By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty (BCHP) announced it is expanding its work to address issues with the criminal justice system as it intersects with hunger and poverty.
BCHP said it has partnered with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) and the One Heart Project (OHP) and will support these organizations in their programs designed to reduce recidivism, which is the tendency of a formerly incarcerated person to re-offend.
Dr. Sara Dye, the project manager of the new criminal justice initiatives, said BCHP has primarily focused on issues of food insecurity in the past. Dye said in recent years, BCHP has been looking at how hunger intersects with other issues, one of which was incarceration and the criminal justice system.
“There was a 2019 study that showed that formerly incarcerated persons were twice as likely as the general population to be food insecure,” Dye said. “So, because criminal justice intersects with issues of hunger and poverty, and that’s what we do here at the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, we are expanding our work into these new projects.”
Marcus Franklin, a project specialist on the initiatives, said BCHP will support PEP and OHP by assessing their programs and curriculum and will help them increase the scale of their programs.
Dye said OHP is primarily focused on helping juveniles, while PEP primarily helps adults. She said both organizations attempt to empower incarcerated individuals to re-enter society and find stable employment by teaching them skills to find jobs.
Franklin said difficulties in finding employment are the bedrock of many issues formerly incarcerated persons face after re-entering society.
“To get stable housing, you need money; to have money, you need employment,” Franklin said. “There are a lot of restrictions placed on people to find jobs. There’s restrictions on those that are incarcerated, and they’re not able to access certain licensures. That’s a roadblock that a lot of people go through.”
Elijah Tanner, project specialist on the initiatives, added that many formerly incarcerated people face “collateral consequences,” which are consequences not specific to the crime that being in prison forces on formerly incarcerated people.
“Those have to do with access to food stamps, which is restricted in more than half of the states, access to housing, which government-provided housing makes housing a lot more cheaper and affordable, especially if you’re looking for a job right out of prison and then as well, just numerous restrictions on getting licenses and getting jobs in different fields,” Tanner said.
Tanner said around one in 14 children in America are affected by the incarceration of a parent. He said food insecurity in families with children increases by about four percentage points if they have experienced parental incarceration.
Franklin said there is a community aspect to the goals of PEP and OHP in these initiatives, as both organizations rely heavily on volunteers. Dye said the best way for students to get involved is to contact her, Tanner or Franklin by email.
Tanner said the goal of the projects is to transform the lives of formerly incarcerated people.
“For BCHP, the goal is hunger and poverty; incarceration intersects with hunger and poverty, and our goal is to alleviate its effects to reduce it,” Tanner said. “[PEP and OHP]’s goal is transformed lives and reduced recidivism. They want our prison systems to be emptied. Every nonprofit’s goal is to work themselves out of a job. They want people coming out of prison to find employment, to find housing and to find lives where they can flourish.”