LOS ANGELES -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the recipients of the inaugural Smart on Crime Awards for their excellence in working to reduce recidivism in California. The five awards were presented at a roundtable discussion that brought together partners from across the state to discuss innovative solutions to lowering recidivism rates in the state.
“These organizations are doing innovative work to educate, employ and keep ex-offenders on track, which will reduce recidivism rates and increase public safety in California,” said Attorney General Harris. “Today’s awardees are keeping ex-offenders accountable by empowering them to rebuild their lives and re-enter their communities with a toolbox of new skills and opportunities. We want to recognize their great work, sharing their efforts as best practices for others to follow.”
The Smart on Crime Awards recognize individuals who have demonstrated leadership in criminal justice programs focused on incarcerated or at-risk populations. These programs increase educational and employment opportunities for individuals, and decrease the likelihood that they will commit future crimes.
The recipients are: Five Keys Charter School; the Conviction and Sentence Alternatives Program of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California; Tom Gammon and Suzy McCausland, co-founders of Merit Partners; Kabira Stokes of Isidore Electronics Recycling; and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
The awardees were recommended by the Department’s Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry, which was launched by Attorney General Harris in 2013. The division has worked to identify effective initiatives and evidence-based best practices to reduce recidivism that can be held up as a model for others to follow.
Additional information on the Smart on Crime Award recipients:
Five Keys Charter School (Northern CA) – Five Keys Charter School is an innovative program that provides traditionally underserved communities the opportunity to restart their education with a focus on the “five keys”: education, employment, recovery, family, and community.
Originally established by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department in 2003, Five Keys was the first charter school in the country to operate inside of a county jail. Today, Five Keys has a daily enrollment of more than 3,000 students in six jail locations and numerous satellite campuses in partnership with community-based organizations and city agencies throughout San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The Conviction and Sentence Alternatives Program of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Southern CA) – The Conviction and Sentence Alternatives (CASA) Program, offers individuals a pathway out of the criminal justice system. The first alternative sentencing program in the Central District of California, CASA offers treatment, sanction alternatives and incentives to select federal defendants.
Participants must plead guilty and successfully complete programs designed to address the underlying causes of their criminal conduct, such as substance abuse treatment or employment/education services. The felony will then either be dismissed or a probationary sentence will be imposed instead of prison. CASA just finished its 24-month pilot phase and has been adopted as a permanent program. Since it was launched, 60 percent of participants have graduated and 33 percent remain in the program.
Participation is entirely voluntary and must be approved by the judge assigned to the defendant’s criminal case.
Tom Gammon and Suzy McCausland, Merit Partners (Central CA) – Tom Gammon and Suzy McCausland, Ph.D., are the co-founders of Merit Partners, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing recidivism through market wage jobs and job training for incarcerated young adults.
Program participants are trained and employed in and out-of-custody in electronics recycling. They work 30 hours per week and are paid fair market wages set by the state; a portion of all money earned goes to the victims of the participants’ crimes. Located inside the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, Merit Partners is the only operation of its kind in a California correctional facility.
Tom Gammon is a former Silicon Valley executive who conceived Merit Partners with the belief that an offender has to have hope and the ability to work in order to change a life of crime.
Suzy McCausland, Ph.D., an expert in the complexities of dynamic social-system change, co-founded Merit Partners because she believes that skills and attitudes to succeed come only after people believe their efforts to learn will be rewarded.
Kabira Stokes, Isidore Electronics Recycling (Southern CA) – Kabira Stokes is the founder and CEO of Isidore Electronics Recycling, a Los Angeles startup working to ensure that resources – both human and natural – are valued, not wasted. Isidore employs people with criminal records to recycle electronic waste for companies seeking a more responsible way to manage their environmental footprint and avoid exporting e-waste to developing countries that have poor environmental and workplace standards.
Isidore provides electronic recycling services to residents, businesses and governmental organizations while functioning as an on-the-job training and employment program for previously incarcerated Angelenos.
Kabira Stokes launched Isidore Electronics Recycling in 2011. She holds a Master’s degree in public policy from the University of Southern California with a focus in Prison Reentry Policy and Environmental Governance.
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce (Southern CA) – The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce played an integral role in helping the City of Los Angeles become the first major city to formally support Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for some crimes. The Chamber recognizes the importance of access to jobs for the formerly incarcerated. In that spirit, it has led efforts to employ offenders that are being released from LA County’s Back on Track program, an initiative launched by Attorney General Harris. The engagement from the LA Chamber is serving as a model for Chambers across the state and the country.