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The (SOAR) provides reentry services, (eg.transitional living,employment counseling and tranportation to ex-offender

The Problem: Ex-offender Recidivism
Nearly 650,000 people are released from America’s prisons each year. They return to their communities needing housing and jobs, but their prospects are generally bleak. The majority of ex-prisoners have not completed high school. In addition, close to three quarters of them have a history of substance abuse, and more than one third have a physical or mental disability.

These former prisoners are going home to some of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods, where they often lack stable social bonds and support networks and where there are few services to help them restart their lives. Given the huge gap between their complex challenges and their limited opportunities for addressing them, it is not surprising that recidivism rates are high. In fact, more than half (52 percent) of former state prisoners are back behind bars within three years after their release, either as a result of a parole violation or because they have committed a new crime.

This cycle of recidivism produces many negative consequences. Households that are already fragile become overwhelmed. Communities that are already struggling fall further behind. The lives of those who move in and out of prison are wasted. And the cost to taxpayers is enormous. Overall, the US spends more than $60 billion a year on prisons and jails. (It costs more than $23,000 to incarcerate someone in a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility for one year and approximately $3,500 per year for probation; incarceration in a state prison can run as high as $45,000 per year or more.)

Without the development of effective approaches for reducing recidivism, the problem is certain to grow. The number of Americans behind bars has increased steadily and now includes more than 2.1 million men and women. Almost all of them will eventually be released, and, unless something changes, more than half of them will not be successful in reentering their communities and will return to prison.

The Solution: Society for Offender Advocacy & Restoration - Reentry Program
The Society for Offender Advocacy & Restoration (SOAR) provides reentry services, including transition assistance and employment counseling to incarcerated individuals and ex-offenders who are committed to avoiding re-incarceration and becoming established in their community as productive and responsible citizens.

The SOAR reentry advocates act as resource consultants, problem-solving facilitators, client advisors, and employment counselors, but the agenda in all circumstances is to empower clients toward the goal of self-support. Our reentry advocates assist men and women through major life transitions directly or indirectly related to the individual’s criminal justice status or history. Eligibility for these services is contingent on a conviction record and certain residency requirements (see Client Eligibility Criteria). Participation is completely voluntary and cannot be court ordered.

Individuals have different needs and each eligible client works with the team to develop an individualized plan that may include assistance with emergency shelter, transportation, clothing, food, identification, medication, mental health, medical care, and a wide range of social service referrals are provided. Clients also participate in the employment program including resume building, vocational skills assessments, mock interviews and assisted job searches.

Comments from Staff:
“When I first began developing the programs for the SOAR I had the typical prejudice and attitudes about persons incarcerated. But the participants we’ve worked with thus far have been eager to grow and learn and to stop the current cycle of their lives. The experience has taught me much about our common humanity.”

“Our organization is committed to working with the public and its employers so ex-offenders can be integrated into the community and our workforce. The S.O.A.R. advocates are committed individuals who are employed to assist businesses, non-profits, corporate funders and ex-offenders with the steps to take in order to participate in the SOAR Reentry Employment Program. Our desire is to eradicate recidivism. The classes at the SOAR and its affiliated facilities are participatory sessions requiring active participation of the clients. Topics include blame, acceptance, the grieving process, perceptions, and paths through life, feelings, forgiveness and depression.” Eric Jones- Founder/Director

“Impact of Offending” is based on a restorative justice model that includes the offender, victim, and community in renewing community peace harmed by criminal actions. Offenders are required to understand and help heal the wrong they have committed. Participants write reflective essays, discuss case studies of offenses, and examine the impact on victims and the community. Each group completes a community service project as restitution to the community and to educate citizens on the consequences of crime.” Tony Perez – Vice President/Executive Director

Client Eligibility Requirements:
SOAR Reentry services also include solution focused interviewing that work with the clients self-determination when deciding what steps the client would like to take and in what order. Clients attend workshops and work with mentors in groups and one-on-one to discuss behaviors that can prevent a client from succeeding in the workplace and in personal relationships.

 Has previously been convicted of a felony, or who was incarcerated for any conviction, or who is currently on probation or parole for any conviction.

 Has not been convicted of a sex-offense or arson or has received an “Applicant Offense Waiver” from the Program Director.

 Has been released from incarceration in Iowa no more than 7 years before applying for services with the S.O.A.R.

 Has been released from incarceration elsewhere in the country no more than 3 years before applying for services with the S.O.A.R.

 An Iowa resident for at least 1 year before being incarcerated, and has been an Iowa resident either continuously since being released from incarceration or for at least 3 years.

 Go through the S.O.A.R. approved in-take and assessment process during which time an Agreement is signed with the Society for Offender Advocacy & Restoration.

 With the assistance of S.O.A.R. or S.O.A.R. approved partner(s), develop a resume, take a Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) and complete Job Readiness Training, Money Management Training.

 Attend Impact of Offending and Parenting/Relationships Courses.

 Become employed as a full-time employee working for at least 37 and ½ hours a week or as a part-time employee for at least 20 hours a week, but no more than 37 and ½ hours at a business or non-profit with an Agreement with the S.O.A.R., respectively.

 Remain in employment for at least 6 months. (Note: If your position is terminated for reasons that are no fault of your own you will retain your eligibility for SOAR services)

 Refrain from all criminal behaviors/activities.

 Attend two S.O.A.R. sponsored social events per month.

Community Service
Community service is a form of alternative sentencing. Through community service, offenders are invited to take responsibility for past actions and repair the damage done by giving back to the community and providing a service that enriches the lives of others.

The SOAR Community Service Department serves the following clients:

 Individuals who are court-ordered to complete community service through the County or City Courts;

 Individuals who have been approved by a Judge to complete community service in lieu of paying their court costs;

 Individuals who are referred by community corrections to complete community service.

SOAR supervises adult clients in their community service work. A Community Service Case Manager interviews each client to discuss their case, review their requirements, and determine the most appropriate work site. Some examples of community service opportunities at local nonprofit organizations can include:

 Helping in a food bank
 Assisting the elderly
 Lawn Care/Snow Removal
 Participating in a fundraising activities
 Shelving books at the library
 Tutoring at an after school program
 Cleaning up a public areas/parks

If you have been assigned community service hours by the County or City Courts, please contact SOAR to schedule an intake appointment. If you are a nonprofit or government agency interested in benefiting from community service volunteers, please contact the Director of Community Service at 515-460-2490.

Facility-Based Programs
Putting incarceration time to good use is a challenge. SOAR provides a variety of classes, groups, to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals at the County Detention level and state prisons. These facility-based programs include classes in essential life skill areas such as anger management and parenting, and basic education such as computer literacy and writing.

Community volunteers provide the SOAR courses inside the correctional facilities and at our local office. Classes offered include: PROPS (Pre-Release Offender Pro-Social) Stress Management, Conflict Resolution, Starting Your Own Business, and Money Management. SOAR also offers an employability readiness program and a vocational training program in office skills and computer proficiency.

Life Skills
SOAR correctional facility-based programs include essential courses such as Stress Management, Conflict Resolution, Health Awareness, Life and Transitional Skills, Meditation and Mindfulness, Money Management, Parenting, Impact of Offense, Expressive Arts, Creative Writing, Starting Your Own Business, Life Skills for Spanish Speakers, Computers, Employability Readiness, Substance Abuse Education, among many others.

Employability Readiness
This six-week class teaches incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals the intricacies of conducting an effective job search, writing resumes and cover letters, presenting oneself positively in the job interview, and working productively with supervisors and other members of the team. This program is intended to promote job retention for today’s challenging workplace.

Volunteer at SOAR
SOAR’s many volunteers represent the communities ultimately served by the process of restorative justice. As transitions progress, offenders return to the community as neighbors, church members, tax payers, concerned parents, and yes, very often, volunteers.

Like individuals who are homeless, mentally ill, and drug addicted, those incarcerated for criminal offenses need help. Volunteering with SOAR provides a wonderful opportunity to touch the lives of those most in need, while also dramatically benefiting the community. Volunteers can help in a wide variety of ways such as assisting with education, recovery support, or enhanced life skills training.

Getting Started
A Volunteer Coordinator/Program Director reviews volunteer applications and will contact prospective volunteers to schedule interviews and orientation at a time convenient to the volunteer.

If you are interested in volunteering in the County/State Facility, you will be asked to submit a security clearance application for admittance. This authorizes the Sheriff’s Office/DCI to conduct a criminal background investigation. (Note: This is not required for all volunteer opportunities.)

Training and Orientation
One key benefit of volunteering with SOAR is the exceptional orientation and training provided to volunteers. Orientation and training provides volunteers with a comprehensive overview of the criminal justice system, local detention center programs, and SOAR services available to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. On-the-job training and observation is required prior to volunteering.

SOAR also offers in-service training opportunities throughout the year that focus on different aspects of volunteer work.

Training topics include:

 History of the SOAR and overview of the agency’s continuum of services
 Overview of jail/prison services available to incarcerated individuals
 Mental health issues prevalent among incarcerated individuals
 Substance abuse issues prevalent among incarcerated individuals
 How to avoid incarcerated individual manipulation
 The mentor’s role
 The tutor’s role
 The group facilitator’s role

In addition to the above requirements, volunteers interested in facilitating courses at the County/State Facility must attend a jail orientation, where they receive an overview of volunteer protocol within the facility and a tour of the facilities.

Forthcoming Additional Advocacy Activities (Members only)

 Regular communications with legislators, top corrections and parole officials to disuses issues and concerns.
 Participation in public hearings and criminal justice task forces.
 Collaboration with and support of other advocacy and activist groups to affect reform
 Public lectures featuring notable speakers.
 National issues and community forums encouraging citizens to learn about key issues in criminal justice and raise awareness among church and community leaders and the public.
 Distribution of articles, editorials and commentaries through the mass media and specialty publications to further the publics understanding of criminal justice issues.
 Community Children’s Empathy Programming (Support Group for Children with Incarcerated Parents).
 Restorative Justice Resources / Programming.
 Free / discounted admittance to special events
 Transitional Housing Assistance (SOAR Transitional Living Unit)

Our Publications:

Liberty Forum and S.O.A.R. Mail are also an important part of our advocacy effort.

Liberty Forum, our member newsletter is distributed four times a year.

S.O.A.R. Mail is a monthly newsletter primarily for people in prison and prison administration. This newsletter is inmate guided with people in prison providing much of the content and issues of concern in our nation’s prison facilities.

What Your Donation Means

SOAR is able to fulfill its mission because of the generous support received by you — organizations and individual donors in communities throughout Iowa and the country. One reason you and other individuals continue to support SOAR is because it makes fiscal sense for the community. For example, it can cost $45,000 or more to incarcerate one person for a year.

Considering that correctional facilities house hundreds of inmates each year, many of whom are repeat offenders; the cost to taxpayers is immense. By providing counseling and mentoring programs inside and outside of the facility; promoting education programs and job training; and giving individuals the tools and resources they need to find gainful employment, your donation to SOAR helps communities curtail the financial burden that recidivism creates.

SOAR needs your continued support to help make your community a healthier and safer place to live. We would like you to become a part of the SOAR movement and consider making a donation today. All of your donations are tax deductible. Below are just a few ways your contribution directly benefits a SOAR client:

 $10 = A meal for someone who has just been released from jail
 $20 = A meal and transportation for someone just released from jail
 $25 = A gift card for Christmas for a child who has a parent in jail
 $40 = Pays for a client’s transportation to/from work for a week.
 $50 = Pays for a client’s birth certificate and identification documents required to get a job
 $75 = Case management services for clients to develop skills for maintaining employment
 $100 = Underwrite one Monday Supper Club for clients to socialize with members of the community
 $150 = Pays for a clients General Equivalency Diploma/College Preparation Courses (ACT/SAT).
 $500 = Family Fusion Circle so a client can reunite with his/her children and family
 $1,000 = Provide security deposit for a client to move out of a shelter and into an apartment
 $5,000 = Underwrite Project Christ’s Angel, where 1,000 gifts will be wrapped for over 350 children of incarcerated parents.
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