What are the resources we know of to help people coming out of the criminal legal system and what else would we like to see?
Existing resources people should know about:
- Lots of great services exist, need better coordination, both pre- and post-release.
- GH/KP Housing Coalition has strong coordination/communication across services, e.g. at a food bank, they provide wrap around services.
- There are current networks in Presbyterian (Purdy) and Lutheran (Shelton) assisting incarcerated people.
- A great existing resource is Tacoma Public Libraries/Pierce County Library System. Even if people coming out don’t have an address to get a library card, they can get guest passes and access to computers. People need computer skills to get access to resources and libraries have online programs to teach those skills.
- Tacomaprobono has programs to waive legal financial obligations and vacate criminal records.
- MDC has a stabilization program for people coming out of jail that they can be referred to from by their PO or case manager. Is a bridge program that has money for temporary hotel rooms, transportation, food, and such. There are peer counselors and clients have two people working with them. Managed by Pamela Williams.
Resources and other ideas we would like to see:
- Need resources for not reoffending, a safe place to sleep, food, case management. It is the same issue with people coming out of Western State Hospital.
- Seems that once released it's then all up to the individual to figure out what to do and where to find whatever resources are available. Need resource info/pamphlet that lists things of immediate need: food, shelter, transportation.
- Not everyone getting out needs housing, but possibly a ride home.
- Make sure we have a “no wrong door” model – where any place someone shows up, they can receive wrap around services.
- Would like to see “brief interventions” in Pierce county jail system before people are released, where the opportunity exists to do some motivational interviewing to build relationships and begin the process of identifying the help they want.
- Important for resources to be responsive and meet people where they are at, versus fitting into a program.
- Short term access to housing (like 30 days) and use that time to address longer housing options.
- Connect with the community resources (including faith Communities) who are helping formerly incarcerated people and ask them to vouch for people with criminal records for housing.
Policy issues that were identified:
- Coordination of data between DOC and homeless services could be powerful to identify people who need resources.
- Even when felons have done their time and paid their fines, they have to tell everyone they are a felon. Is that always appropriate? It invites discrimination whether it is warranted or not.
- Tenants Rights group and League of Women voters supported the Housing Justice bill in the state legislature that did not pass this last session but should be supported again.
- Could include explicit support for Tacoma to include “formerly incarcerated” status as a protected class related to rental discrimination.
- Despite "don't check the box" legislation, background checks and discrimination against individuals with criminal background seeking housing or employment still occurs.
- All of the amazing sponsors/volunteers in Department of Corrections are not allowed ANY contact with individuals that get released for at least the first year. That is when they need the support of individuals that they have gotten to know and trust over the years of incarceration the most. That policy has to change.