U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown will join Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council to host a screening of the documentary film “The Pull of Gravity” tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the Mobile Civic Center. The film focuses on the hardships faced by offenders upon their release from custody and the high rate of recidivism among parolees.
It will be followed by a discussion of the issue by a panel of people, from employers to service providers, who are engaged locally in re-entry efforts. The event is a part of Brown’s Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Offenders Pursue Excellence) initiative.
The aim of Project H.O.P.E. is to meet the needs of the ex-offender returning to the community, from family reconnection to affordable health care. But Project H.O.P.E.’s biggest emphasis is on finding ex-offenders employment, and ensuring that they receive the requisite vocational training if they do not already have it.
The program seeks to duplicate the success of the LIFE Tech program run by the Alabama Department of Pardons and Paroles in Thomasville, a residential vocational training facility which trains up to 300 inmates at any given time.
The annual cost to operate LIFE Tech is $3.5 million, which is $1.8 million less than it would cost to incarcerate the same number of inmates for a year. According to the state, LIFE Tech participants have a recidivism rate of 10.54 percent as compared to a 33 percent recidivism rate for other inmates released in the State of Alabama who did not participate in the program.
More than 65 percent of the inmates who successfully completed the LIFE Tech program are employed taxpayers and no longer a tax burden to the State.
Alabama currently houses 31,000 prisoners in a system built to hold 14,000 inmates, which is the worst prison overcrowding problem of all the southeastern states with an inmate population 199 percent overcapacity, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“The documentary is gritty and contains some language that is inappropriate for children, but it accurately captures peoples’ real experiences as they try to return to the community after a term of incarceration,” Brown said of the film.
The purpose of the event is to spark the re-entry conversation here locally in hopes of addressing our crime problem at its root by identifying areas where community involvement can arrest systemic impediments to ex-offenders successfully reintegrating back into society. These impediments include ex-offenders’ lack of knowledge about what free or reduced fee services are available in the community to assist them, ex-offenders’ educational and employment needs and a wary business community.
“These traditional impediments to successful re-entry have led to a high recidivism rate where new victims are created because ex- offenders have forfeited any hope of successful reintegration,” Brown said. “Given the high demand for skilled vocational laborers in this region, ex-offenders, if properly trained in both soft skills and vocational skills, can be a reliable labor pool for our robust maritime and airline industries while at the same time reducing our local crime rate and reducing prison costs for the State.”
To RSVP to the event visit: www.projecthopealabama.com
View “The Pull of Gravity” trailer here (STRONG LANGUAGE): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPukLTKG-0o