Roundtable Forum on Ex-Offenders
Eight-member panel discussed issues ranging from career discrimination to lack of basic life skills
May 1, 2006 2:46 PM
Around 35 people attended a roundtable forum about potential strategies that deal with San Francisco’s ex-offender population.
Sharon Hewitt, the executive director of a youth project entitled, Community Leadership Academy Emergency Response (CLAER), co-facilitated the discussion - on April 29, in HSS 154 - alongside Kevin Bard, a first-year political science master’s student at SF State.
“We want to have solid, deliverable goals to bring people together," Hewitt said. "We want a response to a partnership between the university and the community."
The three-hour meeting, which began at noon, included an eight-member panel, which discussed issues that ranged from career discrimination to the lack of basic life skills.
Statistics show that ex-offenders face serious barriers to employment; a criminal record reduced positive responses from employers by about 35 percent for white applicants and 57 percent for black applicants, according to Princeton.edu.
Solutions, such as first-time drug offender programs, have been in the works, according to San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, one of the panelists.
Another panelist, Allen Nance, who runs the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice in San Francisco, said there are two effective solutions to better equip society for ex-offenders, namely, effective housing, and the enhancement of programs to re-enter the work force.
“We are not investing in people, just institutions," he said.
“I wanted to gain insight for strategies on how to help these children,” Lucero said.
MYEEP typically helps 500 children during the school year, and they are expecting 900 children for this summer, aged 14 to 18 years. It offers services to low-income youth, such as paid work experience and community service opportunities.
Lucero has also worked for Horizons Unlimited, a youth organization based in the Mission District, which is one of many MYEEP agencies. Its mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of substance abuse among youth, emphasizing the importance of education, cultural affirmation, individual accountability, community involvement and family reunification, according to its Web site.
Hewitt, and the Rev. Doctor Amos Brown both echoed the importance of treating not only the ex-offenders, but also their families.
Brown said he would like to implement a program through the Church for the community of ex-offenders as well as their families.
"In our community, we have to quit making excuses for failure," said Brown, the pastor of San Francisco's Third Baptist Church. "There is a systematic arrangement to keep this madness going.
Brown also said that he was "tired and numb" of going to these meetings and not accomplishing and fixing the problems.
However, Hewitt warned that advocacy organizations are "under siege," and she stressed
“If one thing changes after today, then it’s worth it,” she said.
The panel also included the San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, Raymond Ross of the District Attorney's office, Julian Davis, a representative for Assemblyman Mark Leno, and Michael Bennett, a violence prevention coordinator at the Visitacion Valley Community Beacon Center in San Francisco, who is currently attending SF State.
Upcoming events include a May 2 career fair aimed towards ex-offenders - at 70 Oak Grove St. - sponsored by the San Francisco Sherrif's Department.
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