Numerous researchers have tried to find out why so many prisoners do their time, get released and are back behind bars within a few months. But the research team Cord Smith organized in 1994 was different – all four members of it were inmates themselves.
“We were just talking about it in the cafeteria, the recidivism rate, why so many guy kept coming back to prison. We decided to just ask them, the returning prisoners, themselves,” said Smith. So he and three fellow inmates at the Osborn Correctional Facility in Somers, Charles Jones, Domingo Gonzalez and Clifton Grimes, began compiling information in order to create a program that could reduce Osborn’s recidivism rate.
“We found that motor vehicle violations were the main reason that guys got sent back to prison,” said Smith, who has been out of prison for several years now. “These were mainly minor infractions, stuff that would mean just a ticket for you or I, but for someone on parole, such infractions mean you go right back to prison,” he said.
So the first part of their new program, which became known as the Lost Found School of Thought (LFSOT) was teaching prisoners to work on getting their license – and all that entails, including paying off back taxes, etc. – before they were released.
Another problem was lack of employment, so Smith and his team began contacting companies and compiled a list of businesses that were willing to hire released prisoners. Prisoners also learned how to fill out job applications and other work-readiness skills.
“Time is the one thing you have plenty of in prison, you may as well spend it on making sure you’re prepared when you’re released,” said Smith.
In 1998, the program was started at Osborn by the four inmates, along with the help of the late Dr. Allesi of the UCONN School of Social Work, and Richard Furey, who was then working at Osborn and is now Health Services Administrator at McDougall Correctional Facility in Suffield.
According to Furey, “I will say this, in talking to inmates over the years, they said the program the inmates started was the only thing that really helped them readjust to the world after getting released.”
After his own release, Smith decided that other people, such as those who had become homeless or were suffering from drug addiction could benefit from his program in addition to those who had been incarcerated. So he set up the Lost Found School of Thought, Inc. which offers career counseling, homemaking and basic skills training and entreprenurial instruction to persons having difficulty throughout the Hartford region.
The Lost Found School of Thought is having a Rite of Passage Banquet Fundraiser from 4-8 pm on Friday, May 15, at the Pope Park Recreation Center in Hartford.
For tickets or more information on the program, call Smith at 778-4757 or Maria Torres at 816-5177.