Delegation of Ugandan Juvenile Justice Leaders Visits TASC

(Chicago) – A delegation of juvenile justice leaders from Uganda visited TASC on September 24 for an exchange of ideas and strategies for serving youth who come in contact with the justice system.

As part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) of the U.S. Department of State, the delegation of six leaders representing the Ugandan high courts, public prosecutions, and non-government organizations (NGOs) visited TASC to learn about justice reform, community-based alternatives to detention, and reentry programs.

The discussion, led by George Williams, vice president of community and government affairs for TASC, highlighted key approaches for diversion and reentry programs, as well as common challenges in providing opportunities for youth.

“The most important thing we do is engage with the youth,” said Anthony Harden, TASC juvenile justice services administrator. He emphasized the critical role and dedication of TASC care coordinators like Breanna Hollie, who co-presented with Harden. “We try to find something positive that youth will connect with.”

For instance, Harden noted, if a youth is doodling while TASC is conducting an assessment, that’s an opportunity to find out about the youth’s interest in art.

“In that case, we’ll find resources on art to support their interest,” said Harden. “We’ll learn where they grew up, what they want to do, where their strengths are… And we’ll connect them with mentors. We help youth understand that we work with the justice system, but we’re not the justice system. Our role is to be there for the youth, to be their advocates.”

TASC’s services for youth include prevention programs, diversion alternatives, court services, and post-detention reentry.

“We are committed to ensuring that there are alternatives at every point in the system,” said Alicia Osborne, director of operations for TASC.

The discussion highlighted opportunities such as strength-based approaches and balanced and restorative justice (BARJ), as well common challenges for youth who come in conflict with the law, whether in the U.S. or Uganda. Many come from environments of poverty, where family and social structures have been weakened, and where opportunities for work and education are lacking. In Uganda, delegates noted, in addition to facing poverty, children may be detained hundreds of kilometers from home, where they are far from family and may encounter language barriers as well.

While challenges are ever-present, the Ugandan delegates and TASC leaders shared a commitment to solutions that give youth and their families the opportunity to succeed.

“We can’t necessarily change the community environment,” acknowledged Williams. “But we can help our clients develop the protective skills and mindset to help them as they navigate back to their community. We help them find out, ‘What is my personal capital so I can change my relationship with the community?’”

The International Visitor Leadership Program is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Past participants in the program include 35 current and 300 former chiefs of state or heads of government. In partnership with IVLP, the visit was facilitated by WorldChicago, a nonprofit organization that promotes citizen diplomacy and international exchange.

 

Ugandan delegation visits TASC (24 Sept. 2018). Back row, left to right: Daphne Baille, TASC; Anthony Harden, TASC; Marion Sunday Ben-Bella; Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Uganda; Jacquelyn Akol Okui, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Uganda; Judge Margaret Mutonyi, Republic of Uganda; George Williams, TASC; Breanna Hollie, TASC; Alicia Osborne, TASC. Front row, left to right: Samali Wakooli, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Uganda; Winfred Adukule Meuter, Free Child Uganda; Lillian Alum-Omara, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Uganda.

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Supporting International Efforts to Prevent Overdose and Treat Substance Use Disorders

(Chicago) – TASC’s work in Illinois is helping to inform international strategies to save lives and divert people with substance use disorders away from the justice system and into community-based treatment.

On August 20, TASC hosted visiting dignitaries from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) for discussions on criminal justice responses to the opioid crisis and alternatives to incarceration, based on the recognition that international supply reduction strategies can inform and support, and be supported by, local efforts across the country.

INL helps countries across the globe strengthen their criminal justice systems in order to reduce the entry of illegal drugs and crime in the U.S.

INL Deputy Assistant Secretary James A. Walsh and Michele Greenstein, acting director of INL’s Office of Criminal Justice and Assistance Partnership (CAP), were welcomed by TASC President Pam Rodriguez, who facilitated a roundtable discussion with local criminal justice leaders, including Judge LeRoy Martin, presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, Cook County Circuit Judge Charles P. Burns, Judge Lawrence Fox, director of specialty courts for Cook County, and Chief Eric Guenther of the Mundelein Police Department. Leaders presented a continuum of criminal justice diversion strategies and alternatives to incarceration that exist in Cook and Lake counties for people who have substance use disorders.

Following the roundtable discussion, Walsh and Greenstein visited TASC’s Supportive Release Center, meeting with TASC staff as well as Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose website offers information on array of resources on overdose prevention and recovery.

“We are grateful and proud to be able to show our collective work in Illinois, knowing that lessons learned here can benefit other nations across the globe,” said Rodriguez. “We also recognize that much work lies ahead in continuing to reduce the numbers of people entering the justice system, and in increasing treatment and recovery options for people and communities affected by substance use disorders.”

Today, communities across the globe are recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day, observed annually on August 31 to raise awareness around overdose prevention, reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, and acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends who have lost loved ones to drug overdose.

INL dignitaries and Sheriff Dart at TASC Supportive Release Center, August 20, 2018. (l. to r.) Michele Greenstein, INL; Alicia Osborne, TASC; INL Deputy Assistant Secretary James Walsh; Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; Dr. Jane Gubser, Cook County Dept. of Corrections; Joe Ryan, Cook County Sheriff’s Dept.; Robin Moore, TASC.

 

Supportive Release Center Marks One-Year Anniversary; Model Replicated in Albuquerque

(Chicago) – In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a “one-stop” program recently opened to assist people newly released from jail in accessing a place to stay, food, medicine, substance use treatment, and other social supports.

The Albuquerque program—known as the Bernalillo County (NM) Resource Re-Entry Center—came about after local officials teamed up with the National Association of Counties and TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), which has been devising and implementing collaborative linkages between justice systems and community-based services since 1976.

One year ago in Chicago, TASC and partners launched the forerunner to the Albuquerque program.

Located just blocks from the Cook County Jail, TASC’s Supportive Release Center (SRC) offers a brief overnight stay and linkages to community-based services for men leaving the jail who are struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders, and/or physical health challenges, and who have no immediate place to go. The SRC serves as a guiding resource for voluntary participants who face vulnerabilities following their release from jail.

TASC care coordinators assist participants in accessing healthcare services, health insurance, identification, and other supports such as housing, food, job training, and legal aid resources. Connections to needed services are vital for individuals to become stabilized in the community, improve their health, and lessen their likelihood of returning to jail.

As an Urban Labs Innovation Challenge winner, and with funding from an array of private foundations and donors, the SRC represents a collaboration between TASC, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and an array of partners to offer a “softer landing” for persons being released from the jail. Alongside TASC’s program administration and care coordination services, Heartland Health Alliance (HAH) provides intensive case management for individuals who require longer-term support, such as housing or treatment for serious mental illness. The UChicago Urban Labs is evaluating the SRC to ensure the efficacy of the program and lay the groundwork for improvements, expansion, and future replication.

Since the SRC’s ribbon-cutting on July 26, 2017, more than 600 men leaving the Cook County Jail have received services at the SRC.

“The hours immediately following release from jail are critical, especially for people who face vulnerabilities in terms of behavioral health, related medical issues, and housing,” said Alicia Osborne, director of operations for TASC. “It’s a privilege not only to be able to offer a place that eases that transition, but also to see that what we’re doing in Cook County can be beneficial to other counties facing these same challenges.”

Offering an overnight stay and linkage to services in the community, TASC’s Supportive Release Center welcomes men who are leaving the Cook County Jail and have no immediate place to go.