, trucking, private security and human services fields. Twenty-one percent of participants (nine) are pursing post secondary education at area technical schools and colleges.
[pullquote align=”right”]“I learned who I am , what I want, my tendencies, my limitations… to critique myself better and not be ashamed of who I am and the mistake I made in the past… and hold my head high because everyone goes through something.” — Dedric Martin[/pullquote]
Participants said that the program helped them improve their job readiness, and social and interpersonal skills, which led to reuniting with their families. Research has shown strong family connections and employment are the two most critical elements that reduce the likelihood of ex-offenders returning to prison.
“A key component of building safer communities is proactively addressing the high rates of recidivism. The New Beginnings program is a sterling example of how the collaborative efforts of state, local, federal, and non-profit entities can unite to address the serious issue of reentry and assist returning citizens with job training and life skills development, GED and secondary education, and the social service support that they need to successfully reintegrate into society. As U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, I am proud that our office is a partner in the New Beginnings reentry program and commend the collaborative efforts of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, the Morehouse School of Medicine, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, and all other partners that make programming possible. It is critical to be able to help returning citizens with job training and life skills development, GED and secondary education, and the social service referrals that they need to obtain housing, business clothing, transportation, and more.”
— Sally Quillian Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia [/box]
More help for Atlanta’s returning adult citizens
ULGA Staff Spotlight
Ayana Domingo-Hanse is currently an Empowerment Advocate for the Urban League’s Neighborhood College Program that supports youth that reside in juvenile detention centers to prepare for their futures. managed the New Beginnings program prior to her new assignment. She has worked with unique populations for more than 10 years and brings an enthusiasm to her job that propels her success. She joined the Urban League of Greater Atlanta as Empowerment Advocate of Re-entry and Veteran Affairs. The New Beginnings program makes re-entry to their communities more successful for men and women returning from either penal institutions or the military. Domingo-Hanse is aLicensed Associate Professional Counselor (LAPC), Nationally Certified Counselor (NCE) and Social Worker (BSW).
During Domingo-Hanse’s career, she has provided direct care to individuals living with HIV/AIDS, mental health disorders, developmental disabilities and co-occurring disorders, as well as to individuals facing transitions, homelessness, criminal barriers, etc. as they transition towards self-sufficiency. She has functioned as a Primary Therapist/Mobile Assessor, Decedent Affairs Officer, Emergency Room Social Worker, Mental Health Counselor, and as Clinical Coordinator of Child Welfare.