Guest columnist, Pensacola News Journal
In these most difficult times when our nation is beset with challenges from every direction, it is important that we take the time to acknowledge both individuals and organizations that work tirelessly to help neighbors who are experiencing their own personal challenges.
One group of individuals who are especially at risk are those men and women who have recently been released from a Florida prison. At any given time, there are approximately 100,000 individuals incarcerated in Florida state prisons, and statistics show that 97% of these individuals will be released and return to their communities. If the criminal justice system worked perfectly, these individuals would not re-offend and would be self-sufficient, crime-free productive citizens and neighbors. Regretfully, current Florida statistics also show that about 60% of these individuals will ultimately be re-incarcerated. This high rate of recidivism would be reduced if appropriate community re-entry programs provided the necessary support to assist the individuals with their re-entry.
In 2016, thanks to a $106,000 grant from IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area, the first re-entry initiative for men returning to Northwest Florida was established. Since that time, more than 700 individuals have participated in the Re-Entry Alliance Pensacola, Inc. (“REAP”) re-entry program. In 2018, thanks to a second $100,300 grant from IMPACT 100, a Pensacola Women’s Re-entry Portal was established, supervised by a full-time director of Women’s Re-entry. That program blossomed into a program averaging 16 participants residing in REAP-supported housing, with more than 50 graduates. REAP relies heavily on other community-based support organizations and individuals, including the Greater Little Rock Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Pensacola, and St. John Divine Missionary Baptist Church (Milton) who have joined with IMPACT 100 to support re-entry.
The funding from IMPACT 100 has acted as a catalyst, resulting in consecutive appropriations from the state of Florida to continue a growing re-entry program for men and women in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Importantly, REAP has achieved remarkable success. Current statistics for participants in the IMPACT 100-REAP re-entry program reflect a success rate of 90%, meaning that 9 out of 10 of the program participants have not been re-incarcerated, and are crime-free, self-supporting and productive citizens.
For local taxpayers, IMPACT’s investment has resulted in an accumulated savings of more than $3,000,000 over the projected cost of re-incarceration. Most importantly, these types of initiatives have helped individuals achieve personal success, re-united families, and restored hope for some of the most marginalized men and women. The real credit goes to the women of IMPACT 100 for their personal commitments of time, talent and treasure. On behalf of those 700 successful returning citizens, THANK YOU IMPACT 100 for your immeasurable impact on our community!
Vince Whibbs is executive director Re-Entry Alliance Pensacola, Inc. If you’d like more information about joining IMPACT 100, please go to https://impact100pensacola.org