Ceremony to honor first graduates of Community Wise, a 12-week, community-focused intervention to empower former convicts from Essex County to help build safer and healthier surroundings. The project draws on individual and community-level strengths including such community-based organizations as the Newark Community Collaborative Board (NCCB) to address oppression, a root cause of problems that concern Community Wise.
Twenty-five formerly incarcerated adults (men and women), 21 years and older, from Essex County with a history of legal or illegal addictive substance use (tobacco, alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, among others); Liliane Windsor, assistant professor, Rutgers School of Social Work; members of NCCB.
6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday May 10
Paul Robeson Campus Center, Bergen Room No. 255-257, 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Newark
The project utilized weekly, two-hour group intervention sessions at social service agencies and employed a “critical consciousness” model to get subjects to think about their problems – crime, substance abuse, psychological distress – from a community prevention perspective. “Oppression is a major root cause of substance abuse, health-risk behavior and psychological distress,” says Professor Windsor.
The program’s first phase centered on subjects speaking and thinking critically about individual behaviors, policies and organizations that keep them from reaching their potential. (Example: widely held stereotypes about low-income African-American males become self-fulfilling prophesies.) Phase two required volunteers to solve a community problem. (Example: two subjects are working with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice to effect “Ban the Box” legislation that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their criminal records until after they extend a job offer.) The project was funded by Rutgers’ Center for Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Research which is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
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