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When a Name Has Meaning

Posted by on Apr 8, 2017 in Activism | 0 comments

GUESS WHAT? I feel compelled to explain why I named the computer coding class Past & Future Corp. Awhile back I wrote an article titled, “Every Saint has a Past & Every Sinner has a Future” to pour out my heart on issues that are relevant to the area I reside–hoping to let those who can hear such a cry to respond. In other words, I am referring to the church. Indeed, there were responses that showed it hit home and there were responses that showed the opposite. But what compelled me to title the article  “Every Saint has a Past & Every Sinner has a Future” is because that is what I heard the judge say right before I had got sentenced when I was a sinner dead in my trepasses and sin.

 

In 2010, I had got sentenced to ten years in prison. The judge showed mercy to the defendant who got sentenced right before me by departing from the sentence that the law said was her just due. The state attorney was upset and argued vehemently that he could not do that. Then I heard the judge say, “Every Saint has a Past & Every Sinner has a Future” and pronounced a reduced no jail time sentence. Well, I took that as he was in a good mood. My name was called and the judge sentenced me to the statutory maximum. Ironically, mercy and justice appeared that day (Reason for the Image above). Back in the jail, I was pondering in my mind as usual and came to the decision that I would just intentionally be evil. I did not care about who it would harm or any consequences. When I share things about me I am cautious because I know where I was at, and it was truly in a dark place entangled in a web of sin, sorcery, hate, rebellion, hating Jesus, etc. Throughout my life I explored the idea of other religions and as I a kid I wanted to learn black magic. Now here I am sitting in a jail cell and up to that point in my life at 33 years old, it has been wasted. However, my future graciously appeared a few weeks later. I wrote about that too, and so I can share this link where you can read about how God opened my heart Changed Man. I will make a note that once I knew I was forgiving I was trying to get everyone in my jail pod to get the message (Gospel). But I was an infant in the Lord, and I had no idea that the reason I could not see Jesus is was because I was spiritually dead.

 

For some reason, due to all type of events, circumstances, and attempts I ended up having to try and create a job for myself. Certainly, I worked various jobs since I have been home, but I realized another issue. I was in the same position just as if I did not have a job where the jobs was not paying the bills. After I had got saved back in 2010, I trained to become a law clerk, started learning skills and taking classes. Once I came home in 2013, I continued to push to learn. In fact while I was in prison as a law clerk, I was told that I was a pretty good law clerk by my co-workers. Looking back, at the cases that I argued (including my own which I won a reversal of the ten year sentence, by the grace of God) overall I had success in litigation even getting an inmate a conditional grant of a writ of habeas corpus with the federal circuit court which corrected his sentence. It was not me, but it is God who created me with a mind. So I began to apply for jobs I knew I was competent in and that would pay better. That was a dead end. As I began to research, I was seeing a trend across the world in technology and people from all walks of life taking advantage of whatever program they went through by learning coding skills that made them in demand or at least giving them the skills to earn additional income. Long story short, (that is a inside joke for the ones that know me 🙂 ) after months of researching and networking the program was developed and there is no better name to call it than Past & Future Corp. It is not just about me but for whoever else catches the message about his or her future. It is my earnest prayer that the Lord will bless this endeavor and help me build the right team because I realized helping others with the gifts God gave me is not for me to keep to myself. I have to give acknowledgment to my wife, family, and kids who is remaining strong while I fervently spend hours being in the matrix working.  

God bless.

Anthony W. Brown

Dallas nonprofit putting ex-offenders to work — but don’t call it charity

Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 in Sources & Information | 0 comments

Todd Fields stooped as he edged through the dark doorway of a little house deep in South Dallas that, not long ago, was abandoned.

The towering former college basketball player greeted his construction foreman, Byron Rose, and his project manager, Martin Evans.

“When [Evans] showed me the house, you wouldn’t want to step into the house because you might catch something,” Rose explained. “As you can see, we’re really getting into things.”

 The room was stripped to bare boards and chipped paints. When they’re done in about five months, it’ll be a tidy, 1,200-square-foot affordable home for a low-income family. And Fields, Evans and Rose plan to make a tidy profit to go with it.

But their business, 2S Industries, isn’t simply a small house-flipping operation.

It’s the revenue-generating “social enterprise” arm of a nonprofit called 2ndSaturday, which deploys volunteers to do maintenance and community beautification projects around West and South Dallas.

And while adding to the city’s understocked pool of affordable housing is a bonus, that’s not the main goal.

It’s to hire the kinds of ex-offenders other post-prison release programs may not take.

“The affordable home is simply a byproduct of our mission to put guys to work,” said Fields, who made — and subsequently lost — a lot of money in real estate. “We’re not simulating a job — this is a job. ”

A violent criminal record isn’t a disqualifier to work at 2S, for instance. Rose spent eight years behind bars for aggravated robbery.

Though Rose has had other jobs since he got out of prison, 2S Industries has stood apart. It’s more than a way to scrape out an existence working for an employer who looks at you with suspicion. It’s a chance to build a career.

“I wake up in the morning and I get to go to work — I don’t have to go to work, I want to go to work,” the 32-year-old Dallasite said. “To go from taking, stealing, robbing, committing crimes to holding keys to thousands of dollars of equipment, to be able to be left alone at a site by myself.”

The entrepreneurial twist on a more traditional charitable model is what caught the eye of Dallas Foundation leaders. On Wednesday evening, the foundation was slated to give 2ndSaturday its annual Pegasus Prize, along with a $50,000 grant.

“One of the reasons the [prize] committee chose it is because it is a social enterprise,” said Helen Holman, the foundation’s chief philanthropy officer. “Ultimately, it will be a self-sustaining venture.

Holman said 2ndSaturday’s mission to help ex-offenders contribute to communities they once victimized is admirable.

But part of the prize’s aim is to help scale up organizations that are tackling community issues in new and unusual ways.

The move comes amid shifts in the ways charities work to solve intractable social problems in communities around the country. Increasingly, that means embracing business principles as a way to spark innovation and turning away from more traditional notions of philanthropy.

Job foreman Byron Rose (left) and project manager Martin Evans of 2ndSaturday's 2S Industries program walk around a house in Oak Cliff. Rose was convicted of aggravated robbery and served time in prison before finding a job with 2S Industries. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)
Job foreman Byron Rose (left) and project manager Martin Evans of 2ndSaturday’s 2S Industries program walk around a house in Oak Cliff. Rose was convicted of aggravated robbery and served time in prison before finding a job with 2S Industries. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)

Tony Fleo, CEO of Social Venture Partners in Dallas, said his organization has been working to identify programs that — like start-ups — have proved they can be successful and need the extra cash to expand. Tax status doesn’t matter.

“Philanthropists are looking at alternative effective programs to invest in — whether they’re coming from the nonprofit world, the for-profit world or the government world,” he said.

Still, Leslie Lenkowsky, a former professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ school of philanthropy, said starting a revenue-generating business to help advance a charitable mission is nothing new. (Think Girl Scouts and cookies or Goodwill Industries.)

Lenkowsky said part of the more recent buzz around social enterprises stems from a levelling off in donations and a decline in government funding for nonprofit work that started “long before Mr. [Donald] Trump went into the White House.”

And the idea that nonprofits aren’t innovative is fed by high-profile tech executives, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who tout socially-minded capitalism as a “silver bullet,” for broad systemic problems.

In reality, he said, there’s no shortcut: Organizations hoping to make social change have to be judged based on whether they’re achieving their goals.

‘Do well and do good’

Tynesia Boyea-Robinson, chief impact officer of New York- and Washington-based Living Cities, said that although Dallas is making strides toward a more creative philanthropic community, it’s still behind the curve when it comes to what she described as fostering organizations that both “do well and do good.”

Boyea-Robinson, who lives in Dallas and has worked with various local community organizations, said that’s the result of a range of obstacles.

Two big ones are difficulty raising capital and the lack of a kind of social business “playbook,” especially for women and people of color, who are often best-positioned to fill market voids they know the most about.

But she said Dallas has had trouble overcoming what she called the “charity problem.”

“It’s still the charity mindset [of], ‘We are trying to help people and we feel like … if we’re helping you, you shouldn’t make money,'” Boyea-Robinson said. “Charity is a currency in Dallas.”

<p>Byron Rose, job foreman for 2ndSaturday's 2S Industries program, sits outside an Oak Cliff home he's helping to rebuild.&nbsp;"I wake up in the morning and I get to go to work — I don't have to go to work, I want to go to work," the 32-year-old Dallasite says.&nbsp;(Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)</p>

Byron Rose, job foreman for 2ndSaturday’s 2S Industries program, sits outside an Oak Cliff home he’s helping to rebuild. “I wake up in the morning and I get to go to work — I don’t have to go to work, I want to go to work,” the 32-year-old Dallasite says. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)

The good news, she said, is that Dallas philanthropists have an opportunity to make sure their investments in nonprofits are more strategic.

“You cannot grant your way out of social change problems,” Boyea-Robinson said. “If foundations are using their funding in a way that’s catalytic — in ways that draw change — that’s really powerful.”

Fields, who cops to having a short attention span and big dreams for 2S Industries, said the Pegasus Prize money will help make it possible for the organization to move on to the next phase.

They’re hoping to move their operations into a permanent space of their own in the heart of the South Dallas community they hope to serve, and to hire a caseworker.

But even as Fields said he’s learned the lingo of social enterprise and business, 2S Industries will still be an organic endeavor.

“The original five guys I started with — it was 100 percent based on relationships,” he said. “It wasn’t me drawing up this crazy business plan.”

Recidivism drops, but so has ex-offenders’ employment rates

Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 in Activism | 0 comments

BOSTON — Recidivism dropped slightly after the state banned employers from inquiring about job applicants’ criminal records but the employment rates of ex-offenders has also dropped since the legal reform was adopted, according to Federal Reserve Bank of Boston researchers.

A new research report, presented Tuesday during a breakfast at the John Adams Courthouse, “has arrows that go in both directions” reflecting positive and negative trends, Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Will Brownsberger said.

“The question of how we can help people transition back and start over their lives is just one of the central questions of our time,” Brownsberger said. He said there is “quite a distance still to go” in helping released prisoners re-integrate into society.

Darrin Howell of the health care workers union 1199 SEIU, who was incarcerated for a year at age 21 on a firearm possession charge, said making it easier for people coming out of prison to obtain jobs — through efforts including criminal record access reform and job training programs during their sentences — can help them avoid returning to crime.

“Unfortunately, it was easier to find guns and drugs in the community than it was to find a 9-to-5, and that’s just a harsh reality for folks with a criminal record, that the streets is ready to employ,” he said.

Massachusetts passed laws in 2010 and 2012 to limit employer access to criminal history information, policies aimed at reducing recidivism rates and making it easier for ex-offenders to get jobs.

The 2010 law — which prohibited employers from asking about criminal history on an initial job application — resulted in an 8 percent decline in three-year reconviction rates and an 11 percent decrease in a former prisoner’s probability of recidivism, according to the report.

Lowering recidivism rates has been a target of state government leaders, who last year reached out to the Council of State Governments for help conducting a review of the Massachusetts criminal justice system and identifying policy fixes. The CSG analysis found recidivism drives most new conviction activity, with 79 percent of state prison sentences and 84 percent of sentences to county houses of correction given to people with previous convictions.

Two-thirds of people released from houses of correction in 2011 and more than half of people released from Department of Correction custody were arraigned again within three years of their release, the CSG report found.

The Boston Fed report said the state’s “high recidivism rates may be partly explained by the difficulties ex-offenders, particularly those who served time behind bars for more serious crimes, may face when seeking legal employment.”

The average employment rate of people without criminal records was 5.5 percent higher than for those with criminal records before the 2010 law, according to the report. That gap grew to 8.1 percent after the law took effect.

Researcher Bo Zhao offered two possibilities for why employment rates fell for ex-offenders after the reform. People with criminal records may have gotten more optimistic about their prospects, he said, leading them to search out more selective jobs or wait for positions with higher wages or better conditions. Alternatively, employers might have changed their hiring practices to otherwise screen out applicants with criminal backgrounds, potentially by requiring job applicants to meet higher levels of education or work experience.

 

Michigan recidivism rate falls to 29.8 percent, among lowest in the nation

Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 in Sources & Information | 0 comments

Lansing, Mich. – The number of Michigan offenders who relapse into criminal behavior after being released from prison has fallen to its second lowest level since the state began recording three-year re-incarceration rates.

 Michigan’s recidivism rate, which measures the percentage of offenders who return to prison within three years, has dropped to 29.8 percent. This places Michigan among the top 10 states in the nation with the lowest recidivism rates.

Offenders can be returned to prison for committing new crimes, or for violating the conditions of their parole.

The current figures represent individuals who were released from prison in 2013.

It is a decline from the previous recidivism rate of 31 percent, which represented prisoners who paroled in 2012.

Recidivism hit its lowest point of 29 percent in 2014. Those prisoners were released in 2010.

Recidivism in Michigan has hovered around 30 percent in recent years and it reflects a sharp drop from 1998 when the rate was 45.7 percent.

The recidivism rate is one important indicator that the Michigan Department of Corrections is meeting its mission to prepare prisoners to reenter the community as law-abiding citizens, said Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington.

“When we give offenders the skills they need to lead crime-free lives as productive members of society, it makes Michigan a safer place to live,” Washington said. “These figures show our efforts have been effective and we look forward to building upon that success.”

The department has launched a number of initiatives in recent years to provide prisoners with education and job training in high-demand fields that can lead to stable careers and lower the risk of re-offense.

These initiatives include the Vocational Village, which opened at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia in 2016, and provides training in automotive technology, welding, carpentry, plumbing, electrical trades and CNC machining. A second Vocational Village site is being ramped up at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson.

See Yourself Blessed!

Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in Anthony's Blog Posts (misc) | 0 comments

BLESSINGS, DREAMS, CURSES, ENEMIES, REBIRTH, & LIBERATION

Let me make my case eye to eye although I know at times I will look to the hills. What a joy I get when I see someone grasp hold of understanding and knowledge. Especially so, if the grace is on them to share it correctly with others out of love. Two areas that stand out in my mind that I believe is of great importance. One is  as a believer rightfully dividing the word of Truth, and two is in the efforts being made to teach the underprivileged skills in relation to technology.  

For the sake of me not having sources and such I will not make this a history lesson. However, we can look at this in the abstract or a pragmatic view. Because I have to look at things from a Biblical viewpoint, it has helped me to be meek and not develop bitterness in light of people’s quest for dominance. The focus of this article is in relation to Africans and African Americans; however, I will not exclude the ones from other ethnic group that were deemed outcasts or poor. Also, let me  make this point clear. My love is for all people and just as I have a heart for the ones who have been oppressed I also have a heart for the ones that eyes are blinded by the belief in  social darwinism whether the engrafted belief is known or unknown to the individual or masked in disguise under the pretense of Biblical foundation. Indeed, it is the heart of man which is wicked and deceitful. Man’s heart in juxtaposition of history will point to a sovereign purpose working itself out. As I ponder these things, and I study world civilization coupled with the Bible I have concluded that it is not my purpose to change what is to be. Alas, I would not dare use that conclusion to act in complacency.

When I was around maybe six or seven I was looking in a medical encyclopedia and discovered the word immunologist. Thus, I learned how to spell it and pronounce it. I knew it was not a commonly used word so I would tell people that is what I wanted to be when I grew up. In fact, that is what I wanted to be. Around the ages of six and seven is a great time to ask a kid what they want to be when they get old. Even in the roughest of inner city hoods hardly will you ever receive a response that a kid aspires to be a drug dealer, or definitely not a prostitute, drug addict, thief, crook, felon, or a person living paycheck to paycheck. Therefore, most people who end up like that had a vision or idea either in theory or reality at some point in life to be more than what he or she has become. It is an absolute truth that the world will always have the poor on this side of judgment. But when you consider that certain demographics are expected to fall into one of the groups, then you would have to look at the causes. Of course many factors are contributable to the cycle that at one time seemed endless. There is no argument that a person is responsible for his or her choices. However, if you look a little closer you can find  and trace root causes up to a point apart from the effects from sin.. For African Americans, it begin with the Atlantic slave trade. America gained much of its wealth during this time. Ironically, while Africans were making the slave owners money the slave owner’s children were getting educated. It was prohibited on the majority of plantations for a slave to read. Hence, the jumpstart in society was not just financially but in all other areas of advancement also. This  seriously placed an entire ethnic group in position that it would seem they would never catch up.

Because of the Enlightenment period and Industrial revolution Europeans saw themselves in a special light as superior and they viewed people of “colored” skin as being lesser. Quite often African Americans were belittled. Inevitability, it was discovered that African Americans could do some smart things too. After slavery ended a plethora of injustices towards African Americans continued to place them at a disadvantage. If you look at how the economic structure is set up—a low income group has to exist so that the mechanics of the ole supply and demand wheel stays in motion creating a bigger expanse between the poor and the rich.  But I am not going to get into all the cruel social systems that followed and the intricate details. Most assuredly I would like to point out that none of the attacks that has been executed on African Americans give cause to the foolishness and attitudes that has been around for many years within the ethnic group and especially when it started affecting the communities. Today we have made a lot of progress but there are still many communities across the nation that seem like that they will remain with caught in a progressive cycle of high incarceration rates, drugs, violence, and broken families.

Whew, I had to paint a picture. Many times I have questioned all of this, prayed, etc. Then I am reminded that in this life we will have trials and tribulations. Then you would ask why the joy? African Americans should be warned now to not look at themselves as a superior race or the seeds sown will produce the same way it will did or will do in the former crop. In fact, if you look at all the prior crops throughout history you will discover some things were sown  along the way that produced its fruit. Ultimately, making room for the next crop to be established in the land.

It is my belief that technology will be favorable to African Americans, Africans, and the other less fortunate. Outside of the box thinkers were often viewed as slow or anti-social (by the way, that word means that you can not conform to society.) but they will be a  factor in this new revolution that we are in which is called the Information Revolution. That is why a hunger that seems unquenchable is awaking in such persons who desire to gain knowledge and understanding. Imagine many years of discouragement, then all of sudden there is encouragement and hope. Once one recognize a lie that has been embedded in one’s psyche for so long a quest for truth is awakened.  Hopefully, while on this new journey they will also discover the One who is the The Way, The Truth, and The life. However, this revolution has crept in and lies are being unfolded while the ones blinded are still believing lies. Although many attempts will be enacted to curve the path of this global and dynamic change it can not stop the course of events. Maybe I am totally off point and the Lord Jesus returns before something like this ever occurs. But for me, to learn these skills is a must to raise out of the snares that has been placed on my path.  Again the ones who act in love and compassion to other ethnic groups will be blessed. In the event, I am right remember the lessons of times past—Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself no matter what color, remember the poor.  Thanks for letting me share why I get joy when I see African Americans in numbers being introduced to the tech world. Reach for the stars and pay it forward!

From Felon to PhD

Posted by on Mar 18, 2017 in Activism | 0 comments

Stanley Andrisse is a 33-year-old provost post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins, possessing both his MBA and PhD and participating in research about Diabetes, a disease that plagues millions, Andrisse is what most Americans would call extremely successful, and he is also an ex-felon.

Andrisse was born in Ferguson, Missouri and first took an interest in the medical field while in prison.

Stanley Andrisse. (Courtesy photo)
Stanley Andrisse. (Courtesy photo)

“While I was away my father’s health started to plummet and his condition worsened pretty quickly…while I was still in prison I’d get information through phone calls and letters and pictures of how they were amputating his legs piece by piece, up to his torso, due to complications from diabetes. That was the driving motivation behind me wanting to learn more about diabetes, the effect that it had on my dad,” said Andrisse. “While I was away I dove pretty deep into wanting to learn more and I was fortunate enough to have a professor who I met before I went away, who sent me research on the topic…while I was away I was already gaining a passion and an understanding.”

After serving his time due to drug related charges Andrisse went on to receive his PhD and MBA, however, the road was not easy.

“I’ve been denied from a number of jobs whether it was just coaching or a department store job,” said Andrisse. “I had been rejected from several PhD programs possibly due to the question…I finished my PhD in four years (a program that usually takes 6 years to complete) and I finished at the top of my class and I was getting my MBA in the process, I’m pretty sure I was qualified to get in those other programs but they chose not to let me in, I could only get into a program where I had a professor vouching for me.”

The question Andrisse is referring to is the check-off box for felony convictions. Majority of the states within the US require this question to be answered on both job and college applications. This limits the employment and educational opportunities available for ex-offenders.

Although Andrisse has faced discrimination and bias due to his conviction, it doesn’t stop him from telling his story.

“I enjoy being able to help others and it’s also therapeutic… On a day to day basis I hear so many biases and what people think of criminals and for the most part nobody knows my background so I have to just suck it up. Things come up and you have to suck it up as a convicted felon because no one really knows for the most part at your job because it may affect your being there so you kind of just don’t talk about it,” said Andrisse. “There’s a psychological part that affects you aside from the obvious things, I can’t vote, I can’t own a firearm, I have all these barriers against employment and education, there are psychological and structural barriers to deal with.”

Andrisse is currently working with the Ban the Box organization which is an international campaign geared towards helping ex-offenders with job placement and persuading corporations and employers to remove the check box inquiring about whether applicants have a criminal record. One of the reasons Andrisse chose to pursue a fellowship at Johns Hopkins was their leniency towards ex-convicts.

“I did a biomedical PhD and I strategically chose to do that coming out of prison because it not only gave me my education coming out of prison but they also paid me to do research. I got out of prison and was able to get a job and my education through having my PhD. When it was coming to an end I was a little nervous as to what I was going to do. I had tried to get some other employment and I had been denied so then when I was trying to get a job pertaining to my PhD I was a little worried about whether I was going to be able to do that.” I searched for jobs and universities that are lenient towards ex-offenders and Hopkins is actually the leading employer of returning citizens in the state of Maryland.”

The term “returning citizen” is used often in political circuits to describe ex-offenders but Andrisse believes it is rather ill-fitting.

“I don’t like using (returning citizen). I chuckle but I stop you know because I don’t think we are returning citizens because we don’t have certain rights, we’re looked at as convicts, we’re looked at as criminals and we’ll continue to be looked at in that way until that stigma is broken…I think returning citizens are not what we currently are I think it would be nice to eventually be at that stage but I think right now society still sees us as ex-convicts”

Andrisse is currently involved with several organizations seeking to advocate for prison reform and the less discrimination against ex-offenders, although the road has not been easy he remains hopeful.

“I have hope that sharing my story will have people talking about it and bring more attention to it…I think it’s good for people to see that these people, us, me, we’re just regular people. I’m just a person that has dreams and aspirations and I’m just trying to meet those.”