CSWorks receives grant to help mitigate youth recidivism 

Studies have found that the frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until a person’s mid-20s. Since that part of the brain weighs consequences to actions, that means that teens do not always exercise sound judgment. This looks different for white youth suffering from “affluenza” — a defense that blames a teen’s crimes on their wealth and privilege — than it does for minority youth.

Colorado Springs resident Juaquin Mobley knows all too well the overwhelming fight to pave a path out of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) system. In 2006 at age 22, Mobley, a college student at The Fashion Institute of Technology, was sentenced to 12 years at a Colorado state penitentiary for committing armed robbery. Mobley says: “I made some bad investments with money saved working and going to school. I felt like my back was against [the] wall and without the proper guidance, I decided to get involved in armed robbery.”

Since his release in 2014, Mobley and Robert Andrews, executive director of DenverWorks (whom Mobley has known since elementary school), have worked to develop a program to prevent young criminal offenders from reoffending. This year, in partnership with Colorado Construction Careers, they formed CSWorks as a subsidiary of DenverWorks (DiverseCity, Jan. 4).

CSWorks’ program is geared toward creating access to career opportunities that will provide decent living wages. It focuses on the Springs’ Southeast side, a highly marginalized area of town with low wages, high crime and failing schools. Mobley, who has successfully met the terms of his parole, attends extensive training classes to help him facilitate the program, and is determined to make the road to successful reentry more accessible to Colorado Springs youth who are just getting out of prison.

Often those youth are faced with the financial responsibility of restitution, school, supervision fees, rehabilitation classes and transportation, in addition to their normal living expenses and, in some cases, child support. The limited ability to find a decent-paying job due to their criminal record can compound these financial pressures.
The first year after release is crucial. According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, in 2015 juvenile recidivism rates for those on regular and intense supervision in probation were at 63 percent for technical violations, and 24 percent for new adjudications/convictions. In addition, according to a report by the Division of Criminal Justice, the Colorado prison population is expected to increase almost 10 percent by 2023.

These numbers are often disproportionately represented by black and Latino boys, their criminal activity perpetuated by systemic racism. It’s one of the stops in the caste system pipeline forced on poor minority communities — another form of slavery. It is not fair to play prison Russian Roulette with brown and black boys in our community.

CSWorks seeks to change those odds with the help of the Department of Labor’s Reentry Employment Opportunities program, which has provided DenverWorks and CSWorks with a Reentry Projects for Young Adults grant of $800,000 ($400,000 each). The grant will fund CSWorks’ goal to help facilitate reentry for 75 area youth on probation or parole over the next two years through its apprenticeship programs in HVAC and construction. CSWorks will also work closely with the Latino Coalition toward this end.

Ideally, Mobley would like to reach more than 75 clients. This might be possible through legislation spearheaded by Rep. Pete Lee, which kicked off a grant program for Southeast Springs and North Aurora’s crime prevention organizations. Andrews plans to apply for that grant.

These funds would give CSWorks the ability to offer basic support services to help their clients with tools and education materials needed to complete apprenticeships, plus cell phones, birth certificates, transcripts, clothing, transportation and basic living needs.

Mobley says: “Basically we are trying to help those who are working to stay out of prison with the things they need that would [otherwise] tempt them to re-offend.” In addition, CSWorks helps its clients with the soft skills necessary to adapt to the culture of the workplace.

“CSWorks can help because our perspective is a little different,” he says. “We have an understanding of what it is like to be processed through DOC. We are not an organization that is just trying to meet a quota or a number.”

For more info, contact Robert Andrews (720/980-4445, randrews@denverworks.org) or Juaquin Mobley (720/339-5830, jmobley@denverworks.org).


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