U.S. Attorney’s Office and Lamar University Join Forces to Address Recidivism

Published 1:54 pm Monday, May 8, 2017

BEAUMONT, Texas – Acting United States Attorney Brit Featherston announced today that as part of a federal reentry initiative, the United States Attorney’s Office is working with Lamar University in Beaumont in a new and innovative program designed to reduce recidivism by improving employment outcomes for ex-offenders in the Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with Lamar University’s Criminal Justice program, launched Project GROW in February. Project GROW, an acronym for “Getting Reentrants On a Working Path,” brings third- and fourth-year criminal justice and social work students into the federal prison and halfway house to work with inmates. Led by Criminal Justice Instructor Karen Roebuck, a former U.S. Probation supervisor, Lamar University professors help students use evidence-based practices to provide counseling and job readiness training for successful reentry.

In the program, as part of their coursework, students work with assigned ex-offenders to develop assessment skills to address ex-offender risks and needs. The goal is to understand what each individual needs to successfully navigate reentry. Depending on the ex-offender’s risks and needs, students create individualized case plans to address all determined barriers. The course also develops offender accountability, self-awareness, and relationship skills for family reunification.

Because lawful employment is so important to successful reentry, the students network to provide ex-offenders with interview clothing, assist the development of resumes, and conduct mock job interviews. The students also assist in job searching and even address transportation barriers by providing donated bicycles. As a direct result of these efforts, in a relatively short time, the program significantly reduced the unemployment rate at the halfway house.

“Too many former prisoners re-offend, and we will hold them accountable if they do, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Many resources are available to help them succeed after prison, and pairing ex-offenders with those resources makes a difference,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston. “Keeping the community safe is our first priority, and addressing recidivism and helping ex-offenders re-enter that community is a part of our mission to prevent crime. This program is a good example of the community bringing resources forward to help us in that part of our mission.”

In coordination with federal, state, and local agencies and community service providers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office supports reentry initiatives as a means of reducing recidivism and keeping communities safe. Last year, the Eastern District received targeted funding from the Department of Justice to host a reentry summit and hire a specialist to promote reentry and other crime-prevention efforts. That reentry specialist, Dayana Borges, was instrumental in the development and execution of Project GROW, which is ongoing. The U.S Attorney’s Office is also working with a community-based reentry coalition to host an “employee awareness” luncheon later this spring. That luncheon will bring together prospective employers to share information about the practical benefits of hiring ex-offenders. The event will feature success stories from a panel of employers and the ex-offenders they have hired.