30 Aug 2021
For more than 40 years, Justice Assistance, a community-based treatment facility in Cranston, has provided recovery and rehabilitation services for offenders and victims of crime.
“Intervention, guidance and assistance is critical for both the justice-involved individual and victim to move past a criminal event and not be defined by a singular moment in time,” said Jonathan Houston, chief executive officer, founder and president, Justice Assistance.
Creating a pathway to increase chances of successful employment and housing and building healthy lives are the primary goals. The program has been successful. Each year, Justice Assistance helps more than 1,000 individuals in Rhode Island avoid falling into a punitive criminal justice system that can have lasting negative effects. More than 90 percent of those who received and completed Justice Assistance services have turned their lives around, become law-abiding, employable citizens and have had their records expunged.
While the program’s success rate is high, something has been missing.
“No one means to not do well when they leave here,” said Houston. “But a lot can happen from [the Justice Assistance building] to the bus stop. The justice-involved individual might never get on the bus and get to a meeting at CODAC. They might go down a wrong path. If they don’t get on that bus, everything changes,” said Houston.
Soon a bus will not be needed.
Supported by the Papitto Opportunity Connection, Houston’s idea for a single location for offenders will now become a reality. The Comprehensive Offender Resource and Employment Service (CORES) will be a “one-stop” service facility for justice-involved individuals and will include a healthcare clinic, substance abuse and mental health services, case management, classroom training, employment training and other social services.
“We make a meaningful impact by providing critical support to break the punishing chain of a criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts BIPOC communities,” said Houston.
“With the support from the Papitto Opportunity Connection we are going to be able to expand our program to include an innovative job training and placement service, healthcare services and ultimately, a housing component. Our goal is to avoid repeat offense and challenges that come with a criminal record. With support and services, justice-involved individuals avoid the justice systems and have a chance to live a better, much improved life. We are able to make real change.”
Justice-involved individuals are given hope.
“We instill in our clients that they have value. We give them hope to be successful,” said Houston.
The centerpiece of the CORES program, supported by the Papitto Opportunity Connection, is Habitat for Justice, a unique and innovative program which addresses employment, health, and housing.
“The lack of affordable housing leaves justice-individuals at a great disadvantage,” said John Tarantino managing trustee, Papitto Opportunity Connection. “Habitat for Justice is transformative. While learning to build their own home, individuals are building a better future.”
Under guidance and supervision, justice-involved individuals will renovate neglected houses. They then can live in the newly reconditioned home while they work on the next house in need of renovation. Eventually, the completed houses will become affordable housing for justice-involved individuals and their families.
“The justice-involved individuals working on the homes will not only have a place to live, but they also gain experience and develop employable skills that lead to a seamless training into the building trade market or other similar jobs,” said Houston. “Habitat for Justice is a game changer…. a life changer.”