Most of the money is allocated to the county health departments and the Department of Homeland Security for public health issues. The rest, about $6 million so far, is for grants to nonprofits that run “Reinvestment of Justice” programs.
Under Proposition 207, “reinvestment in justice” programs are defined broadly and do not have to be associated with drug arrests. Programs can focus on public and behavioral health, restorative justice, prison conversion, workforce development, addressing the underlying causes of crime, reducing drug-related arrests and the state prison population, or restoring civil rights and expunging criminal records.
The Department of Homeland Security hired LeCroy & Milligan, a Tucson-based consulting firm, to find nonprofit organizations to facilitate conversations about “reinvesting in justice” with communities disproportionately affected by arrest and incarceration.
These talks, which began in August, will help the department determine what “reinvestment in justice” programs could look like and which should be prioritized, said Seaman Kasim, DHS director of health equity.
“We have a very wide latitude on how we define the justice reinvestment program, and that’s why it was so important that we do our work with the community,” Kassem said.
Lecroy & Milligan first compiled county-level data on arrests and admissions to prisons to determine where to host the hearings. This data will also be used to decide where to prioritize funding.
The data showed that while Maricopa County has the highest raw number of arrests and incarcerations, rural counties have the highest per capita rates. It also showed that black individuals are the most likely to be arrested for drug offenses and jailed for all offenses.
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Based on this data, DHS chose to fund hearings in several counties, including Maricopa, Pima, Coconino, La Paz, and Yuma.
In addition to the TigerMountain Foundation, the DHS supports the Black Mothers Forum of South Phoenix to host hearings. Other Maricopa County Sessions are run by the Greater Phoenix Urban League, Neighborhood Ministries, Native American Connections, and Onward Hope.
The Department of Homeland Security has funded more than a dozen hearings, which conclude this month
South Phoenix groups have visions of “reinvesting justice”
Although the Department of Homeland Security did not fund them, the
The Roots Project is a nonprofit based in South Phoenix Holds hearings and exchanges notes with the department. Kassem said the Department of Homeland Security intends to use their findings.
Project Roots, based out of the Spaces of Opportunity community garden, grows produce to sell at farmers’ markets, donate to food banks, and deliver in seasonal produce boxes. It also offers free yoga and gardening lessons.
During the Roots Project hearings in September, participants provided a range of ideas for what constitutes the Justice Reinvestment project.
South Phoenix grocery stores, housing, small business support, and mental health and wellness support were community suggestions, said Dion Washington, co-founder of Project Roots.
“They’re interested in GEDs, a safe place to do yoga, and a safe place to pick up boxes of produce, maybe for free,” she said. And for her nonprofit, Washington envisions creating a food and wellness center that would help people get access to healthy food.
At the TigerMountain Foundation hearing, some respondents suggested music and arts programs to support mental health and wellness. One attendee wanted to support the addiction that connects them to the outdoors.
Angela Garage, owner of the MAA Health Center in South Phoenix, said she would like to see the money used to help people who have come out of addiction treatment and crisis care centers. She is a Crisis Care Nurse and has seen firsthand the problems people face when they leave the facility.
“If we don’t follow them home, see them and help them cope, guess what? They’ll come back,” Gragg said.
She said she would like to see the money used in medicine
Examinations and exams. aShe said outdoor activities, exercise and cooking classes, and community events would also help.
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Other participants in the TigerMountain Foundation hearing wanted job opportunities.
“Where are the proactive opportunities that might really invite someone who was looking for a second or third chance?” asked Darren Chapman, CEO and founder of the TigerMountain Foundation, who was previously imprisoned. “Because a lot of times when you get that opportunity, you have to stop where you say, ‘Have you been convicted of a felony?'”
Chapman cited his own organization, which employs approximately 50 people, about 40% of whom are previously incarcerated or referred through parole or probation, as an example.
At its five community gardens—four in South Phoenix—the TigerMountain Foundation provides job and volunteer opportunities that go hand in hand with healthy eating and more active lifestyles, he said. Produce grown in community gardens is sold at farmers’ markets and distributed to food pantries and restaurants throughout Phoenix.
TigerMountain’s goals include keeping people out of prison and empowering the South Phoenix community by providing life skills and workforce development support to youth and adults.
It provides flexible employment opportunities, which can help some people return to society after imprisonment. Some employees work 40 hours a week, while others make $20 an hour with flexible shifts.
Some of these people are going [to prison] “With real-life behavioral issues, some of them go there because their learning disability has frustrated them to a certain degree that they don’t usually last very long in a 9-to-5 job,” Chapman said.
Each individual who joins the TigerMountain Foundation also sets goals for personal and community improvement. These might include eating healthier or being more active in the community, Chapman said. TigerMountain also pairs them with a guide.
The tip, he said, “could be someone who’s been with the TigerMountain Foundation for 10 years, and yet, they haven’t backed down, so they know how to stay out of jail.”
The groups push the Department of Homeland Security to make the grant application process fair
Before DHS began accepting grant applications, a network of more than 50 organizations based in Phoenix and Tucson—including Project Roots and the TigerMountain Foundation as well as larger organizations like the ACLU and Black Lives Matter Metro Phoenix—was formed to push the department into making the application process easier. The scholarship is fair.
“We feel we have a large group of people being represented who would normally be avoided in these conversations,” Chapman said.
The network wants grants to be inclusive of innovative and unconventional ideas.
In October, the network wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security pushing for its goals: “Because these organizations are small with mostly volunteer or minimally paid staff, they are routinely ignored by funders because they don’t ‘look like’ major service providers.” others, or have never heard of them because they do not have the ability to advance.”
The network wants DHS to make the grant process more accessible to smaller, emerging organizations, which may not have a grant-writing staff or a lot of money. Their suggestions include allowing video applications and avoiding payment-based grant funding or offering refunds quickly.
“We challenge them to open their minds to a new way to apply for these grants,” Washington said of Project Roots. “Maybe it’s a video app instead of red tape and 20 pages people don’t know how to fill out.”
When smaller organizations receive repayment-based grants, they may not have enough cash to support themselves while they wait for the state to pay them back, said Carolyn Isaacs, executive director of Just Communities of Arizona and a member of the network.
This has been an issue with state funds being made available for marijuana expulsions, said Marilyn Rodriguez, a member of the network and a consultant with Creosote Partners.
In response to the letter, Kasim said she could not provide details on what the upcoming grant process would look like. But she said the administration is determining which suggestions in the letter can be implemented given the limitations of government procurement laws.
Qasim admitted that the delay in payment could be a problem with state financing.
“These comments have even surfaced in hearings, regarding the challenges that small, grassroots nonprofits embedded in the communities that we are trying to reach, who are the intended beneficiaries of this program, often do not have the capital to wait for,” Qasim said. Pay or even spend the money upfront.” “And those are certainly comments that we keep in mind in terms of who we want to be able to work with.”
For now, nonprofits across the state continue to wait for applications to open. Qassem said that the department has not yet decided how many times the grants will be distributed after the first round.
Madeline Parish covers southern Phoenix for the Arizona Republic. You can access it at firstname.lastname@example.org And follow her on Twitter @maddieparrish61.