Our interactive newsletter goes into the BOP through their Corrlinks software that serves as their email inside. It has been ongoing for the past three years. Finding content was a struggle. The intention was to spread positivity and hope in a place where that's in short supply. We tried commissary recipes, movie reviews and others, all with a lukewarm response. I've shared the struggles I've faced out here and copy and paste articles I think they might like, or are pertinent to them.
We say that it's the cornerstone of everything we do because for now, this is our primary means of communication with those inside seeking assistance. We strongly encourage interaction and many give it, asking for specific pieces of information or news articles. The perfect example is when Colette Peters was signed in as the new BOP Director. Understandably, everyone wanted the scoop, so we provided it. It has no real structure as Corrlinks allows only plain text, 13,000 characters. No pics, no emojis, no bolds or underlines. Basic.
Recently, we've gotten positive feedback about doing a couple of special issues, or an entire series on say, Technology, or Entertainment. Information that doesn't come from mainstream media is hard to come by inside, so we try to find things they wouldn't get anywhere else, always encouraging learning opportunities.
It's through this that we do our intake and needs assessment, and start building that connection that's so vital to fostering growth and change. This is where the, "Hey, I was telling my friend about Phoenix and they want to sign up for the newsletter," happens. It's through this that we'll eventually help folks fill out paperwork for correspondence courses, submit a resume for us to digitize and have waiting for them up release, hopefully with an interview lined up to boot.
Our mission is to ensure that anyone willing to put forth the effort to change, is given every opportunity available to encourage and foster that change. That is why From The Ashes is the cornerstone of everything we do.
The Flight Plan is our primary reentry program. Early on, sometimes a year or more before their release, we start creating a reentry success plan. We do a comprehensive needs assessment, getting into the nuts and bolts of what it's going to take for them to make it outside without resorting to criminal activiy, recognizing in advance, the steps that lead to making that decision.
As we're building this reentry success plan, we're reaching out to non-profit organizations in the city they're releasing to. We call and talk to them, building that connection and finding someone there with justice experience that our person releasing will have some common ground with.
As their release date approaches, we make sure the person releasing has a phone number for us and for the person they'll be working with post-release. The person they'll be meeting has been given enough information about our new release that they can hit the ground running.
This pre- to post-release, wraparound support style is being used by other organizations such as our Carolina neighbors, Jumpstart Prison Ministries. They start working with people still on the inside and they have a 96% success rate.
While inside, I saw people paying for texting services, call forwarding and even providing search results. I, personally used Phone Donkey, a for profit company that provides an inmate with a phone number that is local to the facility they're in. This allowed my family and I to pay six cents per minute for local phone calls, as opposed to 21 cents per minute for long distance.
We don't really like seeing corporations profiting off of our misfortune and struggle so we decided to turn the tables on them and offer this service ourselves, issuing 100% of the profits to Phoenix Reentry Resources. This way, at least some of the money spent will go towards something we all care about, programs to help our loved ones inside.
Soon, we'll be launching My Phoenix Services. It will be a professional, state of the art services platform, allowing you to sign up for our call forwarding service, or any other services we are able to provide.
We have a lot of ideas and the groundwork has already begun on some of it. For example, early on I reached out to a group of Life Coaches and asked if any of them were interested in volunteering to mentor some of our folks. With one social media post, we got 9 replies. So we know that's there, if there’s a point that we could implement it.
We know how important education is and have some things in the very early stages. One is working in coordination with scholarship funds and colleges who work with those inside the prison system. Pell Grants have been made available to those inside again, but as usual it's going to take them 7 years to figure out how to implement it. In the meantime, we're researching the right combination of correspondence courses and ways to pay for them.
Additionally, on the education front, we talked about modifying an existing business basics course that's tuned to interest our specific audience. It may sound weird but changing some wording and meeting these guys where they're at will keep them engaged longer and boost comprehension.
With that line of thought, we'd like to offer a basic business certificate program, which will cover basic budgeting, bookkeeping, getting funding, writing a business plan and more. We'll have some sample business plans for businesses that are good fits for them, being in a rebuilding phase.
We've received lots of positive responses to having a "community organizing" certificate program. Many of these folks want to make some degree of amends for their transgressions, and even know that being a leader and role model in their community suits them, they're still unsure how to go about it. That's where Phoenix comes in and provides them a series of courses on non- profit administration, grant funding, actual community organizing (more to it than you might think) and more. And without a doubt, if someone really works at this, they'll get mentoring and support from us.
Prison is horrible because it's supposed to be. It's supposed to make one never want to go back. It also gives you the break from the rat race long enough (too long in the feds) to be able to do a course correction on life.
Without internet access, the need for outside assistance has never been greater. The world is moving much faster now and it's our mission to ensure that anyone willing to work for it has the resources they need to create meaningful change in their lives.