[TheThinkTank] Youth Programs - Fees & Contracts

Scott TenBrink scott at fitnesscouncil.org
Wed Mar 25 08:01:08 PDT 2009

Michigan recently started the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (MPRI).
It is basically a cost-savings program for DOC because they realize they can
save a ton of cash if they can reduce recidivism.  To do so, they are
offering parolees a variety of support services, like housing,
identification, job-training, and transportation.

The Jackson County MPRI coordinator came to us with the idea that bikes
provided a more sustainable form of transportation than the bus tickets that
they were currently giving out.  We set up a contracted service that
-Setting up a basic bike repair class that prison staff offers before
-Providing a bike, helmet, and accessories to each participant
-A 2-hour class on safe and effective cycling (based on LAB Smart Cycling)

For us, including education is essential to the program.  We believe that
the bike won't last unless the rider understands how to use it in traffic
and in all weather.

The process:
When a parolee is released, the parole agent discusses the bike program with
the parolee as an option.  Many have a car, don't want a bike, or don't want
to attend the class.  This sorting point is critical so that I don't get
people who don't want to be there.
The parole agent refers them to me.  I don't take walk-ins; they must have
been referred by their agent.
We do the class, including a short ride (1.5 miles) through town to
demonstrate the skills and knowledge covered in the class.  2 hours is
really not sufficient, especially with bike selection and fitting.  However,
this is about as long as a lot of the guys can stand to focus.
Each month I bill MPRI for the equipment (including an estimated charge for
recycled bikes) and my time in organizing and teaching the class.  I can
provide some of our spreadsheets, if that is of interest to others.

We distributed about 100 bikes with education last year through this program

The secret benefit:
Parolees need public service hours to pay for tether fees.  They are also
often dying to get out of the house.  As a result, they make great
volunteers.  I have a group of five parolees that produces most of the bikes
we use in the program now.

The first time I did one of these classes I was afraid I was going to be
shot.  Obviously, I didn't have much experience with what MPRI calls
"returning citizens."  This has come to be my favorite program and it is
clearly impacting participants' lives beyond mere transportation.  The
themes of independence and self-reliance really resonate with them.  

There are lots of other details to consider, and I'm sure that our DOC
program won't match up with those in your state.  Bringing sex offenders
into your shop is a big deal, and probably 75% of participants here are CSC
cases.  You better be clear with everyone about when they will be there.

I have also found that the model can translate to all sorts of areas.  With
a little investigation you'll find thousands of people in your community who
are receiving some sort of transportation assistance.  The agencies
providing that assistance are probably looking for a better model.  Bikes
don't work for everyone, but they will help enough people to keep your shop

I'd be happy to provide more details to anyone interested.  I've never been
to a BikeBike, but maybe this topic would make a good presentation?

Scott TenBrink
Executive Director 
Fitness Council of Jackson 
225 North Jackson St.
Jackson, MI 49201
(517) 990-9798
scott at fitnesscouncil.org

-----Original Message-----
From: thethinktank-bounces at bikecollectives.org
[mailto:thethinktank-bounces at bikecollectives.org] On Behalf Of Macho
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 9:44 AM
To: The Think Tank
Subject: Re: [TheThinkTank] Youth Programs - Fees & Contracts

> We have a contract with MDOC to provide bikes and training as a
> transportation solution for recently released parolees.  That one required
> thick contract with clear budget and description of services.

can you talk more about how this works?  are people required by their 
parole officers to attend training sessions once they've signed up for 
them?  if they bail do you rat them out?  have there been other 
difficulties?  did they initially approach you, or you them?  i've been 
interested in something like this for our shop, but i'm also torn about it.

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