Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission
The Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission is a 60 year old non-for-profit with a mission of creating a safer community. Kansas City’s most noteworthy leaders, board and staff members, execute this mission through programs like Crime Stopper’s TIPS Hotline. In 2008, with funding from J.E. Dunn Foundation, the Crime Commission launched its’ latest program, Second Chance, to respond to the growing number of offenders returning to community who, if given a Second Chance, could beat the odds and return to productive lives and contribute positively to public safety.
Second Chance Program
The Second Chance Program involves large scale community collaboration, research, and programming designed to assist “high risk” offenders with the accomplishment of goals that will reduce the overall metropolitan recidivism rate. Second Chance began by conducting research with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, to identify programming, service, and policy gaps that interfere with successful reentry; This research was concluded in April 2010 and Examining Offender Reentry in Metropolitan Kansas City: A Gaps Analysis has been shared publically with groups all over the metro that could impact the local recidivism rate by responding to those identified gaps.
Simultaneously, Second Chance identified a need to create collaboration among all locally operating corrections systems and non-profit agencies and the Kansas City Metropolitan Reentry Coalition was born in January of 2009. This coalition, with well over 100 organizational members, has worked systematically to remove barriers with activities such as educating the small business community about benefits of hiring former offenders, educating landlords about public policies and opportunities to rent responsibly to the population, and addressing issues like revising the liquor license city ordinance, with KCMO City Council, that would allow some former offenders the ability to hire some people with felonies.
The Second Chance and UMKC Reentry Gaps Analysis and the work organizing the Kansas City Metropolitan Reentry Coalition pointed to a strong need to develop intensive programming in Kansas City, MO, to respond to “high risk” offenders in the Missouri Department of Corrections System. The approach of working with those who are determined most likely to return to criminal activity is one that has been implemented in Kansas, based on research guided practices, and is already demonstrating effectiveness in reducing Kansas recidivism rates.
Second Chance Center
One clear need that has emerged from the year of research in the community is a targeted response to reentering offenders in Missouri who are considered “high risk” for recidivism. Modeled after other successful programs and growing evidence in the field of corrections, the Second Chance Center works with offenders deemed most likely to return to incarceration, as identified by a new classification system from Missouri Department of Corrections. This population of offenders is predicted to return to prison at a rate of 83% within three years without the intervention provided by Second Chance.
Second Chance Center Services include the following:
Employment – Paid transitional jobs help those high risk offenders who have never worked or have not been able to keep a job. They learn how to behave in the workplace, respond to supervision, work as a member of a professional team, and adhere to basic workplace expectations around punctuality and attendance. These transitional jobs are coupled with 1:1 Specialist services to work on employment and other goals, group classroom job readiness training, and job search assistance.
Housing – Most of those high risk offenders enrolled in the housing program are seeking an apartment in the community and are currently either at a halfway house or are living in homeless situations. The Housing Specialist works with the participant to increase his or her income and identify suitable housing in the community. Once those individuals find transitional or permanent housing in the community, they become less a drain on tax payer expenses, at state funded halfway houses or public dollars in the homeless shelter system. Their increased stability means decreased likelihood they will re-offend and return to incarceration.
Cognitive/ Behavioral Training – Every aspect of the Second Chance Center works to increase an individual’s pro-social thinking and decrease the likelihood of future criminal activity. The Center is currently working with the State of Missouri to enroll all area high risk offenders in formal cognitive/ behavioral training programs- these have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing recidivism and the Second Chance Center staff expands the state’s capacity to offer this programming.
KCPD Liaison – Kansas City Police Department Chief J. Corwin has committed to assigning an officer to the Second Chance Center. This officer will work in partnership with the center to conduct home visits, at the request of Probation and Parole, to those who are struggling with compliance and need additional encouragement to succeed. This officer will also be in attendance at participant case review meetings, “staffings,” to offer perspective and support on reentry issues from the KCPD.
Mentoring – Participants in the Second Chance program are matched with community members who serve as voluntary mentors. The mentoring aspect of the program has just begun to offer additional support from the community to increase individual successes of program participants. Developing a meaningful supportive relationship with a community volunteer has been shown effective in reducing recidivism.
Resource and Referral – One of the most compelling needs identified through the research with UMKC was access to information about community resources. In focus groups, offenders readily said there were not enough programs in the community to assist them, yet over a hundred organizations make up the Kansas City Metropolitan Reentry Coalition. With one MRP grant, Second Chance Staff organized Welcome Back Sessions- all those on Missouri Probation and Parole have access to “Welcome Back Sessions” where they hear from key area partners about programming to address their housing, employment, basic needs and much, much more. Each area offender also has access to the Second Chance Database www.secondchancekc.org and an information and referral hotline (816)231-0217. Those who do not qualify for other Second Chance Center Services (because they are not considered “high risk”) may still be in great need and they are referred to an area partner organization. Second Chance staff follows up to ensure the referral worked for the individual and tracks his/ her successes.
Potential Social Return on Investment (ROI)
The Second Chance Center has multiple community benefits in addition to increased public safety, including direct government cost savings and hard dollar returns to the community. Economic benefits include successful participants paying earnings and sales tax, and decreased use of systems related to welfare and social services. Second Chance participants have been recently released from prison and the goal for every participant is to stay out of prison, particularly following the first three years of return from incarceration; those first three years are the most critical- if the person does not reoffend during that time, it is very unlikely that they will ever return to incarceration. If one offender stays out of prison for just one year, it saves the State of Missouri $18,000. When the Second Chance Center has been successful with just 200 participants annually, (400 participants or more will get services this year) less the Center’s operating expenses, it could equal a state tax payer savings of over 3 million dollars.
$18,000 x 200 = $3,600,000 - $500,000 = $3,100,000 savings
The Second Chance Risk Reduction Center is putting Missouri on the map for a targeted and innovative response to crime, promoted by area leaders who recognize “getting tough on crime” means more than arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. “It’s going to take financial assistance from many other sources to put together an effective program,” said William H. Dunn, Sr., Chairman Emeritus of J.E. Dunn Construction (the nation’s largest builder of prisons), whose contribution launched the Second Chance Program in 2008.
Ron Smith, Program Director
2700 E. 18th Street, Room 207
Kansas City, Missouri 64127
Major Barry C. Mayer (ret),
3100 Broadway, Suite 226
Kansas City, Missouri 64111