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Meet Jonathan Yackley | Deputy Executive Director of Rise Up Industries

We’re so pumped about our conversation with Jonathan Yackley. Jonathan is a Deputy Executive Director of Rise Up Industries and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Jonathan below.

Jonathan, it’s been too long since we last connected. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with our community again. Some readers might have missed our prior conversations, so maybe you can kick things off for us with a quick intro?
Thanks so much for having me. I’m the Deputy Executive Director at Rise Up Industries, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working with formerly incarcerated, previously gang involved individuals. RUI provides the only reentry program in San Diego County specifically focused on this subset of the formerly incarcerated (those who grew up in street gangs). The mission of RUI is to minimize gang involvement by providing integrated gang prevention, intervention, and post-detention reentry programs. We began this three-pronged approach with the Reentry Program. Our 18-month Reentry Program is in its sixth year of operation and provides a comprehensive set of services including employment, job-training, case management, tattoo removal, counseling, mentoring, education assistance, financial literacy, life skills training, and work ethic development. RUI pays full-time wages to Reentry Program members as they work their way through the program.

A lot of people are talking about mass incarceration these days. The US has the world’s highest incarceration rate and the highest number of people incarcerated. In fact, more than 1 out of every 5 incarcerated individuals in the world is incarcerated in the US. What are some of the factors that contribute to this?
One of the factors that leads to such an unusually high incarceration rate in the US is that 68% of the formerly incarcerated are re-arrested within three years of release. Recidivism rates increase to 79% after six years. When 2 out of every 3 incarcerated individuals is projected to be re-arrested within just 3 years, it is difficult to decrease our incarceration rate. We need successful reentry programs if we are ever going to address mass incarceration. Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, famously observed, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” The formerly incarcerated have a lower employment rate than the US did at the height of the Great Depression in spite of being more active in the job market than those who have not been incarcerated. They need jobs at a living wage. Better yet, they need careers.

How can we address this issue?
Look to working models for successful reentry programs. Homeboy Industries has had a lot of success with reentry in Los Angeles, so we adopted their best practices and applied them here in San Diego. To date, every one of our graduates got immediate employment and none have gone back to incarceration. There are a number of reasons for this, but I want to highlight four big ones: 1) We provide very practical career development and on-the-job training. 2) We pay full-time income to members in our Reentry Program from day 1. 3) We provide comprehensive services that have a healing component through counseling, therapy, case management, etc. 4) We are long-term, providing over 3,000 hours of service to each of our members over an 18 month period. There is a cost to this high-touch, high quality approach. At present we can only serve 12 people at a time, though we are working at expanding to a new facility that would allow for 24 at a time. But the cost of quality programming is far less than the cost of incarceration, which is estimated at $81,000/inmate/year in California.

What can our everyday listeners/readers do?
Read a book like “Writing After Life,” edited by Leslie A. Willis. Start by understanding some of the stories of those growing up in street gangs. From there, you can get connected with a nonprofit that is addressing issues related to incarceration and gang involvement. If you own a business and have questions about hiring the formerly incarcerated, come take a tour of our program and see how our Machine Shop Social Enterprise runs. Whatever you do, just remember that you, as a taxpayer, are already heavily invested in this issue.

Alright, so before we go, how can our readers connect with you to learn more and show support?
You can follow us on Facebook & Instagram, or share your email if you’d like to get occasional updates (we won’t hound you!). You can support our work by donating one-time or joining our monthly  giving team on our website. You can also buy some of our coffee or call us for your screen printing needs!

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