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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Greenwich Time: Nonprofits adjust to austere reality


Reprinted from Greenwich Time, Nov. 27, 2017

Facing an austere state budget, nonprofit social-service providers are tightening their belts and doing more with less.

They’re cutting programs, reducing staff and seeking more private donations. When the next session of the General Assembly meets in February, service providers will be asking state lawmakers to let them handle more programs, in exchange for more funding, because they are less-expensive than state-employee-run treatment centers, day programs and residences.

Gian-Carl Casa, president and chief executive officer of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, said the current budget, which lawmakers crafted during a contentious year that finally eliminated a $5 billion deficit, culminates a decade of underfunding for the state’s private social-service providers, and sharp reductions in state aid in more recent years.

“It’s really a cumulative effect on a lot of places,” Casa said during a recent interview, adding that between July and October, when state services were sharply curtailed under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive order, years of stress were added on nonprofits.

“While some providers eventually received the state funding they had counted on, across the board, folks are having a hard time,” said Casa, whose umbrella group represents dozens of nonprofits that focus on developmental disabilities, arts, children, adult behavioral health and community justice.

Executive-order hardships

Robert Francis, executive director of the Bridgeport-based Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership, said the new two-year, $41 billion state budget restored money for the organization’s Street Safe, program, which offers alternatives for teens and young adults who are at risk of joining gangs or are already gang members.

“I think we’ll get about $233,000, which will enable us to run the program in full force,” said Francis, who had to lay off two employees when the new fiscal year began on July 1 without a budget and Malloy’s executive order sharply cut social-service funding. “It’ll enable us to run the program full-force and get everyone back who we let go.”

Still, Francis is worried about other funding he usually gets from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. He said that state officials want to merge the 14 regional action councils such as RYASAP with regional mental health boards.

Overall, RYASAP provides direct services for about 2,000 people a year and trains as many as another 5,000 in its juvenile-justice initiatives, youth development, public service and parent education, Francis said.

Kelly Donnelly, Malloy’s communications director, said changes in nonprofit funding reflect hard economic reality.

“Nonprofit social-service providers are an integral part of the system,” Donnelly said. “Regrettably, they, like other important entities that receive state support, have been affected by our state’s present budget constraints. We continue to work with them to explore options to mitigate the impact of cuts in funding.”

Looking for outside support

Jeff Grant, CEO of Family ReEntry, which concentrates on helping inmates transition back into their communities, said that the contracts his nonprofit has with the state Judicial Branch have not been affected.

“Thus far, the only reduction that we have received is a 4.5 percent, across-the-board cut by the Department of Correction,” said Grant, a former white-collar offender. 

“After losing approximately $2 million in behavioral health contracts on July 1, 2016, we have grown and made back almost half of that.”

Family ReEntry serves about 3,500 individuals and families in eight cities.

“I think our biggest problem is that as of 18 months ago, the state dismantled nonresidential mental health programming. So there are no mandated services,” Grant said. “There are some very progressive programs going on inside the prisons.”

Grant said state officials believe that inmates leaving prison who need mental health services will find them through Medicaid and other programs.

“But since there is no enforcement, most are not going to go,” he said.

Grant said that with state agencies withdrawing support, the main strategy he and other private nonprofit providers are taking is outside support.

“We’re looking at more private funding, foundation funding, and to be considerably less (reliant) on the [government] to fund solutions to social problems,” Grant said. 

“We need to get a real private-public partnership that’s innovative and supportive. Unfortunately, it means we have to make do with less and find ways to seek and get support.” Twitter: @KenDixonCT

CT Mirror: CT nonprofits fear GOP tax overhaul will reduce charitable giving

CT Mirror: CT nonprofits fear GOP tax overhaul will reduce charitable giving

But to Grant, it’s the private donations that give his criminal justice programs flexibility. Family Re-entry has offices in Bridgeport, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury, Derby, Norwich and New London. “We believe that’s the way we can have the most impact and create the most creative programs,” he said of the individual donations. Also, as state and federal grants become more scarce, private donations are becoming more important, Grant said.

Reprinted from CT Mirror, Nov. 28, 2017

Washington – Both the tax bill the Senate hopes to vote on this week and a House-passed tax overhaul would keep the popular charitable deduction, but non-profits say the legislation still would shrink American help to those in need.

CT Community Nonprofit Alliance President Gian-Carl Casa says the bills would “devastate” the state’s community based non-profits.

“This is a significant problem for non-profits,” Casa said of the GOP tax bills.

The main reason?

The tax bills in both the House and Senate would eliminate most individual deductions, and nearly double the standard deduction. That means taxpayers  may stop itemizing their deductions – and have less of an incentive to give to charity.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 720,000 Connecticut taxpayers itemized deductions in 2015. Most of them, 603,420, claimed a charitable deduction. That’s nearly 35 percent of the state’s income tax filers.

But by simplifying tax brackets and doubling the standard deduction, the number of taxpayers who choose to itemize – and use the charitable tax deduction – is expected to drop to 5 percent, according to the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance and analyses by national non-profit groups.

A study commissioned this year by Leadership 18 and the Independent Sector, an alliance of the CEOs of the nation’s largest non-profits, found that these changes could decrease charitable giving by an estimated $13.1 billion annually. (Full disclosure: The Connecticut Mirror is published by the nonprofit Connecticut News Project.)

The heads of the nation’s largest nonprofits, including the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Association, the Boy Scouts and the YMCA, want Congress to allow all tax filers to be able to take the deduction, not just those who itemize. But the GOP writers of the House and Senate tax bills have yet to make that change.

The issue is of concern to smaller nonprofits, too.

Jeff Grant, executive director of Family ReEntry, a criminal justice non-profit, said he’s concerned there’s less incentive for people to donate to his organization under the GOP tax bills, universally opposed by Democrats.

Grant said about half of $700,000 a year his group receives from private donors comes from individuals. The bulk of the group’s income, about $4 million, comes from state and federal grants.

But to Grant, it’s the private donations that give his criminal justice programs flexibility. Family Re-entry has offices in Bridgeport, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury, Derby, Norwich and New London.

“We believe that’s the way we can have the most impact and create the most creative programs,” he said of the individual donations.

Also, as state and federal grants become more scarce, private donations are becoming more important, Grant said.

Both the House and Senate tax bills would lower the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and lower rates for individuals, too. But they would eliminate many popular individual deductions, including the ones for state and local taxes and for interest on student loans.

Even as GOP crafters of the tax bill were careful to keep the charitable contribution deduction, which turns 100 years old this month, the worry about the disincentive to itemize in the tax plans has spread in the nonprofit community.

“It’s a scary proposition for us,” said Alice Forrester, CEO of Clifford Beers Clinic, which provides mental health care for thousands of children and their parents in the New Haven area.

Forrester said she’s concerned that some loyal donors who contribute less than $1,000 a year may stop giving or donating less. She’s also worried the disincentive to itemize will hurt efforts to attract Millennial donors and start them down the philanthropic path.

Politicizing nonprofits
There are other concerns, too, said Casa of the CT Community Non-Profit Alliance.

One is that the House tax bill would repeal the Johnson Amendment, a provision in the U.S. tax code that since 1954 has prohibited certain non-profit groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates or donating to candidates for public office. The prohibition applies to Section 501(c)(3) organizations, the most common type of nonprofit in the United States, ranging from charitable foundations to universities and churches.

Casa said the end of the Johnson Amendment would pressure many non-profits to give to political candidates, siphoning off money now spent on helping people.

To Forrester, having charities become political players, forcing them to choose one candidate over another, would hurt them in other ways as well.

“It’s very important for us to stay neutral,” she said. “We depend on government to support us, no matter who is in charge.”

She also said her clinic has a politically diverse staff, and politically diverse patients, “so it would be horrible to be affiliated with a political party.”

Another problem nonprofits have with the tax bills is that they would boost the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion, forcing future cuts in government spending on social and health programs that help fund many nonprofits, Casa said.

“It’s hitting nonprofits from all angles,” Casa said of the tax bills.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said GOP leaders plan to vote on the Senate version of the tax bill this week, then work out the differences between that bill and one passed by the House earlier this month.

But the White House this week indicated the House may be persuaded to vote on a Senate-approved bill so that a final bill can become law before Christmas.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Please Help Family ReEntry Win the Newman’s Own Foundation $500k Holiday Challenge.

It’s #GivingTuesday and Family ReEntry is involved in the 
Newman’s Own Foundation $500k Holiday Challenge. 
We need your help to win an extra $50k today. 

Please click this link to donate today, 
thank you for your support:

Dear Friends:
Family ReEntry is super excited to let you know that we're part of an amazing campaign called the Newman's Own Foundation $500k Holiday Challenge, a friendly fundraising competition where organizations compete to raise the most money for their cause throughout the holiday season. 
We're kicking off our Challenge this year on #GivingTuesday on November 28th from 12am to 11:59pm (EST) and ask you to help us help more Connecticut children and families thrive. Your donation would not only help us win this Holiday Challenge, but it will ensure that families across the state of Connecticut have access to essential prevention, intervention, and reentry support services they need to live healthy, safe lives. Please click here to donate.
Thank you for supporting Connecticut families.
Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director
Family ReEntry, Inc.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy & Healthy Thanksgiving Wishes from the Board of Directors, Executive Council and Staff of Family ReEntry!

The Board of Directors, 
Executive Council and Staff of 
Family ReEntry 
Wish You and Yours a 
Happy & Healthy Thanksgiving! 
Board of Directors 
 Christian Morris 
Bill Galvin
Everett Schenk
Phil Lochner
Carlah Esdaile Bragg
Diego Chiarandini
Emily Hart
David Light
Eric Mertz
Ronda Muir
Susan Ness
Preston Tisdale 
Don Young

Executive Council  
Tim Askew
Amar Chopra Bakshi
Marcus Bullock
Gregg Clark
Khalil Cumberbatch
Icy Frantz
Steve Grant
John Hamilton
Babz Rawls Ivy
Lorenzo Jones
J. Christopher Llinas
William Nix
Gabriel Sayegh
James Schaeffer
Tom Scott
James Segelstein
Lexy Tanner

   Staff Directors  
Jeff Grant
Angela Medina
Tina Banas
Randy Braren
Bill Brezovsky
Anthony Corso
Fred Hodges
Rich Martorella

Elizabeth Aliaga
Elizabeth Aponte
Lori Brennan
Kathy Browne
Jahaira Cacares
Maria Cambareri
Charmaine Campbell-Blake
Jenna Cappellieri
Rosanne Esposito
John Filip
Erin Galipeau
James Ghant
Doug Gruber
Christine Hall-Day
Terry Hardy
Jay Hill
Gloria Huerta
Mary-Megan Marshall
Rebecca Martorella
Daee McKnight
John Mele
Charles Milton
Tiana Mosely
Janet Nazzaro
Nancy Ochoa
Sally Parker
Greg Richarsdon
Monica Roland
Laura Sheehan
Jackie Suarez
Raquel Virgo
Jason Wernick
Paul Weston
Diana Whitney
Ginger Wilk
Taurus Wright
Joseph Zannella
Thank you for your support!  

Family ReEntry’s mission is to develop, implement, and share sustainable, cost-effective solutions for the unprecedented numbers of people involved in the criminal justice system, which empower individuals, strengthen families, and build communities.

For more info please visit our website at and you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. All proceeds go to supporting these valuable programs.
Family ReEntry, Inc. | 
501(c)3 Organization | 203-290-0865

Monday, November 20, 2017

New Haven Independent: German Inspired Reform Calms Prison. CT Commissioner Scott Semple Appears on Criminal Justice Insider with Babz Rawls Ivy & Jeff Grant

Yale La

German-Inspired Reform Calms Prison

Young inmates are getting direction — not just detention — in one corner of Connecticut’s prison system, and they’re straightening out as a result.

State Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple created the experiment called the TRUE program (which stands for Truthfulness, Respectfulness, Understanding and Elevating) — to help 18-to-25-year-old inmates mature into responsible adults behind bars, and prepare for successful and productive lives after they have been released from prison.

The program, inspired by a fact-finding visit Semple took to Germany with the governor in June 2015, is currently in place in one 70-bed unit at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Because of its early success, Semple is looking to expand it to other units at Cheshire, as well as to the York Correctional Institution for Women.

Through the TRUE program, the young inmates are paired up with mentors who are older, fellow inmates serving life sentences for crimes that they committed while they were young.

Social workers from the Vera Institute of Criminal Justice lead roundtable conversations with the young inmates that encourage them to talk about how they are feeling, what they are hoping to accomplish through the program, and what their goals are for after they are released. The program applies “restorative” justice techniques that bring people who have been harmed and people causing harm together to resolve their conflict via face-to-face conversation as opposed to through further outbursts of violence.

Semple said that the program also rests upon active involvement of family members of the incarcerated, as well as open lines of communication and respect between the prison staff and the inmates.

Several months in, the program has been a success, Semple said on the latest episode of WNHH-FMs “Community Justice Insider with Babz Rawls-Ivy & Jeff Grant” program. “We’ve had little to no incidents in that unit [at the Cheshire Correctional Institution]. In essence, [this program has] created less trauma exposure and improved the health and wellness of the staff and the population.”
Semple noted that correctional officers often get a bad rap, and rarely get as many accolades as police officers, judges, or probation officers. Their work, especially in the context of the TRUE program, is critical for the successful rehabilitation of these young inmates, he said.

“Their job is extremely, extremely important in terms of the mission of improving public safety,” he said. “Because if they fail, the likelihood of failure from a public safety perspective is much more prominent.”

Nearly three years into his tenure as commissioner, Connecticut’s prison population is dropping precipitously, from a high of nearly 20,000 in 2008 to around 14,000 today. Two prisons have closed or contracted in this year alone, including Enfield’s medium security prison earlier this month.

And, with initiatives like the TRUE program at Cheshire set to expand, Semple said, he feels confident that the department he oversees is getting closer by the day to its mission of correction, not incapacitation.

“We are the model in the United States right now,” Semple said about Connecticut’s DOC. “We’re one of the few states in the country that has lowered its incarceration rate and its crime rate, and we’re beginning to see a reduction in recidivism.”

“It’s important that, whoever’s the next governor,” he continued, “they need to take a look at some of the practices that have been in place. And to realize the benefit in improving folks’ overall wellness.”
German Inspiration

Semple at WNHH FM with co-hosts Rawls-Ivy and Grant.
Invited by the Vera Institute of Criminal Justice in June 2015 to observe how other countries’ prison systems prepare inmates for re-entry into society, Department of Correction (DOC) chief Semple and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy found in Mecklenburg, Germany’s Neustrelitz Prison a facility that was specifically designed to meet the emotional and developmental needs of its 18 to 25-year-old incarcerated population.

Instead of throwing young people into lockdown or solitary confinement when they acted out, the German prison had programs that encouraged self-expression, communication between fellow inmates and staff, minimum-wage employment, and a certain degree of autonomy that tried to mimic what life was like outside of prison bars.

A self-proclaimed data-driven, incentive-based commissioner who is willing to experiment with different ways to reduce recidivism, Semple was deeply inspired by the respect, encouragement and sensitivity with which the German prison system treats its young inmates, he said.
“We’re not the department of incapacitation,” Semple said. “We’re the department of correction. And our job is to help correct people. We’re very good at dealing with problematic issues. Our facilities are clean and, for the most part, quiet. But how do we move beyond clean and quiet? It’s as simple as being responsive to people who want to be accountable to themselves.”

After returning from Germany, Semple crunched the numbers on his own prison system. He found that 3,000 people, or roughly 20 percent of the state’s incarcerated population, fell between the ages of 18 and 25. Those younger inmates accounted for roughly 25 percent of all disciplinary incidents within the state’s prison system.

“We do know that this is a very impulsive age,” Semple said. He admitted that, when he was a teenager growing up in Waterbury in the 1970s, he was involved in activity that very well might have gotten him arrested if he were in high school today.

He talked to the governor, reached out to the Vera Institute, and decided to bring a little bit of the German incarceral approach to the Nutmeg State.
Inspired By Personal Tragedy
Semple started out as a correctional officer at the Cheshire Correctional Institution back in 1988. Over the years he has served as legislative liaison for the DOC, warden for the Garner Correctional Institution, deputy commissioner of operations for the DOC, and, as of 2015, DOC commissioner.
Shortly after Semple became deputy commissioner, his son Matthew was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Soon after he became commissioner, his son passed away.

Semple spoke about how he and his wife struggled to decide whether or not he should accept Gov. Malloy’s offer to serve as commissioner when going through such a difficult time in their lives. Ultimately, he decided to do it, heeding his late son’s strong encouragement to take the position.

“The things you traditionally get worked up about did not seem to bother me as much because quite frankly the worst thing in my life has already happened,” Semple said about how his son’s life and premature death have inspired his passion and willingness to experiment as the head of the DOC. “So why not be bold? It really led and energized the direction that I felt compelled to take this department to.”

“Criminal Justice Insider” airs every first and third Friday of the month on WNHH FM at 10 a.m. Listen to the full interview with Scott Semple here or Facebook Live video here.

“Criminal Justice Insider” is sponsored by Family ReEntry and The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.