I went to the session on Transitional Jobs for people coming out of prison. After 10 years coordinating the Employment Skills program for qualified inmates of Racine County Jail, well, you can see why I’d choose this.
Three people more or less led Transitional Jobs group. Rev. Willie Brisco is this year’s president of WISDOM. Rev. Joseph Ellwanger was one of the coordinators. Conner (sp?) Williams is a policy person in the city of Milwaukee, who works/ed with and knows a great deal about the history of and current situation of the Transitional Jobs program in Wisconsin.
I was involved a little with that exact program when it was first funded to the state of Wisconsin through the federal Department of Corrections. I didn’t do much, another person in my organization eventually took it over, since it was designated for people coming out of state prison and I worked with people who were currently in the county jail.
It was successful, but the money was offered through a one-time grant during the recovery programs of President Obama. When the money ran out, most of the program was turned off - even though it SAVED money for tax payers – people with jobs re-offend at much lower rates than unemployed people. And people with steady jobs can pay their bills and child support, if they have that obligation. Win-win.
However: The program has continued only in Milwaukee, through the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. It is funded at five million dollars annually. Last year 500 recently released men and women found jobs through this program. What WISDOM is lobbying state legislators to consider is to in their general fund for part of the $15 million dollar ask. Or ask the Department of Corrections to pay for part of this out of their budget. In 2013-2015 the annual budget of the Department of Corrections was north of 2 billion.
The most inspiring speaker in that break-out session was Terril Brown. He found employment through Transitional Jobs. I will be talking with him more in the upcoming week, and will let you know more of his story.
So then we had lunch.
I saw Rev. Joe Ellwanger across a room. I have never met him face-to-face, but a couple years ago Len and I were watching an odd duck PBS show (yeah, of course we were) and the man being interviewed was Rev. Ellwanger. When he started talking about working with civil rights issues, in Alabama, in the 60’s, as pastor of a Lutheran church – right then I called up Kathleen and Larry Morkert. We’ve been friends since we went to seminary together. I asked if they knew this guy – and of course they did!
So Thursday I walked up to him at the end of the lunch hour. I asked if he knew Kathleen Morkert and his face lit up – and I got a giant hug which I am supposed to pass on to you, Kathleen!
This is the TV interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVbxCVPJ7UU
Forty people from Waukesha, Brookfield, New Berlin and other places around here met in the afternoon with our State Assemblymen Scott Allen and I don’t know the other name, and our State Senator Chris Kapenga. These sessions where citizens from their districts could speak with these reps, had been set up several days in advance.
Except, all THREE of our Republican Representatives skipped the 40 of us in order to go to something else.
Their aides were there, each one sharp, respectful, and very young. They listened and took notes.
So did I.
I respect Gamaliel endeavors. We can long for peace, love, hope, and change. But real change happens first when we know what we want. Then we can be part of the process as laws are examined, strengthened, or removed at a time. We can’t just plead, “Be Just!” We are become effective when we know the issues, bill numbers, and budget items that ought to be addressed.
And this work is too much for each of us to do alone.
It was a strong day.