Nonprofit program uses modern techniques to reduce recidivism rates, keep families together

Good News Notes:

When people spend time in jail, a seamless return to society is often unachievable. A nonprofit organization in Arkansas tries to change that and ultimately cut down on criminal activity in the process.

“Restore Hope Arkansas” was started by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) in 2015. The group’s mission statement is to, “reduce the rate of incarceration and for foster care through a community-driven approach,” according to its website.

Clients, including incarcerated and non-incarcerated people, are assigned case managers who assess their “crisis levels.” This allows licensed professionals to gauge their individual needs and connect them with established community resources, said director Paul Chapman.

“That can take care of housing, employment, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and other wraparound services,” Chapman said.

The group found success in Sebastian Co., where a partnership with the sheriff’s department resulted in tangible results over a two-year period. Self-reported data showed the number of children in foster care dropped by 32% as parents were able to utilize the program to keep their children from being temporarily or permanently removed by the state depending on their charges.

Restore Hope also noted the inmate population fell by 19% over that span, though it should be noted that COVID-related policies to thin out inmate populations had an impact on most major jails in Arkansas.

Chapman said the Sebastian Co. experiment resulted in successes that can be implemented throughout the state.

“[It worked] just through the cooperation and coordination of resources that were already resident in that community,” Chapman said.

Last year, Pulaski Co. followed its River Valley counterpart by partnering with the nonprofit organization. Sheriff Eric Higgins said the holistic approach to treating the inmates as human beings with potential rather than people being punished has a positive impact on the criminal justice system.

“If we’re going to have a long-term effect on crime, we have to do more than just making the arrest,” Higgins said.

Inmates who utilize Restore Hope are sent to a special jail unit where they can take courses and work on bettering their prospects, Higgins said, and they also have the option of signing onto a re-entry program. Lives have been changed in just the short span of the partnership.

Only 27% of Black adults have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in law enforcement, according to a 2021 Gallup poll, and 51% of all adults agree with those statements. Higgins said the barrier formed by distrust is one the department must overcome to convince many to utilize Restore Hope’s services. To do so, visitors who went through the program and turned their lives around speak to the inmates from time to time.

“That validates us because we have these people who are successful coming in alongside us,” Higgins said. “It also validates that person to know they’ve made it through.”

Mykilah Coats is one person who used Restore Hope to change her life. The Searcy resident was arrested on four felony charges and a child endangerment charge after being pulled over with drugs in her car.

Coats said she’d been sober for two years, but a relapse derailed her life.

“I went to jail,” Coats said. “My son got picked up by [DHS].”

In jail, Coats said she realized she was on the brink of ruining her life. She faced a six-year prison sentence, and she decided to reach out to Restore Hope. The group immediately began to help her receive substance abuse assistance and assigned her a case manager….”

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