Crossroads Takes on Unemployment Hurdle
Lucius Couloute and Daniel Kopf.
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/outofwork.html. July 2018
Jackie White, Program Director
Jackie White has been with Crossroads, Inc. for 13 years. As Program Director, she has played a significant role in establishing and implementing Turning Point Staffing Services (TPSS) and its core competencies of Employment Readiness and Life Skills. Jackie works closely with the women of Crossroads, Inc and is an integral part of our success and an inspiration.
Jackie answered a few questions during a brief sit-down session so we can all get to know more about her.
1. What makes your work rewarding?
…when the women become one with the community. At that point, they are making doctors’ appointments and checking their bus books to figure out how to get from point A to point B on time. When I see them using computers and cell phones to retrieve information and become employed, I jump for joy. After mastering these milestones, I know that their level of confidence is through the roof and that they are capable of accomplishing any and everything.
2. Why is it important that women are given a second (third/etc) chance?
Well from what I’ve been told, this country was built on do-overs/second chances. We all make mistakes and I believe we all should have the opportunity to try again until we get it right. I definitely needed those chances… More importantly why should it be different for any of us who have been to prison?
3. Do you consider working with the women of Crossroads as a calling? Why or why not?
I’m not sure… Prior to employment at Crossroads, Inc., I’d made the decision to change my behaviors – meaning addressing my addictions while at Crossroads. After my six-month program, I found that I wanted/needed to become self-sufficient. I was 47 years old, working a minimum wage job and with a GED in my pocket. Based on my history and experiences, I consciously selected “Substance Abuse Counseling” as my career goal thinking that that was what I knew best. From the start, employment at Crossroads, Inc. was a selfish, lifesaving move for me… Today, I share with the women of Crossroads a wealth of experiences and education. Maybe it is or was a calling, I’m still not sure.
4. Pre-COVID, you would bring some of the women and have talks with students at the local schools. Please explain how that is done and what impact you have seen.
To make a long story short after doing a speaking engagement; I received a call from a teacher at one of the local high schools who was in the audience. She expressed her concerns about her students using drugs and their flippant attitudes on the subject. She asked if I would be interested in speaking to her class; if she could get clearance. I said yes, while I waited for conformation; I saw this as win-win opportunity for all concerned. I thought, I’ll bring our women who know a lot about drug use and addictions. I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to be of service to the community, have their voices heard, and become a part of issues that many of them could relate to. We started out speaking to one classroom of students for about an hour… from there it was an all-day speaking engagement in front of 10th, 11th, and 12th graders, teachers included…. In no way was this scared straight kind of talk… it was an evidence-based conversation that erected from our personal experiences that landed us in prison… with a Q&A discussion at the end.
The rewarding part of this is that I live locally and run into these students from time to time. Many of them stop me just to say hi, thank you, and or that they remember me. At the beginning of 2020 just before the 1st COVID lock-down; I was sitting next to a young lady in the nail shop who kept staring at me; when she finally remembered where she knew me from she blurted out I know who you are you spoke at my high school. She went on to tell me that she was home visiting from college, that she was the 1st in her family to go to college, and that her parents were so proud of her. Lastly and surely not least, she informed me that she had tried drugs with friends several times. She confessed that she saw herself changing and our words and experiences began to haunt her – so she got it together. I asked her what happen to her friends she said that they continued to use drugs but were alright…we left it at that.
5. What other projects do you or did you have with schools or businesses that helped boost community engagement?
On one of our speaking engagements, I notice a couple of formal dresses in the corner of teacher class. I asked what they were for and she informed me that many of the kid’s parents could not afford to buy winter formal dress, prom dress etc. and or the accessories. I told her that Crossroads receives a lot of donations that are not always suitable for our women. I made a commitment with the teacher to collect all formal wear, dress shoes, and jewelry for the girl’s formal events and bring them to the high schools. This project went well until COVID stopped all movement. Through the years we/Crossroads have received many letters thanking us for coming to speak and letting us know how much they appreciated the formal wear. A lot of these letters brought tears to my eyes…
What Is Recidivism?
Oxford Dictionaries: “It is the tendency of a convicted person to reoffend.”