Foundations and nonprofits are generating innovative solutions to improve life outcomes and decrease disparities for Black men and boys. The case studies presented here highlight strategies, successes, and lessons learned.
Exodus Foundation.org: Stopping the Flow of African Americans to Prison
Exodus Foundation.org is a faith-based operating foundation in North Carolina with the mission of stopping the flow of African Americans to prison. Its primary service is the Red Sea Crossings Mentoring and Scholarship program, offering one-on-one and group mentoring, connection with local congregations and community organizations, as well as financial scholarships for educational and vocational programs. The hallmarks of the mentoring program are its desire to serve people of all faiths or no faith at all, written policies for strong systems of accountability and reporting for both mentors and mentees, and its insistence on cultural competency among all mentors.
In addition, the organization aims to change the policies and structures that have led to the inordinate number of African Americans, other minorities, and the poor in the U.S. criminal justice system.
Strengths and Successes
- 90% of adults served in the Red Sea Crossings program from 2008 to 2014 have remained out of jail or prison.
- Exodus Foundation is replicating its program in Washington, DC, where it has begun training staff.
- In May 2014, the organization hosted its inaugural and free Restoration, Redemption, and Reentry Conference geared specifically for people with records and their loved ones. The conference had 250 attendees and was followed by a town hall meeting announcing a new campaign, To Be Free At Last: Campaign for Commutations and Pardons. Exodus Foundation and its national partners will be requesting pardons for all nonviolent federally convicted persons.
- The Foundation received an invitation to join the Chief Justice of the Louisiana State Supreme Court and other judges to tour Angola, the institution known as the worst prison in the U.S. Its warden, Burl Cain, has received accolades for transforming its re-entry programs. Exodus Foundation.org will be adding this experience to its body of knowledge as it prepares to bring leading experts to its table to re-write the foundation for procedural justice in the U.S.
- Exodus Foundation was one of 11 organizations selected to participate in a faith-based convening called Saving Our Sons, hosted by the Open Society Foundations and facilitated by Frontline Solutions. The meeting covered the challenges and opportunities for churches and faith-based institutions to engage in the field of Black male achievement.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
- Exodus Foundation is in need of more mentors and recognizes that there is fear among the general public of working with this population. This fear can be overcome as more workers on the ground are able to educate and raise awareness around the issues.
- Funding to serve this population is a constant challenge. Local and state funders have indicated that this is not a focus of their work, although the Foundation contends that mass incarceration is indelibly connected to issues concerning African-American families and poverty.
- The funding challenges are acute for grassroots organizations. Even with a 10-year strategic plan for growth which includes plans to raise $19 million to replicate across the country, and even after a track record of success has been demonstrated, some funders may not want to support an organization with a very small budget. The quantifiable and scalable work of small organizations and their evidence-based best practices are too often overlooked.
- After four years of pre-program planning and ten years of carefully implementing its plans and its mission, Exodus Foundation’s experience confirms the accepted wisdom in business schools: Strong systems of accountability maintained by the right personnel are equally as important as fiscal resources.