One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico: Helping Ex-offenders Gain the Power to Rebuild Their Lives

The One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico (OSCC), founded in 2000, has a mission that benefits a community not often talked about: the reentry population.

Since 2000, OSCC has helped approximately 14,000 ex-offenders find meaningful employment and rebuild their lives. OSCC’s participants have an 85% rate of successful job placement and a recidivism rate of approximately 12%, in significant contrast to an average 76.6% recidivism rate across 30 states.

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Juvenile Justice Reform: What Are We Waiting For?

By Irasema Garza, J.D., Policy Advisor, NCLR

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has worked for two decades on state and national policy platforms to address issues of discrimination and disparate treatment of Latino youth in the criminal justice system, including strengthening the protections under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974.

JJDPA established federal oversight on the treatment of youth in state detention facilities. The act was intended to move young offenders out of adult prison and address racial disparities across the juvenile justice system. Before its enactment in 1974, 300,000 children were moved into adult jails every day.

JJDPA made good strides toward improving the treatment of youth in the criminal justice system, but Congress has failed to reauthorize the act since 2002. In 2012 there were still 95,000 youth locked up in adult jails and prisons, many of them subjected to abuse and solitary confinement for weeks and months at a time.

Latino and Black youth are disproportionately impacted across the juvenile and criminal justice systems and more likely to be incarcerated than White youth, even for the same category of charges. According the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in 2011 the national ratio of state incarceration of minorities to Whites was 2.7 to 1. Continue reading

Weekly Washington Outlook – June 9, 2014

U.S. CapitolWhat to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

The House returns from its recess Monday afternoon to consider a number of bills under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. 2072 – Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Dan Benishek / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

2) H.Res. 600 – Urging the Government of Afghanistan, following a successful first round of the presidential election on April 5, 2014, to pursue a transparent, credible, and inclusive run-off presidential election on June 14, 2014, while ensuring the safety of voters, candidates, poll workers, and election observers, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Alan Grayson / Foreign Affairs Committee)

3) H.R. 4412 – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2014, as amended(Sponsored by Rep. Steven Palazzo / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)

4) S. 1254 – Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013 (Sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)

5) H.Con.Res. 100 – Authorizing the use of the rotunda of the Capitol for a ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act (Sponsored by Rep. Marcia Fudge / House Administration Committee)

6) S.Con.Res. 36 – A concurrent resolution permitting the use of the rotunda of the Capitol for a ceremony to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the next of kin or personal representative of Raoul Wallenberg (Sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand / House Administration Committee)

7) H.R. 3211 – Mortgage Choice Act (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga / Financial Services Committee)

8) H.R. 1679 – To amend the Expedited Funds Availability Act to clarify the application of that Act to American Samoa, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Eni Faleomavaega / Financial Services Committee)

9) H.R. 4228 – DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan / Homeland Security Committee)

H.R. 4745 – Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015 (Open Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Latham / Appropriations Committee)

On Tuesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider the following under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. __– The Veterans Access to Care Act (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

2) H.Res. 608 – Condemning the senseless rampage and mass shooting that took place in Isla Vista, California, on Friday May 23, 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

The House will also vote on a number of tax and appropriations bills in the period including:

H.R. 4745 – Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015 (Open Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Latham / Appropriations Committee)

H.R. 4880 – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Robert Aderholt / Appropriations Committee)

H.R. 4453 – Permanent S Corporation Built-in Gains Recognition Period Act of 2014, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. David Reichert / Ways and Means Committee)

H.R. 4457 – America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2014 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Pat Tiberi / Ways and Means Committee)

The Senate:

The Senate on Monday evening will take procedural votes to confirm a number of judicial nominations.  Consideration and confirmation of these nominees, which also include Stanley Fisher to become Vice-Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, will continue into Tuesday.  Later in the week, the Senate will likely move to Senator Warren’s (D-Mass.) student loan refinancing bill (S. 2432).  It is also possible that a compromise veteran’s bill from Senator Sanders (I-VT) and Senator McCain (R-Ariz.) could be brought to the floor.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host an event on education at the White House. Later in the afternoon, he will welcome the NCAA Champion UConn Huskies Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams to honor the teams and their 2014 NCAA Championships.  On Tuesday, President Obama will take to Tumblr in an event at the White House moderated by Tumblr Founder and CEO David Karp. The President will deliver remarks and answer questions from folks across the country on the importance of education, college affordability, and reducing student loan debt.  On Wednesday, Mr. Obama will travel to Worcester, Mass. to deliver the commencement address at the Worcester Technical High School graduation ceremony. The president will also attend a DSCC event in the Boston area. Following the event, the president will return to Washington.  On Thursday, he will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia at the White House; the vice president will also attend. The two leaders will discuss a range of issues of mutual interest, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Australia’s leadership of the G-20 this year, the future of Afghanistan, and the growing bilateral defense relationship, including the rotation of U.S. Marines through Darwin. They will also address some of the most serious security issues that confront both Australia and the United States, including Syria, Russia’s actions in Ukraine, North Korea, and the security and stability of the Asia Pacific region. In the afternoon, the president will welcome the WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx to the White House to honor the team and their victory in the WNBA Finals. On Friday, the president and Mrs. Obama will travel to the Cannonball, North Dakota area to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Following their visit to Indian Country, President Obama and the first lady will travel to Palm Springs, Calif. On Saturday, the president will deliver the commencement address at University of California, Irvine on the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the UC Irvine campus by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Also this week and beyond:

Immigration – Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is scheduled to testify on Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing; immigration reform could come up. Elsewhere, immigration reform was not included in Majority Leader Cantor’s memo to members on what to expect on the floor in the next three weeks.  It’s worth noting, however, that his primary is Tuesday.  While immigration reform will likely not be on the floor this month, the House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on June 19 on the rise of unaccompanied minors, claiming this is a result of the president’s failure to enforce existing immigration laws.

Veterans – The House and Senate are both expected to consider legislation this week to address the scandal at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Chairman of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) will have a bill on the floor later this week focusing on access to private care. Details of this are still being finalized. Similarly, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders announced an agreement in principle late last week on legislation that would make it easier to fire VA employees and allow veterans to access private care more easily. The agreement reached with Senator John McCain could be on the floor later this week. In addition to legislation, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Monday on data manipulation and access to Veterans’ Affairs Department healthcare facilities; the inspector general and GAO officials are expected to testify. The committee will also hold a hearing Thursday on barriers to veterans’ care.

Education – The White House and the Senate plan to focus this week on college affordability and student loan debt. The White House is expected to issue an executive order on Monday capping repayment of student loans at 10 percent of monthly income.  For its part, the Senate plans to proceed to a bill from Senator Warren that would allow students paying interest between 7-9 percent to refinance to current rates.

Appropriations – The House this week will vote on the Transportation – Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill for FY2015 as well as the Agriculture – FDA appropriations bill for FY2015. Both are open to amendments, and the Ag-FDA bill has come under particular scrutiny because of attempts to undermine school nutrition standards and define white potatoes as a vegetable under the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program. At the Committee level in the House, will mark-up its defense spending bill and the measure for the Department of Homeland Security. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee will mark-up Labor-Education-Health and Human Services on Wednesday.

Juvenile Justice – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a field hearing on Monday, June 9 in Rhode Island on the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.  The hearing will focus on preserving youth potential and protecting communities.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will preside.

Campaign Finance – The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Subcommittee will mark-up a proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday that would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United Case.

Financial Services – Richard Cordray, the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is scheduled to give his semi-annual report to Congress tomorrow before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. In the House, the Financial Services Committee will mark-up a series of bills designed to add additional requirements to CFPB rulemakings.

WIA – A compromise reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act is scheduled for consideration in both the House and Senate during the June work period.

Health – The House Ways and Means Committee’s Health and Oversight Subcommittees will hold a joint hearing on Tuesday to examine fraud and data issues with the verification system for insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Tax Reform – The House will vote this week on two bills which make permanent two currently expired tax provisions. H.R. 4453 would extend the reduced recognition period for built-in gains of S corporations and also includes language on charitable contributions.  H.R. 4457 related to expensing limitations under section 179.  Neither measure is offset.  The House Ways and Means Committee plans to continue to look at extenders that should be made permanent, while a traditional extenders package has stalled on the Senate floor and is unlikely to be revived until after the mid-term elections.

Nominations – The Senate Budget Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have scheduled confirmation hearings on Wednesday for Shaun Donovan’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget.

A Second Chance for Justice

By Leticia Tomas Bustillos, Associate Director, Education Policy Project, NCLR

ModelsForChange_1Several years ago I attended a dedication ceremony for a new grant-funded program that would enable young men to acquire valuable skills in the trades: electrical work, plumbing, cabinetry, and others. As I walked around the cavernous room looking at the impressive displays of student work, I had to remind myself that I was at a juvenile detention center and that the 20 students in brown jumpsuits had been incarcerated for various offenses. What was not so difficult to forget were the faces of the incarcerated—all young men of color.

At this particular facility the statistics painted a bleak picture: over half of the young men were Latino and nearly one-quarter were Black. Of those, as many as 40 percent were identified as special needs and 40 percent were English language learners. These statistics are not unique to this setting, but rather evident in national figures which show that Latinos represented nearly one-quarter of all juvenile offenders in a residential facility in 2011. In fact, research indicates that Hispanics are 16 percent more likely than their counterparts to be adjudicated delinquent, 28 percent more likely to be detained, and 43 percent more likely to be waived to the adult system. More recent research of national trends suggests that despite juvenile justice reforms in the last decade, young men of color are more likely to be remanded to secure facilities, thus composing the largest population under confinement.

How these high-school-aged youth landed in the detention center I can only imagine, as our conversations were limited to their projects, the courses they were taking to acquire new skills, and what they hoped to do with these skills. What we do know is that systems which aim to be fair, such as our education and criminal justice systems, can perpetuate and exacerbate challenges unique to Latino youth, who are at tremendous risk of failing academically and falling prey to dangerous social situations, including drug abuse and gang affiliation. Data from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division make evident that Latino youth are more likely than their peers to be suspended and expelled from our schools. Such outcomes may be explained by overexposure to under-resourced, overcrowded schools with teachers and counselors who are often ill-equipped to address the unique academic, financial, cultural, and socioemotional challenges these students face daily.

Despite the bleak picture, however, there is reason for hope. The skill-building program in this California juvenile detention center provides youth with practical experiences that would yield gainful employment upon release or, for those returning to school, credits toward graduation. In Philadelphia, Men In Motion In the Community (MIMIC) offers guidance and assistance to Latino youth who are at risk of dropping out of school or having contact with the juvenile justice system. Across the country, the Models for Change initiative has spearheaded investments in key areas of reform for the Latino community, including aftercare, community-based solutions, and dual-status youth, to name a few. Above all, with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change aims to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and promote a more fair juvenile justice system.

Latinos in our country account for 16 percent  of the total population, and by 2035 one out of every three U.S. residents will be Latino. Today, 34 percent of Latinos are under the age of 18 and one in four students in K–12 schools in the U.S. is Latino. The future of our nation depends more on the potential of Latino children than ever before. While reform does not happen overnight, we can enact practices and funding mechanisms to support efforts that prevent our youth from engaging in risky behaviors, urging them to instead focus on academic and social pursuits that lead to safe, healthy, productive futures. For youth who are currently in the system, practitioners can implement high-quality educational and vocational programs that deliver skills applicable to the 21st-century workplace.

The focus must therefore be on educating young people and not always on incarcerating them. These kinds of programs support positive youth development, reduce the likelihood of recidivism, and facilitate the integration of youth back into our communities. However, it is imperative that community leaders and law enforcement work together to replace the image of a juvenile “justice” system that solely punishes with one that allows youth to correct their mistakes and envision a more hopeful future.

The young men I spoke with talked about becoming plumbers, carpenters, and electricians and even building their own homes. Others talked about the importance of reading their builder’s manual and how they had to improve their math and reading skills to get through their courses. Still others, who had never experienced academic success in a traditional setting but now have found it, talked about going to college for the very first time. These young men of color did not speak of reform or even change; they talked of second chances and new opportunities. Through reform, we can give them both in the name of justice.