3-Step Civic Strategy:
Emotional Resilience Tools

 

After an arrest, an individual is thrown into an accelerated pattern of self-destructive emotional chaos.  This arrest shock overwhelms their reasoning and coping skills. They experience acute emotional trauma such as shame, guilt, fear, sorrow, and then feelings of abandonment, betrayal, and isolation.  Their world turns upside down as their freedom, rights, and voice are taken away.  Stunned they go into emotional shock and lose the ability to think rationally, or do the things that they normally could do.  Whether or not they are guilty,  immediately they are hit with financial losses that affect their families, and everything starts into a downward spiral – all in the first 24-72 hours – far before they talk to any defender.

Step 1: STOP THE CYCLE OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Using our Five Harm Reduction tools (where possible and logical) we intercept the spiralling emotional devastation caused by an incident.  With straight talk, we help people early on, to understand accountability, process the grief and sorrow, and de-escalate further trauma to themself and others.  Then immediately move them towards resolutionary action.

This supports reconciliation and recovery for all parties, bringing better health and wellness to everyone with dignity.  We provide people mentoring to overcome the shock of trauma, so they can see what happened with new eyes – so they can take accountability and develop emotional stability.  This may include taking restorative justice action immediately.  It may include doing therapy and outreach, connecting people to mental health services, or helping people connect to their legal support, to a reconciliation specialist or to housing support.  At this early point in a cycle, they may need a case manager or a court mentor to help them navigate a totally unfamiliar system that is control by rigid laws.

Step 2: PROVIDE HOUSING SAFETY

Right now, people who have been arrested and lost everything have no safe place to go as they deal with the consequences.  They have often been homeless, in an abusive situation, or after leaving jail they need to re-acclimate from living in highly structured facilities with little opportunity to think independently. We have found that it is easier to re-enter society successfully, when a person is not so vulnerable to being preyed upon, and instead have mentoring to live better.  They feel stronger when they are safe, warm, fed, and with a good night’s sleep.  People are more likely to be able to meet the requirements of re-entry, of obtaining employment or enrolling in educational classes or on-the-job training to further ensure a stable lifestyle.

Our vision is to serve and develop housing for more than 150 at risk residents in multiple locations – short stay to longer retraining programs. The model uses an “each one, teach one” style of coaching and mentoring, that focuses on health, addiction recovery, functional literacy, life skills training, job retraining, and community living. It also focuses on case management, relationships, and restorative justice principles.

We start small, by fulfilling the basic human needs of safety – where they can go to simply think and wind down, and start the healing process.   They learn how to self-manage and self-regulate in relationships with others, then how to go back into the workforce.

Step 3: GET BACK TO WORK

Retraining in a new field of education and employment is typically necessary.  Their old situation was insufficient, and didn’t work to start with, and now they have a record that stops easy employment.  So, they need a new path to economic self-sufficiency.  The need for education is beyond gaining a GED.  More than 40% of Whatcom County inmates are of second grade levels, and may have only basic reading, writing, and math skills. They will need tutoring, or a trade skill to develop.

We will team up with other service providers to help people look anew at what is available to them,in order to meet the market demand where it is today.  Some can enroll in local classes. For those who have no marketable skill, our goal is develop self-sufficient businesses and hands-on learning programs where they can be taught how to work from entry-level up.  We will work with existing non-profits who offer solutions, then with employers and entrepreneurs to create new opportunities and apprenticeship programs.  Job coaches will be mentors who understand; have lived the experience themselves, and been successful, working hard to get back to work after their arrest or incarceration.

MISMANAGEMENT  = SYSTEMIC PATTERNS OF POVERTY

After analyzing data about Whatcom County’s Justice system for the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force, dated November 2017, the Vera Institute of Justice published a report that identified “the following factors contributing to jail overuse in Whatcom County:

  • Most admissions (62%) into the jail had non-felony charges as the most serious charge.
  • Charges related to substance use are a significant driver of both admissions and lengths of stay.
  • People who are pre-trial make up a significant portion of the Average Daily Population of the jail.
  • It is likely that some of the people in the jail have behavioral health needs that would be better served in the community Nearly one-third (32%) of people  admitted to jail were referred to jail behavioral health services.
  • The Whatcom County Superior, District, and Bellingham Municipal Courts are not meeting prescribed time standards for resolving cases.
  • Native American, Black, and Hispanic people are over-represented in the jail population.”

Our Coalition has been interviewing people who have been arrested, jailed and who have gone through the justice system.  We have found that at the street level analysis that virtually all the people who get arrested for non-violent situations, are getting arrested because they are emotionally hurting in the first place.  Their emotional vulnerability caused them to make a mistake of some kind that turned into an accident or unfortunate incident.  Specifically they may have used poor judgement, were impaired by self-medicating with alcohol or with legal or illegal drugs, or they were distressed and dealing with an emotional upheaval in their life.

We found that a high number of these people would be far better served by being diverted out of the “jail and punishment based system” to get help with emotional resilience, conflict resolution, social coping and life skills.  It would yield a far better return to the citizens, to their families and to our community rather than throwing them into a destructive spiral that causes them to losing their capacity to get back to work.

Reading the chart above shows the debilitating sequence of destruction that afflicts families after a family member makes a mistake and gets into trouble by an arrest and jailing.

It is counterproductive to a healthy community, and directly contributes to poverty.

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