John Fenner is in jail all over again. But he believes this time will be his previous.

In November, Fenner ended up in the Erie County Keeping Middle following scuffling with police officers who have been trying to arrest him. He was available the option to take part in a pilot software referred to as Task Blue operated by the Erie County Sheriff’s Place of work with Peaceprints of WNY to assist individuals transition from incarceration to the local community – and then remain out of the criminal justice process.

John Fenner

John Fenner, incarcerated at the Erie County Keeping Centre where he awaits sentencing, meets on April 12, 2022, with Christie Cleaver, a transition coordinator with Project Blue, which features intense case administration for inmates.

Job Blue pairs inmates with counselors who function with them on every little thing from mental overall health and substance abuse to sooner or later getting housing and employment once they are launched.

Previous 7 days, the Sheriff’s Business office announced that the application is expanding so that it can include every person remaining held at the Keeping Heart, in a bid to preserve individuals out of jail.

The Sheriff’s Place of work Jail Management Division has been performing to decrease their substantial recidivism amount. A 2018 evaluation by the Council of Point out Governments Justice Heart located that in 2016, 81.6% of folks who were being booked at Erie County’s jail had previous involvement in the jail technique, worse than the countrywide normal of 67%. The 2018 report also located a single in 5 who ended up booked at the county jail were being possible to return to jail four or far more instances within three decades.

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But for Challenge Blue members, the recidivism charge so much is substantially decreased – just 10%.

Fenner signed up and he believes he’s understanding the techniques he requirements to get his lifetime back again on keep track of.

John Fenner

John Fenner prays as he sits in his mobile at the Erie County Keeping Center. He has been participating in Venture Blue, which features intensive scenario management for inmates. 

“I spent my total lifestyle suitable where by I am proper now,” he said in a cellular phone interview from the Holding Centre in downtown Buffalo. “It can be sort of pathetic … Now I want to dwell a straightforward, clean up and sober life.”

Fenner, 46, lately graduated from a Venture Blue workshop identified as Completely ready, Established, Function – a 1 7 days, 20-hour system that prepares incarcerated people today for reentering the workforce. They master how to glimpse for positions, which include ways to uncover employers who are open to employing individuals with prior data, as perfectly as how to fill out programs, how to handle an interview, what to dress in and how to maintain a career.

“They genuinely targeted on not supplying up,” Fenner mentioned of the workshop. “That you can’t hope to get out of jail and the 1st day to land a occupation. That’s not reality … but if you continue to appear for perform and you might be regular and adamant, you will.”

The workshop introduced in speakers, like those people who had used time in the legal justice technique. Fenner mentioned he was primarily encouraged by a person speaker who put in 10 decades in prison before beginning a portray small business. “He acquired out of jail and he owns his have small business,” he reported. “He presents you hope.”

Fenner acknowledged that it has taken him a long time to get to a point where he is ready to just take command of his everyday living.

He grew up in Arcade and graduated from Pioneer Substantial School. He applied to operate as a truck driver and was a qualified milk inspector. He also experienced a two-calendar year degree in welding. He had a supportive family members and a daughter.

He also has an addiction to cocaine.

“I’ve been battling addiction for around 25 a long time,” he claimed.

Fenner spoke frankly about his substance use dysfunction, his psychological well being and his felony history. He explained that his counseling in jail has taught him “demanding honesty.”

“If you want to get your life with each other, you do not brain your identify and your experience staying out there,” he stated.

Fenner mentioned he has been by way of rehab and had periods of sobriety but he would often relapse.

In the fall, Fenner stated he was meant to drive a truck to Ohio to select up a load. “I in no way manufactured it earlier Buffalo,” he said. Fenner stated he parked the truck on Niagara Avenue, termed his boss and informed him he had relapsed. Then he took all of his possessions and ended up dwelling on the avenue – by the educate tracks that cross Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo.

“When you might be out on the avenue, it can be a genuine lonely, dim put,” he explained. “You’re not needed. You happen to be not needed. Nobody wishes to be all over you.” That incorporated his daughter, who he hasn’t noticed in two decades, he mentioned.

His addiction to crack cocaine grew worse. “When the addiction will take about, you do stupid matters … I was on the sidewalk and there had been a couple of cops going for walks by and they recognized me. They stopped and it went from there,” he reported. Fenner experienced unsuccessful to show up on a preceding petit larceny demand. But now he also was in difficulties for allegedly assaulting a law enforcement officer.

“So in this article I am in jail,” he mentioned.

But he explained he was prepared to modify. He signed up with Undertaking Blue and with a 12-move plan to aid him with his habit. He commenced counseling and realized that his dependancy is a symptom of a deeper issue. He was diagnosed with bipolar despair and he commenced using treatment for that. He took component in the Ready, Set, Work workshop and was selected to be the speaker at the graduation ceremony. Now, he’s doing work with his circumstance manager from Peaceprints on getting his truck driving license restored for when he gets out of jail.

“Even though you’re in here you can understand and they supply that hope,” he claimed.

Fenner stated he hopes that, like the painter who spoke to his workshop, he, as well, can be an example for other individuals.

“Me accomplishing this right now?” he reported of the cell phone interview. “This is in opposition to the grain. But you know what? It helps make me proud. Probably I can help a person else.”

Project Blue begun in 2018 by means of a $1 million federal grant. It truly is grown because. In 2020, the system obtained a $258,800 grant from the Mother Cabrini Overall health Foundation to contain individuals who are awaiting demo but aren’t at the rear of bars, normally thanks to improvements in bail rules. “It is really to connect with people you continue to require to aid,” stated Cindi McEachon, executive director of Peaceprints of WNY.

Last 7 days, Sheriff John Garcia introduced that Task Blue will contain all of the inmates at the Holding Center commencing this tumble, a populace of concerning 300 to 350 people today dependent on the working day.

Formerly, the program was targeted on repeat offenders and could acquire on about about 125 to 150 people today at a time.

“Now we’re rising and increasing and functioning with every person,” McEachon said.

It stays voluntary but is open up to anyone who is investing time in the jails, said Thomas Diina, chief of group integration and previous jails superintendent.

The expansion will target on workforce progress.

“Men and women are hurting for staff,” Diina claimed, noting that he has 3 meetings established up with employers intrigued in bringing on folks who go as a result of the Undertaking Blue program.

“The wish is there for folks who enroll in the system and for those who require employees,” he claimed.

A lot of studies clearly show, he claimed, that when incarcerated people are connected with services right before and correct following their time powering bars, and they have work, they are significantly considerably less probably to stop up back again in jail.

“It’s about linking the two,” he said. 

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