Integrating Mental Wellness into Total Health for Black Communities
By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media
After serving a 22-year sentence in a California prison, James Morgan, 51, found himself faced with a world of opportunity he never imagined he would have as an ex-con once sentenced to life. for attempted murder.
Morgan, a Carson native, says he is grateful to have a second chance at life and has taken full advantage of the opportunities presented to him through state reintegration and rehabilitation programs. California.
After completing mental health care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Morgan was released from prison and was granted parole in 2018.
“I didn’t expect what I found when I got out,” Morgan told California Black Media (CBM), explaining that he was lucky enough to attend a program for incarcerated ex-convicts in San Francisco. Francis.
“I was mandated by the courts to spend a year in transitional housing,” Morgan said. “These guys explained everything to us. They made it really easy. They were all the people I could relate to, and they knew how to talk to me because they were part of the prison population – and they were from where we were from.
Morgan says he also took classes in anger management and time management.
Now, he is currently apprenticed to the Local 300 Laborers Union, specializing in construction, after participating in a pre-apprenticeship program through the ARC (Anti-Recidivism Coalition).
“Right now, I’m supporting my family,” Morgan said. “I would say I’m doing pretty well because I’ve met the right people.”
Proponents of criminal justice reform say Morgan’s success in California is particularly heartening.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, black men in the Golden State are imprisoned nearly 10 times more than their white counterparts. And just over a decade ago, in 2011, the US Supreme Court ordered California to reduce the number of inmates in its overcrowded prison system by 33,000. Of this population, almost 30% were black men even though they make up about 5% of the state’s population.
To help more formerly incarcerated people like Morgan get back on their feet after paying their debt to society, last month the US Department of Justice and US Department of Labor announced that the federal government would invest $145 million during the next fiscal year. to support reintegration programs across the country.
The Biden-Harris administration also announced plans to expand job opportunities and federal loan programs, expand access to health care and housing, and expand and amplify employment opportunities. education for the former and currently incarcerated.
“It’s not enough to just send someone home, it’s not enough to just help them with a job. There needs to be a holistic approach,” said Chiraag Bains, deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council on Racial Justice and Equity.
Bains told CBM that reintegration programs help establish a “pipeline from incarceration to employment.”
The White House announced the programs late last month as President Joe Biden commuted the sentences of 75 people and granted clemency to three others, including Abraham Bolden, the first black Secret Service agent on the details of the White House.
Bolden had been sentenced to 39 months in prison in 1964 for allegedly attempting to sell classified Secret Service documents. He has always maintained his innocence.
“Today I pardoned three people and commuted the sentences of 75 people. America is a nation of laws, but we are also a nation of second chances, redemption and rehabilitation,” Biden tweeted April 26.
According to Bains, about half of those pardoned by the president are black or brown.
“The president has repeatedly spoken about the fact that too many people are serving prison time for non-violent drug offenses and too many of those people are black and brown,” Bains said. “It’s about racial equity.”
Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have come under heavy criticism in the past for supporting tough-on-crime policies that, as U.S. senator and California attorney general respectively, have disproportionately targeted blacks and other minorities.
According to a 2021 Stanford University study, reentry programs in California contributed to a 37% decrease in the average re-arrest rate over a one-year period.
Over the past decade, California has funded a number of initiatives supporting reintegration and rehabilitation. In 2015, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation launched the Male Community Re-Entry Program (MCRP) which provides community-based rehabilitation services in Butte, Kern, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties. The Butte program serves Tehama, Nevada, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Placer and Yuba counties.
A year later, Governor Newsom’s office launched the California Community Reinvestment Grant Program. The initiative funds community groups providing services such as job placement, mental health treatment, housing and more to people, including formerly incarcerated, who have been impacted by the war on drugs.
Morgan praised the programs that helped him reintegrate into society – both in prison and after his release.
“Looking back, I look back on it and am blown away by all the ways they have helped me,” Morgan said.