Dear Leaders of Faith and Hope,
We know that life is busy and we get caught up in the commotion of our life, however if we could just have your attention for a couple of minutes you will hear a story that is different than the rest. Please, take a moment and #LoveHer.
Let's begin by saying, You are amazing!
The kindness of strangers is real and you can support our tireless efforts to make a difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities have been adversely impacted by untreated mental illness and or substance use that have lead individuals into the criminal justice system.
We provide our peer support at no cost to the individual and or family requesting our services. We believe there is no wrong door. However, there is a significant socioeconomic barrier that prevents those seeking support for a better life.
What is peer support?
"Peer support is an evidence-based practice for individuals with mental health conditions or challenges. Both quantitative and qualitative evidence indicate that peer support lowers the overall cost of mental health services by reducing re-hospitalization rates and days spent in inpatient services, increasing the use of outpatient services. Peer support improves quality of life, increases and improves engagement with services, and increases whole health and self-management." - Mental Health America
Based upon the evidence of peer support for those with mental illness challenges it makes sense to use the same approach to recovery and reentry after incarceration using a peer support model. Leveraging a non linear approach to recovery and reentry after incarceration and or any other displacement from an individual's community will have the impact necessary to reduce the current trends that have led to over incarceration.
Why should you care?
The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 1,852 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories. - Prison Policy Initiative.
Currently the costs to taxpayers is a whooping $182 billion per year.
For children, the first stage and point of contact with the judicial system, of which is the immediate traumatic experience, often include reactions of fear, denial, confusion, and sorrow as well as feelings of relief if loved ones are released and diverted from incarceration. Psycho-social supports for children and their parents as our drivers and at forefront of all our efforts at all times.
It has also become apparent that families are suffering with little to no support when a loved one becomes incarcerated. In our ongoing efforts we bring awareness of trauma and its effects on the public as a whole with our efforts; meeting face to face with policymakers, engaging in positive policy changes and we show up as the unheard voices as the subject matter experts (We have been there, done that). Our agency continues to advocate for those suffering to secure community based services and programs.
All of our efforts have costs associated with them; there is no such thing as a free lunch. However, with your kindness and support it is a free lunch to those that need our support and resources.
Our goals are simple and smart; exclusive advocacy efforts for positive, swift and smart policy change for people to have a home, good health, community connection, and purpose in their lives. Every human being deserves to have the opportunity to engage in a safe, loving and supportive environment. Our services provide this to those seeking change for themselves and their families.
We understand that a significant paradigm shift in smart policy will begin the public's current perspective of the correctional business and the profits at the expense of our children, caretakers, stakeholders and taxpayers.
We can not do this alone.
At the end of the day.....every $1 invested in peer support provides a return on investment to the tune of $2.28 in taxpayer dollars. When we think about the current costs of $182 billion of taxpayer dollars used to cage people versus supporting communities to reduce costs associated with over incarceration it seems to be a no brainer and smart.
It is crystal clear that we are failing our children, respective community, neighbors and families if we cannot sustain our genuine efforts for others to be successful.
We cannot just give up and we need our believers to simply believe in us and the work we do for others to be successful.
Taycheedah Correctional Institution, located in Fond du Lac, WI is a maximum security Women's prison. Our Executive Director, Mishelle O'Shasky recently attended a Reentry Resources fair hosted by the prison.
The women that spent time with Mishelle in prison and others were filled with gratitude has they became aware and learned what Mishelle has accomplished after she left prison in 2010. Mishelle's story created hope for themselves when they leave the prison and re-created a life for themselves and their children past the stages of incarceration.
Mishelle learned quite quickly, the women did not want a brochure or her business card.
We do this right?
We show up with our presentation and marketing materials all the time. The last thing they needed was propaganda. The women, broken and feeling that no one will #LoveHer upon release asked for much more. However, what they requested was not what you would typically assume.
Have you ever felt like no one was listening to you? No one cared about you?
It was so simple, the requests they expressed to our organization; they want you to care about them and hear what they will be faced with when they attempt to reintegrate into their own respective communities.
What do you think or believe the women asked for?
What is our assumption?
What Mishelle quickly learned was that the Women were asking for resources that are the basic human needs. They were seeking a purpose, a home, community and hope.
What Mishelle heard.....
Jackie P from Milwaukee: Mishelle to borrow her some deodorant when she gets out and maybe some winter clothes.
Lisa I of Rock County: non skid, steel toed boots, clothes for work and healthcare.
Megan C of Kenosha: opiate treatment, hope, compassion and understanding. She also needs work boots.
Nicole W of Green Lake: personal hygiene items, food and help with her children
Tina S of Grant County: access to the food pantry, help with her medications and clothing
Christina L of LaCrosse: transportation, treatment for PTSD and forgiveness
Katherine P of Wood County: everything, she has nothing when she leaves
Lindsay H of Shawano and Tamara T of Fond Du Lac: trade skills and work clothes
WARNING: The young lady's request will be a sucker punch you in the gut and leave you with a completely different perspective of those in the criminal justice system.
Idolina T of Oconto County: Love (Just LOVE)
This is only a handful of the request, there are plenty more.
Why should you care?
- Together, we represent the voices of the unheard, disenfranchised and marginalized of members of society due to stigma associated with incarceration, mental illness and substance abuse disorder. With your help and kindness for others, we can enhance our efforts and continue to #LoveHer the best we know how.
Sincerely, The Peer Association INC