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To effect positive chage for at risk youth in our communities.
We are proud to be among the agencies in our area to have taken on the essential task of working with the children of both currently and formerly incarcerated persons whether on parole or after having completed their sentences. We feel strongly that it is possible to redirect young minds for the purpose of getting and/or keeping them out of the criminal justice system. In our capacity as a non-profit agency, in partnership with AmericorpVISTA, we are giving clients a chance to identify their strengths and skills through professional counseling and training. We offer a state certified alcohol awareness program and a licensed outpatient substance abuse treatment facility to any and all persons on parole or probation in Bastrop County, as well as an alcohol awareness program for minors who are under a court mandate to attend. In 2006, MEEELJ assisted 348 persons in improving the quality of their lives and circumstances. In May of 2007 we were awarded a $96,000.00 grant from Americorps that included funding for three VISTA volunteers to aid us in developing systems and procedures that will help our agency grow so that we may assist even more in the future.
We offer a youth (ages 13 - 17) program: "HOPE" (Helping Other People Excel) which helps to teach them to make smart choices and avoid the rash and often dangerous decisions that would put them in the path of the criminal justice system. For adult offenders we offer a program we call "FOR REAL" (Forever Omitting Recidivism, Restructuring, Education and Activating Life) designed to reestablish lives and give them the opportunity to see that they can succeed and live as contributing, valuable members of their communities.
We are proud to offer court mandated Community Service Restitution opportunities for persons who have received probationary sentences for minor and/or first offenses. In allowing them to fulfill their obligations to the community, we hope that they will be able to reinstate themselves into their communities with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
It is our feeling that even though convicted of a criminal offense, once a person has paid the penalty imposed by the courts, they should be allowed to re-integrate into their home communities. Formerly incarcerated persons face discrimination each and every day. They are hesitant to disclose their background to employers and others, out of the very real fear that they will not be hired. There is no protection for these individuals. It is not illegal to refuse to hire someone based on past criminal convictions. Nor is it illegal to refuse to rent to a person based on a background of incarceration. Therefore, many re-offend and are returned to the criminal justice system. It is our self - imposed obligation to do everything within our abilities to reverse this trend and therefore help these persons find another path. We work with local business to identify employers willing to hire the formerly incarcerated and give them the chance to prove themselves. All most need is the chance to change, pride and a sense of purpose will do the rest. In providing this service, we hope that the community as a whole will see that even though a person has been incarcerated, they can, given the opportunity, be responsible citizens who are worthy of respect.
- Katie Richards
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