The U.S. imprisons more of its citizens than any other country – 2.2 million people, the largest proportion in the world. While the total cost to taxpayers is $65 billion per year, the social and emotional cost of incarceration and life after prison is incalculable.
In Washington State alone, over 17,000 adults are in prison. Roughly 8,000 will be released this year. Many will be released without the necessary skills and social supports to return to their communities.
Prison sentences focus on punishment, removal from society, deterrence and rehabilitation. Too often rehabilitation, which requires training and counseling for prisoners, is a lower priority due to budget limitations, overcrowding, violence and understaffing of prisons. Combined with a lack of post-prison support, former prisoners (returnees) face isolation and financial hardships that can lead them back into a life of crime. Nearly two thirds will be rearrested for a new crime within three years of their release. The costs of this recidivism, in both dollars and public safety, are staggering.
Freedom Project is committed to helping men and women coming out of prison reconcile with themselves and their loved ones. Their program focuses on two areas – Nonviolent Communication and mindfulness.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a practical tool used worldwide to help people transform blame, anger and criticism into understanding, effective communication and peaceful resolution of conflict. By focusing on what matters most, NVC inspires teamwork, authentic expression, empathetic listening and the safety of everyone. It is a radical and powerful alternative to violence.
A study by Antioch University published in 2014 shows that returnees who attend Freedom Project programs have recidivism rates 43% lower than other returnees. Washington State taxpayers save $5 million annually based on the numbers currently served.
Based on the proven success of this model, Freedom Project is committed to making its programs available to all prisoners and returnees in Washington State. When that goal is realized, it could result in a savings of $45 million each year just in Department of Corrections costs. And that doesn’t include indirect savings like the reduced financial toll on crime victims and the cost of the criminal justice system. Freedom Project hired Altruist in 2015 to help them reach that audacious goal. We worked with the board and staff to create a business plan, hire and train additional fundraising staff, and shift their focus from traditional low-return fundraising efforts to authentic, transparent engagement with investors, partners and community stakeholders.
“Altruist has helped bring clarity and focus to our mission,” says KC Young, Executive Director. “Our revenue grew by 20% in the first year of following the Altruist model. That has allowed us to hire additional staff and expand our footprint in state prisons. With Altruist’s help, we believe we have a path to achieving our goals.”