White population grows least as US becomes more diverse, Census says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is growing older and more ethnically diverse, a trend that could strain government programs from Medicare to education, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Every ethnic and racial group grew between 2015 and 2016, but the number of whites continued to increase at the slowest rate — less than one hundredth of 1 percent, or 5,000 people, the Census estimate shows. That’s a fraction of the rates of growth for non-white Hispanics, Asians and people who said they are multi-racial, according to the government’s annual estimates of population.

President Donald Trump’s core support in the racially divisive 2016 election came from white voters, and polls showed that it was especially strong among those who said they felt left behind in an increasingly racially diverse country. In fact, the Census Bureau projects whites will remain in the majority in the U.S. until after 2040.

“Even then, (whites) will still represent the nation’s largest plurality of people, and even then they will still inherit the structural advantages and legacies that benefit people on the basis of having white skin,” said Justin Gest, author of “The New Minority,” a book about the 2016 election.

AN AGING NATION

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The Villages

FILE- In this Sept. 21, 2008 file photo, William LeBeau, 86, right, sits in his golf cart in a parking spot at the main square in The Villages, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Phelan M. Ebenhack

The Census Bureau reported that the median age of Americans — the age at which half are older and half are younger — rose nationally from just over 35 years to nearly 38 years in the years between 2000 and 2016, driven by the aging of the “baby boom” generation.

The number of residents age 65 and older grew from 35 million to 49.2 million during those 16 years, jumping from 12 percent of the total population to 15 percent.

That’s a costly leap for taxpayers as those residents move to Medicare, government health care for seniors and younger people with disabilities, which accounted for $1 out of every $7 in federal spending last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. By 2027, it will cost $1 out of every $6 of federal money spent. Net Medicare spending is expected to nearly double over the next decade, from $592 billion to $1.2 trillion, the KFF reported.

Sumter County, Florida, home of The Villages, a large retirement community, had the highest median age increase, rising from 49 years old in 2000 to 67 years old in 2016. Over that time period, 56 U.S. counties showed a median age increase of 10 years or more.

The Nation's Median Age Continues to Rise[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

BOOM IN YOUNG PEOPLE

The Census report also showed that children in the U.S. born from 2001 through 2016 were the nation’s fastest-growing age group, with a 6.8 percent jump in the year beginning July 1, 2015. Other age groups either lost or gained population by less than a percentage point, according to the Census Bureau.

That means more demand on taxpayers for schools, bilingual education and accommodations for English language learners, as well as recruiting a corps of educators that reflects the nation’s students. Robert Hull, executive vice president of the National Association of State Boards of Education, said a majority of students in the U.S. are not white, but that 82 percent of teachers are white.

“It’s not just the services offered or what we do for the students but who is delivering those services,” Hull said.

The number of English language learners in U.S. public schools was about 4.6 million in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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Barry Tomasetti

This photo taken July 21, 2014 shows Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Barry Tomasetti meeting with young students in teacher Jane Cornell’s summer school class at Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center in Kennett Square, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Matt Rourke

FACE OF A NATION

All race and ethnic groups grew in the year before July 1, 2016, the Census reported.

The Asian population and those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3 percent each, to 21 million and 8.5 million, respectively. Hispanics grew by 2 percent to 57.5 million. The black population grew by 1.2 percent to nearly 47 million.

The number of non-Hispanic whites grew by only 5,000, leaving that population relatively steady at 198 million of the nation’s 325 million people.

A Pew Research Center analysis of the Census’ current population survey found that white turnout increased in the 2016 election, while black turnout dropped and the nonwhite share of the U.S. electorate remained flat compared with the 2012 election.

“Any sort of impact on politics may be several decades in the future,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research for the Pew Research Center.

California had both the largest number of whites and non-white Hispanics in 2016, 30 million and 15.3 million, respectively.

Texas had the largest numeric increase in both the white and non-white Hispanic populations.

As for the share of a state’s overall population, New Mexico had the highest percentage of nonwhite Hispanics at 48.5 percent. Maine had the largest percentage of whites, nearly 97 percent.

Population growth statistics at a glance:

  • The Hispanic population (including all races) grew by 2.0 percent to 57.5 million.
  • The Asian population grew by 3.0 percent to 21.4 million.
  • The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population grew by 2.1 percent to 1.5 million.
  • The American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 1.4 percent to 6.7 million.
  • The black or African-American population grew by 1.2 percent to 46.8 million.
  • The white population grew by 0.5 percent to 256.0 million.
  • Those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3.0 percent to 8.5 million.
  • The non-Hispanic white alone population grew by 5,000 people, remaining at 198.0 million.

Physical fitness, sleep, eating properly key to healthy living

The Army is well-known for its physical fitness standards, but for Lt. Col. Devon “Dru” Roberts, a program analyst and action officer with Army Warrior Care Transition, being physically fit is a personal endeavor.

“My father was a Type 2 diabetic. He smoked for 30 years and drank Pepsi every day,” Roberts explained. “Although he was a Vietnam veteran and career Soldier, the retired Master Sergeant hated drinking water and exercising—particularly after retiring. He also suffered from kidney cancer and failure. My mother drank Dr. Pepper every day and ate heavy foods (fried and southern inspired). She suffered from high blood pressure and was a chronic smoker for 40 years. She survived a brain aneurysm in 2001. She also suffered from (arterial derived) dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, lung and kidney cancer.

Growing up around physically active siblings and a near 20-year career in the Army prompted Roberts to put his health front and center.

“I’m an avid soccer player,” said Roberts. ”I played for the city, high school, intramural league and the military while deployed. In college, I participated in the Reserve Officer Training Program, so running and weights were statutory. I worked out five to six days a week, 45-60 minutes each day. Although I no longer lift weights, I started calisthenics six months ago and I still work out five to six days a week, 60 minutes each day and attempt to walk at least 10,000 plus steps a day. Physical fitness was a critical component in my success in the ROTC program and is now a part of my everyday life,” said Col. Travis Richardson, a board certified internist at Fort Belvoir, Va. and chief, Clinical Liaison Division, Warrior Care and Transition.

“Being active and physically fit is essential for good health. We know from reliable research that there is an inverse relationship between physical activity/fitness and health. In other words the more physically active a person is, the lower the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and obesity.

“This is especially vital within the Army as Soldiers must be fit in order to maintain readiness and to perform all of the required tasks to fight and win the nation’s wars. Programs within the Army such as Move to Health and the Performance Triad assists Soldiers in this effort.”

The military’s Performance Triad consists of sleep, activity and nutrition. A system Roberts says he found as a key to keeping fit.

“Earlier in life, I ate relatively well but didn’t really adjust my diet until college and beyond,” Roberts aid. “I reduced my bread and sugar intake and stopped eating pork. I gave up milk and beef after researching its impact on African-American men.

“Currently, my diet consists of fish and poultry and lots of vegetables. I also consume organic vegetable-based protein drinks to ensure I receive the proper amount of protein my body requires to maintain and build muscle along with taking a daily multivitamin. The body knows what it becomes accustomed to. I become tired and lethargic whenever I
ate foods that were fried, excess in sugar and fatty. My body lets me know within 24 hours just how wrong I was in my eating decisions.”

According to medical officials with the Defense Health Agency, adopting attitudes such as Roberts’ that foster healthy lifestyle choices are beneficial. While men and women have many of the same health concerns, men may be affected differently than women. In addition, there are some conditions which are unique to men. Familiarity with men’s health issues, regular screenings and prevention are essential to maintaining good physical wellness.

“Those components are extremely important.
Army medicine has been changing the conversation to move from health care and managing chronic diseases to a system for health that
is designed to prevent disease and injury, restore health, and improve health through education and self-empowerment, “Richardson said. “This is especially important for men as the life expectancy for men is about six to seven years less than women.

“There are several reasons for this difference but one of the reasons is cardiovascular disease, which can be impacted positively by healthy behaviors and activities.”

“I believe my family’s history was a blueprint for my healthy life style,” said Roberts.

“Whether you’re in the
military or not, you’re only given one life and one
body—it’s essential you take care of it.” n

Vodacom Durban July Gallops

The Vodacom Durban July gallops were held on Thursday morning at Greyville in preparation for the R4.25m Grade 1 feature over 2200m on the course on Saturday week and there were some eye-catching workouts amid the others who did not give much away.

The favourite Edict Of Nantes was his usual relaxed self and strode out well before being geared down in the final stages. Last year’s winner The Conglomerate has enjoyed a fine preparation and put up eye-catching work on the polytrack. He is carrying just 0.5kg more than last year and is drawn three as opposed to 18, so looks to have a good each-way chance.

Edict Of Nantes, picture Nkosi Hlophe

Elusive Silva looked very well in himself and put in a satisfactory gallop without being asked to a lot. It’s My Turn has clearly strengthened up as a four-year-old and impressed in his work out. Ten Gun Salute caught the eye and trainer Duncan Howells referred to his gallop as “exceptional”. He is clearly bullish about a horse who has only been “his true self” since gelding.

Black Arthur strode out well in a fast workout and ran all the way to the line. Nightingale, one of two fillies in the race, put up one of the most impressive workouts. She glided over the turf and was stretching out well. The other filly Safe Harbour galloped with the second favourite Al Sahem at Randjesfontein and analyst Kevin Shea, whose two July wins as a jockey were both on fillies, rated her gallop as the best of the lot. Al Sahem did nothing wrong either.

Marinaresco, picture Nkosi Hlophe




Marinaresco strode out well without blinkers, but will have the normal headgear on in the race. Brazuca put in one of the best gallops at Greyville and strode out beautifully. Sansui Summer Cup winner Master Sabina also threw out his leading leg noticeably well.

French Navy hated the blinkers in his last start and refused to gallop after being hit in the eye by a clod, but both trainer Sean Tarry and jockey Lyle Hewitson were pleased with his gallop and he will be a dark horse off a merit rating of 110, having raced off a 113 and a 115 in his two previous attempts when beaten three lengths and 3.9 lengths respectively.

Krambambuli has received a lot of betting support and has been doing very well at Summerveld, so was not asked to do a lot yesterday, but looked very well in himself. Saratoga Dancer never shows a lot in work and had his head twisted to the side down the straight, but trainer Howells explained this was due to him already being a fit horse and he was held back in this workout.

Mr Winsome has recovered well from his Track and Ball Derby win on Sunday and this progressive horse only did a 400m workout on the poly. Pagoda was green in his first outing at Greyville in the Daily News 2000, so should improve and he did nothing wrong in his workout. Tilbury Fort is a courageous sort who will give of his best. He did nothing wrong in his gallop, but he is up against it at the weights.

The two reserve runners Horizon and Nebula both put up good gallops.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

gaps remained

African Americans score lower than European Americans … without provoking charges of ethnocentrism, racism, and much else. But blacks … have especially negative consequences for African Americans, whose anxiety about racial stereotypes … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

(BPRW) Sharing the Belief that Mentorship Breeds Great Leaders

The U.S. Army Continues to Partner with 100 Black Men of America

(Black PR Wire) New Orleans – Recognizing the vital importance of mentorship in the development of our nation’s next generation of leaders, the U.S. Army continues its partnership with 100 Black Men of America. The partnership includes the Army’s participation at the 31st annual 100 Black Men of America National Conference being held recently in New Orleans.

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Brigadier General Ural Glanville congratulates Marvin Dickerson, the national President of the 100 Black Men of America, and Inc. on their 60th National Convention. General Glanville said “We are here (U.S. Army) because the Army shares the same mission as the 100 Black Men of America. Preparing our youth to be the next generation of leaders. Personally, I enjoy mentoring young people and what I see here is an organization that cares about the youth and values education.”

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Marlin N. Gusman, the Sheriff of Orleans Parish joined in the U.S. Army activities by performing several pushups at the 100 Black Men of America Community Empowerment Day. The activities took place at the Alice M. Harte Charter School at 5300 Berkley Dr., New Orleans, LA. The community engagement theme was “Growing Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.” The goal of the event was to build a project which will last beyond the conference and continue to benefit the community. Activities included building a community garden, having a local “bazaar” with STEM activity and health screenings.

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100 Black Men of America national President, Brian Pauling navigates the Army Extraction course. This was one of several activities that challenged participates attending the Community Empowerment Day at Alice M. Harte Charter School, 5300 Berkley Dr., New Orleans, LA. The Community event’s theme was “Growing Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.” The goal of the 100 Black men of America and the U.S. Army was to build a project which will last beyond the conference and benefit the community. Activities included building a community garden, having a local STEM activity and health screenings.

photo-4

The U.S. Army and St. Augustine High School met at the 100 Black Men of America National Convention at the Hyatt regency New Orleans. Both believe the future of America’s youth is in the access to quality education. The goal of the meeting was to explore ways the two can collaborate to meet this common goal for the youth of New Orleans

Photo Left to Right: Staff Sargent Jundi, Master Sgt. (Ret.) Wade, Ms. Melissa Duplantier Dir. Marketing & Communications, St. Augustine H.S, Mr. Don Hilton U.S. Army Ethnic Field Marketing Representative

COVER STORY: From the Inside Out: Adjusting to life without bars

Above, EPOCA member Jay McCcune gets ready to head to Boston to lobby for better policies aimed at helping ex-prisoners return to society/Elizabeth Brooks photo

After he was released from state prison, it took 36-year-old Tim Peak of Worcester two months to get a state I.D. He said he couldn’t even get a library card, his only access at the time to a computer.

A week and a half after Mariousz Bezak, 39, of Webster, was released from the Worcester County House of Corrections, he found out his license was revoked for life, and had no opportunity to develop an alternate plan for transportation before learning that.

When Wahya Wolfpaw, 51, a Cherokee Native American in Worcester, was released from prison two years ago, she spent the first few months homeless, unable to find a place to stay aside from stints in homeless shelters.

When Richard Albert III was arrested for violating probation, he lost his job at a temp agency and has struggled to find a new one. He has a home, but he is not on the lease. He has previously struggled with drugs and said he is trying hard not to fall back in.

Jessica Morales, 25, of Worcester, got in a fight several years ago. Because of it, she lost her job and her kids, spent 10 months behind bars and, just recently, escaped a probation period without falling back into it.

Christopher Williams of Lawrence was recently released from the Worcester County House of Corrections, and applied for emergency assistance through the state welfare program, but was told he needs to first see a doctor. The waiting list for his doctor is 90 days.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jason Ludwig of Lynn, who now works for the Worcester-based Straight Ahead Ministries, spent nine and a half years in and out of prison. When he was released, he would skip a court date, get drunk and into trouble, revert back to stealing for money, and wind up right back where he started. It took a religious experience and a found family to pull him out of the cycle.

CURBING RECIDIVISM

Their stories are all too common among returning citizens (a preferred term for men and women who have previously served prison terms), who struggle to find work, to find housing, to find a place in society that won’t drag them back into old habits, and to navigate a justice system eager to suck ex-convicts back in with default warrants, probation violations, random drug tests and endless fees.

The individual stories above are among thousands that contribute to a roughly 44-percent recidivism rate among Massachusetts inmates, a rate estimated to cost the state $450 million a year. The days, weeks and months following release from prison are fraught with pitfalls, both bureaucratic and of the returning citizen’s own making. Many local advocates and returning citizens feel state institutions provide woefully-inadequate re-entry service, leaving vulnerable people in near-impossible situations.

Two thirds of those sentenced to state and county prison had been incarcerated before, according to a 2016 policy brief on recidivism rates by the public policy research group MassINC. When prisoners are released, they are often still battling addiction, dealing with mental health issues and have a weak support system. At the point of re-entry, the statewide issues of recidivism, drug addiction and homelessness are one. When the former inmate hits the street, data shows they have just under a 50-percent chance of going back within three years.

In January, at the start of the current two-year legislative session, state lawmakers highlighted criminal justice reform as a key goal with an omnibus package of reforms with near unanimous backing and a myriad of other bills aimed at specific issues. But local advocates, who have been picking up where they feel the state has failed, feel the Legislature is not moving fast enough.

Two Worcester-based organizations, Ex-Prisoners And Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement and Straight Ahead Ministries, both based in Worcester’s Main South neighborhood, are working to improve re-entry one returning citizen at a time. And a new re-entry program, the Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry, is showing major improvements in recidivism rates, though it’s working with a relatively small amount of inmates.

JOBS NOT JAILS

Parked in front of City Hall Monday was a beat-up, old yellow school bus. People wearing shirts with “E.P.O.C.A.” emblazoned on the front and “Jobs Not Jails” on the back milled around it, waiting for more to come. Each person was handed a tee-shirt as the group filed on the bus, headed for the statehouse Tomiko Walker, Steve Denson and Kevin Lynch, three leaders of EPOCA, ushered folks on the bus. In all, there were about 25, many of whom had previously served time. They were heading to Boston to let members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary know Worcester wants criminal justice reform.

Alright people, we’re talking on mandatory minimum for drug offenses today,” said Walker, sitting on his leg in a seat halfway down the bus. He also gave a quick primer on the Justice Reinvestment Act, an omnibus bill backed by many legislators and Gov. Charlie Baker. The bill, he said, “ain’t got any teeth in it.”

From the front of the bus, Denson began passing out $3 Subway half-sandwiches: turkey, Italian or veggie. Sandwich orders were shouted in every direction as the sandwiches, chips and water made way down the rows of seats. Many of the people on the bus had previously served criminal sentences, were on parole or had just recently been release. Almost all of them knew someone in jail. Some were among the roughly 150 that signed up to speak at a Statehouse hearing on the various criminal justice bills introduced this legislative session.

Since it started 11 years ago, EPOCA has burgeoned, gaining hundreds of members and satellite operations in other cities. The organization is based out of a small, two-room office in a large green house on King Street that also houses Stone Soup Kitchen. Founders Walker, Denson and Lynch sat around a conference room with a single sheet of paper it: the form to seal a criminal record. The walls of the office were covered in graphs, charts, fact boxes and campaign literature.

At its onset, the group worked to help people navigate the barriers returning citizens saw in trying to get jobs, like employers that ran background checks. They also joined the many groups around the state petitioning the state Legislature for CORI reform. CORI, which stands for Criminal Offender Record Information, is the state’s background check system, revealing misdemeanor and felony charges on a person’s record. In 2012, the group scored a major legislative win with the Ban the Box Act, which prevented certain employers from including a section for prior criminal history on applications.

Now, EPOCA is expanding its scope. The group is forging partnerships with local businesses and the city’s unemployment office, Workforce Central, to help local returning citizens find work. They help people seal their criminal record, find places to stay and navigate options for state and private assistance. The organization is still a regular fixture at the Statehouse, petitioning the Legislature to do more. They support several pieces of legislation, including the Justice Reinvestment Act, the Act to Stop The Criminalization of Poverty and a bill that would make it easier to expunge juvenile criminal records. Though the state has signaled its intention to make criminal justice reform a priority in this two-year legislative session, EPOCA leadership believe the state isn’t doing all they could.

They’re not moving fast enough,” said Walker, who serves as EPOCA president. “They’re shuffling feet, knowing that elections are coming up next year, so they trying to prolong the process.”

Decades of tough-on-crime policy, he said, have left county and state prisons overstuffed with low-level offenders, at an exorbitant cost to taxpayers.

They could be doing a lot more than what they’re doing,” Walker said. “It’s so obvious, knowing these jails are filled up.”

After years of relatively little focus on the issue, the Legislature has appeared to signal the time is now to make changes to the criminal justice system, amid a widening discussion on mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the state’s relatively high level of recidivism.

As of 2011, the statewide recidivism rate was 44 percent. EPOCA, a small but growing group of advocates, have found themselves in the middle of that conversation, pushing the state and the city for more while helping local returning citizens to get a home, get a job and stay away from the kind of activity that landed them in prison to begin with.

DIFFERENT OPINIONS

At Monday’s meeting at the Statehouse, it was standing room only as advocacy groups such as EPOCA, politicians, analysts, journalists and attorneys filled the hearing to discuss the many bills on file in this two year session, which started in January. The debate around mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking proved a focal point in the criminal justice reform debate, as advocates, scholars, defense attorneys and lawmakers squared off against the district attorneys, who were reticent to relinquish a powerful tool for law enforcement.

A group of five – Worcester District Attorney Joe Early was not in attendance – were represented by Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley. He argued at length that minimum mandatory sentences are important for negotiating plea bargains and for targeting the drug traffickers that bring violence to communities. The sentencing guidelines, he said, are “used as a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.” But others rejected the argument entirely.

You cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach to address this health crisis,” said Rasshan Hall, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program.

The line between drug user and drug dealer is often a blurry one, he said, and the sentencing guidelines cast people away for years that may be better treated with substance abuse programming.

Many believe mandatory minimum sentences have a detrimental effect on both those who serve them and the community once they’re released. Those serving a set amount of time are less likely to correct behavior, as they cannot earn good time or early release in prison. Mandatory minimum sentences, critics maintain, also preclude certain people from signing up for programs within prison that help prisoners land on the outside more smoothly.

EPOCA is firmly on that side of the fence. The organization largely wants to see change made to the state’s mandatory minimum sentences laws, which they see as draconian holdovers of the war on drugs, and further, as a modern holdover of slavery – one of the more brutal aspects of a system that turned slaves to criminals.

According to the ACLU, 75 percent of Massachusetts inmates serving mandatory minimums, which often stretch at least several years, are African Americans. The mandatory sentences mean drug offenders often serve longer sentences than those who commit violent crimes. For an armed robbery or kidnapping charge, prisoners have the option of early release or work release, an opportunity not extended to those serving mandatory minimums.

From EPOCA’s perspective, mandatory minimums keep people in prison for too long, and also pose significant challenges once its time for that prisoner to return to society.

Most people on minimum mandatory, they’re not going to do any programming because there’s no incentive for them to get out early,” said Walker. “Therefore, they stay stuck still in that same mindset that they was before entering the jail. You’re putting that same mindset back into the communities.”

Mandatory minimums, he continued, do not make the community safer. Instead, Walker argued, they hinder entry — sometimes banning it outright — into programs that help inmates rehabilitate themselves and prepare for success. Statistically, and perhaps by design, mandatory minimum policy has overwhelmingly affected black, Latino and poor white people.

It’s the underlying racism,” said Walker.

BY THE NUMBERS

While officials are quick to tout the state’s relatively low incarceration rate at least compared to other states (as of the end of 2013, there were 21,400 people incarcerated in Massachusetts – or 400 per 100,000 adults), the high rate of recidivism is an undeniable problem.

According to a 2016 MassINC report, approximately two thirds of people sent to state and county prisons had been previously incarcerated. About 67 percent of all state Department of Corrections inmates and county House of Corrections inmates had previously been inmates.

In fiscal 2013, a third of repeat offenders committed violent crimes and another third committed property offenses, according to the report. Those returning to society have been found to be concentrated in a small number of poor and urban communities, like the Main South neighborhood.

The large number of ex-offenders in these areas has a criminogenic effect, increasing the likelihood among residents of both first-time offending and re-offending,” the report’s authors write.

Another report on re-integrating ex offenders, published in January by the New England Public Policy Center, shows recidivism rates are higher among younger inmates, at 42 percent throughout New England. Black men, according to the NEPPC, have the highest recidivism rate of any gender and race combination, at 40 percent.

At the Worcester House of Corrections, there are about 1,100 inmates. Of them, 50 percent had been inside before, and nearly 90 percent struggle with some sort of substance abuse problem, according to Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

But WISR, a Worcester-county based program launched several years ago, is showing some results. An evaluation of the first three years of the program shows dynamic decreases in recidivism among the roughly 150 inmates that went through the program. Within a year, rates dropped from 19.8 to 9.2 percent re-incarceration, a 53-percent change. Within three years, rates dropped from 39.5 to 20.8 percent, a 47-percent change. Of the participants in need, 97 successfully enrolled in MassHealth, 75 percent of participants got the mental health services they were referred for, and 62 percent became employed. Of those, 71 percent were employed for a year or longer.

The WISR approach is a relatively simple one, involving more intensive case management both before and after release than the inmates would have gotten otherwise. Inter-agency teams of social service and health care professionals worked to refer the returning citizens and help navigate an often confusing bureaucratic web. The inmates had individual case management and incentives to participate by way of decreased participation time. The new program has excited the reentry team at the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, which provides a less intensive version of the service on a shoestring budget.

There is no magic bullet on this, but we know the more that we can do regarding this continuum of care, the better,” said Don Siergie, director of inmate services. “It’s the right thing to do and it makes sense for public safety.”

Many of the returning citizens interviewed for this story listed a lack of guidance after release as one of the biggest challenges.

Resource, more options, a better way to get an I.D.,” said Tim Peak. “You come out of prison with nothing.”

In many ways, the intensive case work of WISR is an institutionalized version of the work that EPOCA and Straight Ahead Ministries do to help returning citizens find work, stay on the right path and navigate the system.

A SPIRITUAL APPROACH

Just down the street from EPOCA, Straight Ahead Ministries is headquartered in a second-floor office on Main Street. The organization has been around for about 30 years, and focuses on atrisk youth, from young teens to 24 year olds. The organization has satellite locations around Worcester, so as to not force kids into enemy gang turf, and has other offices in Lynn, Lawrence and the New Bedford area. Much of their work focuses on young returning citizens.

For Straight Ahead, it is the days following release that prove the most vital.

They’re thinking, their head is clear, they’re not high. They’re thinking, ‘Where am I going?’” Straight Ahead president Scott Larson said. “But when they hit the street, everything else is the same. Every system kind of works to get back to an equilibrium, whether it’s a family or a community. They know what to do with this guy or girl as a drug dealer or criminal or whatever their thing is. If they make that change, it sort of upsets the whole system.”

A young returning citizen may find a job, but they have to go from making several thousand dollars a night selling drugs to earning minimum wage. And they often have random drug screenings, probation appointments and other commitments with the justice system that make keeping steady hours near impossible. They’re homeless a good part of the year, and often times are dealing with the pressures of gangs, rival gang, and police. It takes some kind of experience, Larson said, some kind of spiritual moment, for many to make the commitment to a better life against difficult odds.

Jason Ludwig, a former inmate and youth outreach coordinator for Straight Ahead Ministries working in Lynn, said his own life changed in a peculiar way. He was involved with a church, he said, but still holding on to his old life. After a bad fight with his girlfriend, he bought a 30 pack of beer and an eighth ounce of cocaine. He stayed up all night drinking and doing drugs, falling back into it. In the morning, he was wracked with guilt. But a few friends from his church came over and showed support, despite the slip-up.

He said, ‘Jason, you’re probably going to do it again,’” Ludwig recalled. “But what I heard in that was like, ‘No matter what you do, even if you mess up again, we’re still going to be here for you. We love you. It doesn’t matter.’”

He started crying, he said, and they hugged him. He felt loved, like he had a place to fall back to, a found family that would be there for him.

That’s it,” Ludwig said. “I never went back again.”

Bill Shaner can be reached at 508-749- 3166 x324 or at wshaner@worcestermag. com. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Shaner.

Congressional Black Caucus Turns Down Second Trump Invitation

The Congressional Black Caucus turned down an invitation to meet with President Donald Trump, telling him June 21 they believe their concerns are falling on “deaf ears” at the White House and his policies are devastating to the millions of Americans in the nation’s Black communities.

A White House spokeswoman said the development was “pretty disappointing” and pledged to arrange for individual members to meet one-on-one with Trump.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond says that the Caucus will not meet with President Donald Trump because White House policies are hurting Blacks. (Courtesy photo)

Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond told Trump in a letter that his proposed budget, his efforts to dismantle Democrat Barack Obama’s health care law and actions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions are detrimental to many African-Americans. Richmond said the caucus had expressed its concern several times, including in eight letters and a document, but the administration has failed to respond.

“The CBC, and the millions of people we represent, have a lot to lose under your administration,” Richmond wrote. “I fail to see how a social gathering would benefit the policies we advocate for.”

Trump and top members of the caucus met in March, but Richmond said there has been no follow-through on promises like helping Black lawmakers meet with Trump’s Cabinet.

Specifically, the caucus criticized Trump’s budget proposal, which would cut money for Pell Grants for low-income college students and eliminate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps seniors and others on fixed incomes heat their homes.

The caucus singled out moves by Sessions on drug prosecutions and civil rights enforcement, and complained that the House GOP health care bill that Trump celebrated during a Rose Garden ceremony would “strip millions of Black people of their health care.”

Richmond’s letter responded to an invitation from Trump aide Omarosa Manigault, chief spokeswoman for the White House Office of Public Liaison.

“It’s pretty disappointing that Cedric Richmond has decided to go back on his commitment to meet with us,” Manigault said in a telephone interview.

She said caucus members who were excluded from the March meeting have been reaching out to her personally, as well as to the White House legislative affairs team, seeking one-on-one meetings with Trump to discuss issues their constituents are concerned about.

“We will do that because they have made those requests and we will honor those requests,” Manigault said. “That’s not going to be deterred because of Cedric Richmond’s political gamesmanship.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said caucus members want substance from the White House, not a social event.

“We want to talk and deal with issues that are of concern to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and we’ve not gotten any response,” Meeks said. “My opinion and the opinion of most of just about all of the members of the CBC is that the board met (with Trump). They gave him substantive issues which we wanted to deal with and they have not been dealt with.”

Meeks added, “Until we can deal with substance and issues what’s the benefit of a meeting.”