Helping People—and Communities—Thrive After Prison

Colorado has developed a groundbreaking approach to serving those returning from incarceration that is transforming lives, supporting communities, and promoting locally-driven public safety solutions.

Helping People—and Communities—Thrive After Prison

A policy report released this week by the Urban Institute features Colorado’s Work and Gain Education and Employment Skills (WAGEES) program, a novel partnership between a state department of corrections and local community organizations to develop and invest in expansive public safety strategies that are driven by communities. The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC), a Public Welfare Foundation grantee, has been a key partner in this effort.

The local organizations—which receive grants from the state through an intermediary, the non-profit Latino Coalition for Community Leadership (LCCL) —provide critical services such as housing, educational and employment training, mental and behavioral health support, and substance abuse treatment to help people returning from prison successfully reintegrate into the community. After more than two years, the program has already resulted in a nine percent recidivism rate. In addition to describing the program, the policy brief offers lessons for other states that want to explore a community-based public safety investment strategy.   

Urban also worked with Lake Research Partners to conduct focus groups and a national poll, which showed broad public support for a wide range of community-based reforms and services to improve public safety. The poll found that 78 percent of voters support proposals to move funding from incarceration to community-based public safety programs, including a solid 57 percent majority who expressed strong support, and only 16 percent who opposed such proposals.

Those sentiments are reflected in Colorado where, recently, the state’s House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to reauthorize the grant program, asking CCJRC and LCCL to develop an expansion plan and a larger budget.

To see a summary of the report, click here.

To see the full report, click here