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Minnesota Progress: Out of Prison, Out of Poverty

PHOTO: A Minnesota nonprofit organization is reporting success in helping keep former inmates from returning to prison by linking them with opportunities for employment and housing. Photo credit: Krystian Olszanski/Flickr.
PHOTO: A Minnesota nonprofit organization is reporting success in helping keep former inmates from returning to prison by linking them with opportunities for employment and housing. Photo credit: Krystian Olszanski/Flickr.
March 25, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A program in Minnesota is making great strides in helping African-American men who are getting out of prison stay out - and also work toward getting out of poverty.

Thomas Adams, president and chief executive of Better Futures of Minnesota, said key to the nonprofit group's success is connecting the men post-incarceration with the fundamental needs of housing and employment, vital for reducing recidivism.

"Our men are employed at a rate about four-times higher than their counterparts," he said. "We know that our men are staying in the community. They are not going back into prison at a rate about three times lower than their counterparts."

With help with jobs and housing along with social connections and life coaching, Adams said, the men also are more engaged with their families and children.

Adams said the former inmates, who often also have a history of other challenges such as substance abuse and limited education, also are far less likely to use acute health-care services.

"So they're not going to the ER," he said. "They're finding health homes and maintaining medical and behavior health regimens with the help of our staff."

Among the financial supporters of Better Futures is the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation. Its senior program officer, Stacey Millett, said there's a huge ripple effect when people are incarcerated, so helping them get back on track also helps achieve improved stability and health.

"We see a very strong opportunity," she said, "to build ways for people to re-enter, potential to earn income, potential to find housing and employment and so forth and pursue education as a strategy to improve the overall health of a community and those around them."

In Minnesota, the incarceration rate for blacks is more than 25 times higher than it is for whites.

More information is online at betterfuturesenterprises.com/minnesota/ and bcbsmnfoundation.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN