Crime Reduction in St. Louis? City Receives Grants to Help Ex-Offenders Reenter Society

Jul 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

In the city of St. Louis, about 51 percent of individuals who commit crimes are repeat offenders -- a recidivism rate higher than the average across Missouri. And city officials hope they can curb this problem, with the help of two new federal grants announced today that aim to support ex-offenders reentering society after incarceration.

"The goal of this is to make our neighborhoods safer," Maggie Crane, spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay, tells Daily RFT. "When people are coming out of prison and out of jail...they are coming back into the community. The best thing we can do is make sure they have a successful transition."

The St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE), a city agency under the mayor's office, announced this morning new funding that will go toward both adult and juvenile ex-offenders looking for jobs, education, training, mentoring and other social services.

Fathers' Support Center, an organization we covered in-depth in a cover story last year, has received $1.4 million for a "Training to Work--Adult Reentry" program from the United States Department of Labor. The group will oversee this grant in partnership with SLATE, Family and Workforce Centers of America (another nonprofit organization) and the Missouri Department of Corrections, officials say.

Fathers' Support Center staff: Founder Halbert Sullivan, managing director Cheri Tillis, and facilitators Sister Carol Schumer and Charles Barnes Jr. - Jennifer Silverberg for RFT
Fathers' Support Center staff: Founder Halbert Sullivan, managing director Cheri Tillis, and facilitators Sister Carol Schumer and Charles Barnes Jr.

This funding will allow FSC to work with roughly 200 adult ex-offenders, Crane says.

Additionally, the city has directly received a $818,165 "Face Forward--Serving Juvenile Offenders" grant from the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, for a program SLATE will oversee called You Only Live Once (YOLO) STL Youth Diversion Program.

The city will partner with St. Louis Family Court in this effort over the next three years.

"The idea is to identify them before they get out of prison or jail or juvenile hall," Crane says of the news programs.

FSC's adult program can begin immediately and the city will soon be putting out requests for proposals for administrators to run the grant for juvenile ex-offenders, she explains. The city has a roughly three to six month planning period to get the juvenile program off the ground.

Part of the focus will be on connecting the formerly incarcerated individuals to case workers "so we can get to the root of some of the problems," Crane says. "What are the underlying issues of why you committed that crime?"

click to enlarge RFT 2012 cover illustration: "Boot camp makes men of deadbeat dads" - Anthony Tremmaglia
Anthony Tremmaglia
RFT 2012 cover illustration: "Boot camp makes men of deadbeat dads"

Crane says this is the first time the city has been awarded federal funding for this kind of initiative. The city did work with hundreds of ex-offenders in a similar state-funded program in 2006 -- and the results were clear, she says. Those who didn't participate in this reentry initiative were generally four times as likely to reoffend.

"It works," she says. "You saw the difference. It made the recidivism rate drop dramatically. That'll be the goal."

Here's the city's official press release on the grants.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration awarded the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) $818,165 under the "Face Forward" grant program aimed at helping juvenile offenders obtain employment and access needed for support services. SLATE was one of 28 organizations nationwide to receive funding under this new program. Grant was announced today, July 16, 2013, at a press conference held at Fathers' Support Center's Prince Hall, located at 4411 N. Newstead, St. Louis, MO 63115, with Mayor Slay, program partners, and media representatives in attendance.

Under the grant, SLATE will operate the You Only Live Once (YOLO) StL Youth Diversion Program over the next three years. YOLO StL is designed to assess more than 100 juveniles and provide them with intensive case management while individually matching each youth with a volunteer mentor. Participants must be residents of the City of St. Louis, between the ages of 16 and 24, and have current or past involvement with the juvenile justice system.

Each participant will be engaged in paid summer employment or other work and matched with a variety of service learning experiences, to gain access to the skills needed to pursue full-time employment and/or a post-secondary education. Washington University School of Law's Civil Justice Clinic will provide no-cost advice to YOLO participants, ensuring that they fully understand all the legal rights to which they are entitled and are provided with representation as appropriate.

"SLATE has helped at-risk youth for nearly 40 years, and this is just the latest example of its commitment to putting young men and women on a path toward self-sufficiency, dignity and prosperity," said Mayor Francis Slay.

"Everyone in our community, from court officials to law enforcement to health clinics to training providers, has welcomed this effort with open arms," said Michael K. Holmes, Executive Director of SLATE. "Working with them, we will be giving young people everything they need to start again and succeed."

Among the numerous other individuals and agencies that have endorsed this new effort are Judge David Mason on behalf of the St. Louis Family Court - Juvenile Division, Judge Jimmy Edwards on behalf of the Innovative Concept Academy, Circuit Attorney Jennifer M. Joyce, the St. Louis Workforce Investment Board, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the Missouri Department of Corrections and the Missouri Department of Social Services.

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