The Restorative CommUnity Coalition
- Case Management
- Emotional Resilience Help
- Personal Crisis, Health & Trauma Support
- Substance Abuse Treatment
- Education, Vocational Opportunities, and Job Search Support
- Individual Coaching
- Functional Literacy
- Life Skills
- Provide Clothes, Bus Passes, Food, Furniture, Gas, Car Repair
- Continually Writing Support Letters to Inmates
- Reentry Document Assistance (I.D.’s, etc.)
The Founder’s Story – Irene Morgan with longtime members
Irene Morgan founded the Coalition in 2006 as the ‘Whatcom County ReEntry Coalition’. With the support of several members of the community -who had worked in the traditional social services industry, or had been involved with people attaining re-entry after an arrest, we developed original programs to help in an almost unattended territory.
However, we did not find a big welcome from other non-profits, who were vying for similar funding, from a limited grant funding pool.
What we did find, however, was that there was a lot of political, social and civic resistance to helping “criminals” -when most people are familiar with helping ‘victims’.
Few people could understand that people who come out of the justice system are often directly harmed and victimized by the system itself – simply because of how the system works. This was especially true for those working in the system, for the system, and paid by the system.
After doing more research, our Coalition realized that the highest rate of return for our time and money invested in helping people, was to help them earlier and timelier,in the conflict, arrest, court and conviction cycle – and immediately, for prevention of the shock and emotional damage caused from the arrest. Most people in the jail are non-violent, and 62% are awaiting trial and have not been convicted, so helping people at that stage to mitigate the damages to their families and their future is a better idea.
It is simply costly to the families, harder to fix, and much more expensive for taxpayers if we try to help people after they are already convicted, have spent time in the jail or prison, and who have experienced the damage to their family, work and reputation.
We also started to realize that we had to stop the jail industry (and it’s addictive business model) from expanding as a business in Whatcom County. Instead, we needed to build restorative justice, restorative health and restorative economic industries.
So in 2013 we renamed our organization the Restorative Community Coalition to reflect that change in focus. We want to restore our entire community to health, anytime people have been involved in the justice system process.
We imagine communities where incarceration is minimal and only for the extraordinarily violent; where there is prevention, recovery, and rehabilitation for people who have been addicted, traumatized, and abused, instead of jailing and punishing; where people learn how to go back to work and become capable and productive members of society.
Our organization is piloting a brand new project that focuses on direct services to clients. Our Restorative Community Center has three phases: stop the cycles, restore a life, and build a future. We are currently seeking funding for this revolutionary project that can truly turn someone’s life around.
The Restorative Community Coalition is founded by Irene Morgan with focus on reentry services and housing 1st
~2008 – 2009~
The Re-Entry University is funded, we succeed in serving dozens of clients at less than $500 each to stop recidivism
Met with 24 Whatcom County Stakeholders selected by Pete Kremen to present alternatives to Incarceration
Hosted the Visionary Opportunities Conference
Produced the Appreciating Society Model to illustrate how we could intercept incarceration at the point of arrest
The RCC received grant and funding to successfully helped another 7 of 10 people to reenter society. We learned that just $1500 plus case management could produce an 85% success rate in getting people out of the arrest cycle.
We launched our first pilot project to do housing plus case management. Unfortunately, we were underfunded, and we learned that we needed full capitalization and “lived experience” case managers to manage the housing and re-entry program. We were restored a temporary home with community donations and volunteer labor. People will and can help.
Coalition members were actively engaged attending the Jail Task Force meetings, learning and diagramming how the justice and jail system did and did not work for the clients we serve. We spoke at conferences, took courses in restorative justice, researched and built our Coalition’s library of knowledge.
~2012 – 2014 ~
We continued with Direct Services to clients & started public education programs like Choices and Consequences.
Began engaging in civic activism, with research and testimony, directed to officials regarding restorative justice, and aggressively testified against purchasing the land in the County to build a huge 2450 bed jail. Published reports with the EIS process. Worked with many students at WWU to do research into the jail industry, how we could do restorative economics differently. Were told to “stand down” from fighting against the jail, were told we needed to limit our scope to just talk about reentry – or we would not be funded. Instead, we testified harder and renamed the non-profit to be the Restorative Community Coalition. Did more events and trainings for the community.
The County officials were pushing hard to pass the tax, so we did more and more opposition research, providing more and more alternatives to the Council and the publis. Increased our direct services to clients and did deeper research into the jail industry business model. We provided new restorative justice options to community through our educational Facebook pages, public testimony. We talked directly with local officials about how our Prosecutor and law enforcers are over-criminalizing and over-incarcerating citizens, and mismanaging the jail.
Our activism helped the County Council decide to create the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force.
Hosting many panels, events and educational testimony, mobilized community to stand up. Our President, Joy Gilfilen, realized that the only way to have a public discussion on the jail tax, was to run for public office so a debates could happen, then realized that the issue was still be brushed under the rug for taxpayers. The Coalition members stepped up, did even more research and the Coalition Founder Irene Morgan, and President Joy Gilfilen published an alternative vision for the future titled Stop Punishing Taxpayers, Start Rebuilding Community – 2015 Taxpayers Report.
The jail sales tax initiative was rejected by voters at 51%.
Our Coalition did investigative research into facts about the Whatcom County Jail Mailer published by the County to pass the 2015 Jail Sales Tax Initiative, and our President wrote and filed the Noble Cause Corruption Report with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. Ultimately the Whatcom County Executive was fined for campaign law violations, and placed on a 5 year restriction.
The Coalition hosted more meetings, workshops and trainings…developed programs for direct services, started studying the impacts of trauma on inmates. Irene Morgan, our founder was appointed to serve on the IPRTF, and Joy Gilfilen served as her proxy – so hundreds of hours was invested in mapping and diagramming the local Whatcom County Jail and Justice system, working directly with the Vera Institute of Justice.
Continued Direct Services and case management, tracking challenges and developing a court navigator program.
Provided investigative research documents for the public to be informed.
Hosted an all day No More Taxes Panel of Professionals Community Discussions.
Created the No Bigger Jail video that explained how the privateering jail industry economy works.
Successful in educating the public so they could reject the jail tax on the ballot. Voters rejected the tax by 58%.
Sponsored the Prosecutor’s Debate, met repeatedly with community organizations, hosted monthly meetings for members, met with Council Members, Judges, Prosecutors, Public Defenders educating them about how the Coalition could help with Court Navigation, how risk assessments could be done, worked with VERA Institute report findings to educate the public.
Hosted the Top Five Hidden Drivers of Mass Incarceration series of events.
When the Coalition realized that the Council was not going to interview inmates and clients of the jail, members and clients of the Coalition volunteered to tell their story to help the community, even though it would re-traumatize them, they wanted to help identify the top failures in the system, so it could be fixed. Joy Gilfilen did a 79 person ethnographic research study of people impacted by an arrest, and their family, employers and 1st Responders. Joy was stunned at the results for it revealed that the discussion that is had about criminal justice reform, needs to clearly be turned on its head to be truly about jail reform and emotional crisis management.Joy consolidated the research, and the Coalition published the Blindspots: Unexpected Findings from Jail Trauma Research and the RADD-RAT Whatcom County Jail Trauma Chart. This clearly demonstrated the direct link between an arrest, homelessness, poverty and mental illness.