Rehabilitation Enables Dreams (RED) is a 501(c)3 non-profit and restorative justice organization. We are dedicated to keeping people out of the criminal justice system — permanently — through programs that enhance the social, civic and financial literacy of nonviolent youths referred to court. We do this by providing first-time non-violent offenders with a data-backed 12-month curriculum and mentorship program.
RED creates a classroom atmosphere inside the courtroom and treats program participants as students rather than criminals. RED’s curriculum is structured to develop a student’s social, civic and financial literacy through task-oriented learning, engaging workshops, and interactive educational modules. Students are matched with appropriate mentors based on our individual-needs intake assessment. Mentors support students in their personal development and guide them through the completion of program requirements. Upon graduation, student’s records are expunged (restricted) and they are referred to higher education institutions and/or employment opportunities. A summary of our curriculum can be found below.
The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population yet holds 25% of the world’s prisoners. In Georgia, our incarceration rate is 31% higher than the national average with 53,000 people behind bars. 40% of Georgians have a criminal record. We also lead the nation with over 200,000 people on probation which is 321% higher than the national average. In Georgia, approximately 2 out of 3 people released from prison are rearrested within three years.
Mass incarceration has become an epidemic in the United States, despite the fact that violent and property crime rates are generally decreasing. The goal of our justice system has always been to produce a positive change in behavior. This is not happening with the standard criminal justice procedures we have in place today. Instead, current procedures serve only to perpetuate and escalate the problem. Now, more than ever, our communities have a pressing need for a solution that will create long-lasting change.
Standard prosecution for non-violent offenses often leads to a conviction, incarceration and/or probation. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government conducted a study and found that typical adjudication in the state of Georgia costs taxpayers roughly $20,000 per offender! Not only is this an expensive option, but data suggests that roughly 50% of individuals who go through this process will reoffend again within three years! The money you pay in taxes could be earmarked for improving your child’s education, getting you access to better healthcare, fixing roads, and increasing safety in your neighborhood. But instead, your tax dollars are funneled into a system that isn’t working. The standard system perpetuates this strain on the economy.
Another issue with standard prosecution is that it perpetuates crimes. Once a person is convicted, obtaining gainful employment becomes difficult if not impossible. The conviction blocks access to federal student aid which prevents people from pursuing higher education. If that isn’t enough, a conviction also restricts people from acquiring housing resources, leaving them facing possible homelessness. This type of punishment alienates people from society. The psychological effects of alienation lead to desperation and hopelessness which is the underlying basis for criminal behavior. Standard criminal justice procedures are actually creating a breeding ground for recidivism.
We began our programming in 2015, following a partnership with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office. Over the past four years, roughly 100 participants have graduated from our program with less than 10 re-offending. Our 90% success rate is in stark contrast to the 44% rate achieved by the typical adjudication process. Not only that, our program cost is less than 1/4 of the cost of typical adjudication, none of which is paid for by our participants. By providing an educational and restorative approach to criminal justice, we are creating socially positive outcomes while also saving tax-payer dollars.
Our curriculum focuses on rehabilitation through education, mentoring, and meaningful community experiences. This cultivates a sense of belonging and personal accountability to society. By intervening immediately after a person’s first arrest we can redirect the lives of young men and women to keep them out of the criminal justice system – permanently. Our program not only frees up taxpayer money to reinvest in our communities, but it boosts the economy by cultivating more taxpaying, law-abiding citizens. No more self-perpetuating drain on our resources. The benefits are more than just short term. Over time, the benefits to our community include a measurable economic boost, reduced unemployment rates, and increased safety in our neighborhoods.
Given our success over the past 4 years, we are now working to digitize our curriculum in order to expand our reach. We have seen firsthand the impact our programming can have in the lives of young adults. By making it readily available online, we hope to place RED’s Courtroom College in communities and municipalities across Georgia, and the nation. By utilizing our software, program participants are able to complete exercises, interact with their mentors, and ask for help through our virtual chat function.
Likewise, mentors will be able to monitor the progress of their mentees through the dashboard available within the platform. This will provide mentors with real-time results, making it easier to ensure participants are staying up-to-date with their assignments.
We are currently piloting our software with two groups locally here in Atlanta. As they progress, we are monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness through data collected internally, as well as through feedback sessions with our mentors and program participants. Upon successful completion of the pilot program, we will begin dispersing the software to neighboring jurisdictions.
Jurisdictions wishing to administer RED’s Courtroom College will undergo extensive mentor training with our Director of Mentorship Programs. We will also conduct quarterly reviews of participating jurisdictions in order to ensure the curriculum and programming are as effective as possible.
Since its inception in 2015, RED has been changing the lives of DeKalb’s young people. We have seen considerable growth in only 4 short years, and expect the growth curve to continue to climb moving forward. We are currently able to provide a year of programming to a cohort of ~ 25 participants for only $125,000. This includes all educational materials, administrative fees, and record restriction. We are able to do this through strong leadership, utilizing committed volunteer efforts, and most importantly, partnering with socially responsible organizations.
We currently partner with the Arthur Blank Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons as part of their social justice initiative. We also receive funds from Google on a monthly basis to use towards marketing and campaign development. These funds have allowed us to expand our network substantially, as well as create awareness for recidivism and restorative justice efforts. This also allows us to focus the remainder of our fundraising efforts on programming and outcomes for our participants. We are fortunate to also have several private funders who have continually supported us since the launch of RED in 2015.