Amazon Smile: Support Patrick Allison House as you make your holiday purchases!

Feel even better about making your holiday purchases. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your purchases to Patrick Allison House when you use the Amazon Smile portal. 

Same Amazon you know; same products, same prices, same service.

Now, you can support Patrick Allison House at no cost to you while you buy gifts for your friends and family. Start shopping now to support Patrick Allison House.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake speaks to inmates at city jail

Baltimore Sun
By Justin Fenton
April 4, 2015

Two dozen inmates sat in a makeshift classroom on a recent afternoon at the Baltimore City Detention Center getting a crash course in civics. Instructor Meg Ward had written Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's name on a whiteboard, explaining the structure of city government and her rise to power.

There was a small commotion in the hallway outside, and a surprise guest entered: Rawlings-Blake.

For the next 40 minutes, the mayor, perched on the edge of the teacher's desk, discussed how she approaches the city's challenges and works to build consensus. The inmates were prepared with plenty of questions: What are you doing about vacant homes? Are there plans for new recreation centers? What will happen to schools that are closed down?

 

The inmates are part of a 12-week program called Elevation, which covers a wide range of topics including drug education, parenting, communication skills, entrepreneurship, current events and Spanish. Participants, who range in age from 18 to 58, live and eat together in their own area of the jail.

Such programs have not previously been offered to inmates in the pretrial facility, where stays can last a few months or years. As they await trial, they are alternatively on the cusp of release or a potentially lengthy commitment to a state prison.

Elevation seeks to put that idle time to use, regardless of its length, said Kate E. Wolfson of the Safe & Sound Campaign, a nonprofit group that helps run the program.

In the short term, it has helped curb violence within the facility, she said.

"The majority of them have made a decision that they want to do something different when they get home, and want to change their lives," Wolfson said.

Aides say Rawlings-Blake's visit was part of a broader commitment to improving re-entry services for Baltimore's ex-offender population. Though arrests have declined significantly over the past decade, tens of thousands of city residents are still locked up each year.

Angela Johnese, director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice, said the city coordinates a monthly meeting of nonprofits and other organizations to discuss re-entry services, and is competing for state and federal grants to help their efforts. And the city runs a "re-entry center" at Mondawmin Mall.

Rawlings-Blake also has been on a recent push to encourage mentoring to keep young black men out of trouble.

"The mayor believes we can't just be all about law enforcement and locking criminals up," said spokesman Kevin Harris. "There has to be an equally aggressive component of making sure services are in place to help offenders be productive members of society."

Renard Brooks, the mayor's re-entry program coordinator, was part of a group that traveled with Wolfson and prison officials to California to learn about the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office's "Merit" program, which inspired Elevation. Thousands of inmates have successfully completed the Merit program.

The cinder-block classroom at the jail features the same white-gray color scheme as the rest of the facility, but the walls are covered in motivational posters and collages made by program participants. When Rawlings-Blake entered, the men stood at attention and clapped; showing respect is one of the program rules.

Ward said the inmates were "blown away at the idea that the mayor would come into the jail to talk to them."

Rawlings-Blake spoke of building consensus to reach goals, joking that she learned that early as a middle child. "If you have a vision and you can't convince everyone else to support it, that vision is worthless," she said. "You're not going to make everybody happy, but you can look for consensus."

Some questions from the inmates revolved around opportunities for youth. That led to debate after the mayor left about whether success was more dependent on resources and opportunities, or the choices people make, Ward said.

Olisaemeka Okoye, a corrections officer who works with Elevation, said while there are frequent fights in the jail, there are no such problems on the Elevation group tier. Instead of cells, those inmates live in a dorm setting and have more access to a phone, television and a microwave.

"They really want to stay there," Okoye said. "Whenever I make my rounds, I see they're doing homework or reading books."

Ward, who runs the Patrick Allison House, a transitional house for men released from prison, said she has enjoyed watching the group bond.

"They come into the program as individual people who, for obvious reasons, are very concerned about their own problem," she said. "As the weeks go on, you watch this dynamic form between this group, where it becomes a community. The older guys kind of start taking care of the younger guys. They begin to work together as a team."

Rawlings-Blake had ready answers for the questions posed by the inmates, but one stumped her. An older inmate asked why younger people don't vote. Rawlings-Blake said she couldn't understand it either, and that by not voting, "You allow yourself to be ignored."

"I don't think any of you are invisible, and I want your voices heard," she told them.

jfenton@baltsun.com

Q & A with Piper Kerman: We got a Chance to Talk In-depth with the Orange is the New Black Author

Baltimore Magazine
by Jess Mayhugh
October 23, 2014

Big Change Baltimore, an annual forum to discuss city issues organized by Open Society Institute, is being held next week at Center Stage. We got a chance to chat with one of its guest speakers, Piper Kerman, about criminal justice and what it’s like to have your life portrayed on a popular Netflix series.

 

Read more...

Amazon Smile: Support Patrick Allison House as you make your holiday purchases

Feel even better making your holiday purchases! Amazon Smile is a program where Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization selected by the customer. Now, you can support Patrick Allison House at no cost to you by selecting Patrick Allison House as your Amazon Smile charity! 

Start shopping now to support Patrick Allison House

Out of prison, into a business suit: Clothier, nonprofit provide attire for men returning to work

Baltimore Sun
By Arthur Hirsch
January 20, 2014

Anthony Mayes was nearing age 50 when he got the first suit he ever owned, a dark gray Armani, and it seemed life, at last, would be better.

He'd just been released from his latest time behind bars, making it about 22 years of his life total, for an array of charges including drugs and armed robbery. He said he's determined to make his most recent six-month stint his last, and sees the clothes — suit, shirt, tie, dress shoes — as part of that effort.

Read more...

Maryland Frees Close to 70 Inmates Over Faulty Jury Instructions

Wall Street Journal
August 6, 2014

By Scott Calvert

BALTIMORE—A state-court ruling that called into question Maryland jury convictions dating to Colonial times has led to the release of close to 70 prison inmates, fueling a debate over whether decades-old cases should be retried and, in many cases, bringing back to the surface painful emotions for families of victims.

The mass release began after Maryland's Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that the instructions state judges had been giving to juries before deliberations were fundamentally flawed. An additional 180 or so..

Read more...

15 to Life: Kenneth's Story

PBS, POV
Premiered August 4, 2014

Does sentencing a teenager to life without parole serve our society well? The United States is the only country in the world that routinely condemns children to die in prison. This is the story of one of those children, now a young man, seeking a second chance in Florida. At age 15, Kenneth Young received four consecutive life sentences for a series of armed robberies. Imprisoned for more than a decade, he believed he would die behind bars. Now a U.S. Supreme Court decision could set him free. 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story follows Young’s struggle for redemption, revealing a justice system with thousands of young people serving sentences intended for society’s most dangerous criminals.

See trailer here...

No conviction? Erase the record

Baltimore Sun, Opinion
August 13, 2014

By David L. Warnock & William H. Murphy, Jr. 
David L. Warnock is founder and CEO of Camden Partners, a private equity firm in downtown Baltimore, and chairman of the nonprofit Center for Urban Families, a workforce development organization in Baltimore. 

Billy Murphy has been a trial lawyer since 1970 and is a former judge on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, from 1980 to 1983. 

Read more...