Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP)

Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP)

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s Resolve to Stop The Violence Project (RSVP) embodies the principles and ideals of a true Restorative Justice Model. Serving offenders, their victims and the community, this innovative program brings healing to all parties involved in episodes of violence. The primary target populations of RSVP are: 1) violent men currently incarcerated in and recently released from the San Francisco County Jail; and 2) the victims of these men; and 3) members of communiteis effected by violence.

The Offender Restoration component focuses on male-role reeducation, victim impact testimony, and personal accountability. Each year 250 to 300 violent offenders participate in an intensive jail curriculum designed to support men in changing their beliefs about the male-role behavior that causes violence and develops empathy for victims. Inmates participate in group learning up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Survivor Restoration provides direct services to the survivors of the violent offenders participating in the offender restoration program and other victims of violence. The program utilizes a survivor empowerment curriculum to help clients restore themselves, their families, and their communities as they make the transition from being victims of violent crimes to becoming survivors and advocates.

Community Restoration activites are designed to repair the harm caused by violence and support offenders in giving back to the community. Offenders continue participation in violence prevention groups, education, job placement programs, and may become mentors to at risk youth. They work with surviviors and community organizations to perform violence prevention education which include theater productions and video link in schools and community centers. RSVP’s message presents itself to the greater community through public information campaigns, billboards and at the annual Strike Out Violence Day, a collaboration with the SF Giants.

About You
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Your idea
Focus of activity

Community Involvement

Year the initiative began

1997

Position your initiative on the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Culture Of Acceptance

Which of the insights is the primary focus of your work?

Create Paths to Prevention or Remediation

If you believe some other barrier or insight should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic
Innovation
Description of Initiative

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s Resolve to Stop The Violence Project (RSVP) embodies the principles and ideals of a true Restorative Justice Model. Serving offenders, their victims and the community, this innovative program brings healing to all parties involved in episodes of violence. The primary target populations of RSVP are: 1) violent men currently incarcerated in and recently released from the San Francisco County Jail; and 2) the victims of these men; and 3) members of communiteis effected by violence.

The Offender Restoration component focuses on male-role reeducation, victim impact testimony, and personal accountability. Each year 250 to 300 violent offenders participate in an intensive jail curriculum designed to support men in changing their beliefs about the male-role behavior that causes violence and develops empathy for victims. Inmates participate in group learning up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Survivor Restoration provides direct services to the survivors of the violent offenders participating in the offender restoration program and other victims of violence. The program utilizes a survivor empowerment curriculum to help clients restore themselves, their families, and their communities as they make the transition from being victims of violent crimes to becoming survivors and advocates.

Community Restoration activites are designed to repair the harm caused by violence and support offenders in giving back to the community. Offenders continue participation in violence prevention groups, education, job placement programs, and may become mentors to at risk youth. They work with surviviors and community organizations to perform violence prevention education which include theater productions and video link in schools and community centers. RSVP’s message presents itself to the greater community through public information campaigns, billboards and at the annual Strike Out Violence Day, a collaboration with the SF Giants.

Innovation

RSVP is a multi-component model which employs innovative methods of interagency local governmental collaboration and elicits active participation from all stakeholders to reduce violence, the fear it spawns, and the resulting destablization of the economic and social well-being of the entire community. As a restorative justice model, RSVP is a dramatic departure from previous practice, which for 150 years led criminal justice organizations into a cycle of arresting offenders, locking them up, rleasing them and locking them up again in an effort to respond to violence and other crimes. RSVP incorporates victim impact, offender accountability and community involvement to reach program goals of reducing recidivism, responsibly returning ex-offenders to their communities, creating opportunities for restoration, and preventing further violence.

The application of restorative justice in a custody-based setting represents groundbreaking innovation. At the core of RSVP is a case management system and male role belief reeducation curriculum designed to support violent offenders through all stages of the program. RSVP has taken a bold step in not only offering these services, but actually requiring that violent offenders participate while in custody.

RSVP staff provide parallel services such as case management, an empowerment curriculum, and refferals to the victims of these offenders. Historically, these individuals have rarely been given an opportunity to participate in the development of programs that involve the return of their perpetrators to the community, resulting in victims who feel alienated from the process of holding offenders accountable for their crimes.

Delivery Model

RSVP utilizes an intervention process which addresses the root causes of violence and from the philosophy that violence is learned and can be unlearned. Approximately 80% of the people in the San Francisco County Jail have some type of violence on their records. Rather than warehousing them, thereby reinforcing criminal behavior, RSVP supports them to become accountable for their violence and to develop pro-social skills which will enable them to give back to the community from which they previously took.

RSVP's Survivor Restoration Component provides a wide range counseling and related services to victims of violence and offers a Survivor Empowerment curriculum. Survivors of violence who give weekly Victim Impact presentations benefit from having an opportunity to begin their own healing process. Family members and children of violent offenders benefit as the cycle of generational violence is broken. Outreach done at high schools and Juvenile Hall benefits other young people through prevention, education and early intervention. Lowered recidivism rates save the city thousands of dollars each year in costs associated with prosecuting and incarcerating individuals. RSVP reduces the financial burden violence places on the community, including direct costs in medical care and mental health services to victims, time lost from work and indirect costs incurred when one’s life is disrupted by violence.

Key Operational Partnerships

Planning for RSVP began in October 1996, when the Sheriff’s Department’s Program Administrator called together forty members from diverse and opposing backgrounds and viewpoints, and for eighteen months, deputy sheriffs, former gang members, housewives, victim rights advocates, rabbis, ministers, Republicans, Democrats, pro-death penalty enthusiasts and their opponents, feminists, and formerly abusive men all worked together on the planning stages. The differences dissolved as the group focused on its collective mission and used the principles of restorative justice to guide their planning and vision. These individuals met monthly to develop the outlines of the project and to build community support.

Sheriff’s Department staff, victims rights advocates, manalive consultants, community-based agencies, and service providers met weekly to design the project’s curriculum, training, and implementation. In addition, several subcommittees met to develop the survivor restoration and community restoration components of the program, including curricula and systematic ways that a violent offender can restore the harm he has caused in the community.

Ongoing partnerships include representatives of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the courts, the Adult Probation Department, and the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as domestic violence shelters and other victim advocate groups. These partnerships are central for the continued growth of the program.

Impact
Financial Model

RSVP’s services are offered free of charge to the public. The only exception is that offenders who are court-ordered to attend community based batterer intervention groups are required to pay fees on a sliding scale. In the spirit of restorative justice, these fees, which represent less than 1% of operating costs, go into a fund which provides for RSVP’s Survivor Restoration Program (such as staff training) and its survivor clients (for example, transportation, moving costs, child care and continuing education).

The vast majority of RSVP’s clients (both victims and offenders) are low income and/or marginalized. Every effort is made to make the program fully accessible to them and to provide resources which will improve the quality of their lives. These resources may include but are not limited to: bus tokens, meals at special events, free tickets to community-based cultural activities, clothing, household goods and other items.

RSVP’s victims and offenders are both encouraged to develop job skills which wll improve their socio-economic well being. They are provided access at no-charge to a Job Developer and enrollment in the Five Keys Charter School.

What percentage, if any, of the total operating costs does earned income (from products, services, or other fees) represent?

1%

How is the initiative financed? Is it financially self-sustainable or profitable? How much do beneficiaries contribute?

RSVP is financed through a combination of annual City and County funding, fluctuating federal and private grants and resources generated through fundraisers and community outreach efforts. The profit is measured in terms of human lives and the improved health and well being of the community.

While RSVP's yearly budget fluctuates, the following represents an annual breakdown of funding sources and approximate percantage contributions for a typical year:

The City and County of San Francisco contributes General Fund support for RSVP’s core funding of approximately $1,222,000 (50%) which includes key staff civilian and sworn staff, office space, and other costs associated with operating the program; $150,000 (6%) is provided by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice for additional staff; approximately $500,000 (20%) from the Inmate Welfare Fund provides funds for additional facilitators, Victim Impact services and Community Restoration services; a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education has provided approximately $434,350 (18%) per year since 2000 for the Life Skills component of the program, including job readiness and retention activities; a grant from Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) has provided $85,000 (3%) per year for the past 3 years; Strike Out Violence Day is supported by the San Francisco Giants, Blue Shield and Giants Community Fund for a total of approximately $50,000 (2%); and other grants, donations and contributions provide approximately 1% of the budget, with the exact amount varying each year.

Effectiveness

The single most important achievement of RSVP to date has been the impact it has had on the adjudication, incarceration and reentry of violent offenders. This has been achieved by advocating for the principles and practices of restorative justice to be applied at all stages and for the voices of victims to be heard in the process. In nine Bay Area counties, RSVP senior staff has provided trainings to adult and juvenile probation officers, district attorneys, judges and other who work in local government to make them aware of the power of restorative justice and how effective it can be in their agencies and their communities.

In doing so RSVP has been successful in promoting a greater understanding of the nature and dynamics of violence, including the spectrum of abusive behavior, the importance of gender role training, the significance of learned behavior, the methods of unlearning violence, and the criminal implications and consequences of violence.

Reduction in Recidivism: Quantitative data analysis for RSVP includes an ongoing retrospective study of violent recidivism rates for the first year and the second and third years following release. 101 inmates who had participated in RSVP for at least eight weeks had a rate of arrests for violent crimes that was 46.3% lower than those 101 members in regular jail. For those in RSVP for twelve weeks or more, the violent re-arrest rate was 53.1% lower; and those in for at least sixteen weeks had a violent re-arrest rate 82.6% lower. In each of the three pairs of group comparisons, the members of the experimental group who were rearrested spent significantly less time in custody, and significantly more days in the community before their first re-arrest, than did those in the control group.

How many people have benefited from your program over the last year? Which element of the program proved itself most effective?

The RSVP dorm houses 62 men per day, a fraction of the number of those committing violent crimes in the city. Men who have remained in the program for four months or more demonstrate a 79.7% reduction in rearrests for violent charges. This is the most scientifically proven element of the program. It is impossible to calculate the vast number of community members who have benefited from this Offender Restoration component by having men return to their communities who are less likely to commit an act of violence. An average of 300 men per year for the past ten years has passed through the Offender component of the program. Each of these has one or more victims who are offered support through the Survivor component of RSVP. The majority of these victims have children and other family members who have also benefited from the reduction of violence in their homes and their communities.

Scaling up Strategy

RSVP works best when offenders are supported through the reentry process and the transition to living violence free lives. The priority in the next three years is to address the basic fact that nearly all those going into jail will be coming out again and to identify needed resources for ongoing post-release education, outreach, and prevention services. Currently many violent offenders are released without these essential services.

Individuals reentering the community following incarceration are faced with a multitude of personal and practical challenges ranging from overcoming long histories of violence and substance abuse to finding affordable housing and maintaining a job. RSVP’s Internship Program was established as a strategy for addressing this through subsidized job training and linkages to jobs for both victims and offenders. Each participant comes to the Internship Program with different strengths and weakness, both practical and personal. Overcoming this myriad of needs and barriers through continued counseling, job training and linkages to employment will help to resolve the complex issues that have arisen in their lives over many years of violence and crime. Creating Internship opportunities also has the potential to result in a cadre of new staff who are trained in the program protocols and can help relieve existing staff in their efforts to support replication of the program elsewhere

There is a clear need to provide interns with structure, support and recognition as they move through the different stages of the program help them navigate through the complex network of services that they may need, such as child support, money management, and legal concerns, while also providing a forum for program staff to track the intern’s progress, measure his skills sets, and offer ongoing feedback. Interns also need mentors within the specific work areas to which they are assigned for ongoing supervision and reinforcement.

Stage of the Initiative

2

Origin of the Initiative

Crime, victimization, and the rights of victims are compelling public concerns. Twenty-three million crimes, including 5.3 million violent offenses, were committed in 2002 (Bureau of Justice Statistics). The human and material costs are unacceptable. Families grieve for the murdered and maimed. Victims are overwhelmed by injury, pain, and fear. Offenders’ families suffer in shame. Young men, resigned to spending their lives in and out of prison, hurt each other, themselves, their spouses, families, friends, and neighbors.

After years of implementing programs and, still, watching the same people return to jail three or four times a year for violent offences, it became clear that as a law enforcement agency the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) had an obligation to take intelligent chances in addressing the problem of violence.

Sustainability
How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate?

We heard about this contest through word of mouth. Our main incentive for participating is to share this project with a world wide audience and to network with other organizations within the field.

Main Obstacles to Scaling Up

It is critical, when scaling up this program, that no aspect of the program be underestimated in its importance. Equal attention must be given to services for survivors and community members as to services for violent men.

1. Practical obstacles - While many community-based agencies exist which could provide great support to ex-offenders and survivors, referrals are made inconsistently and the demand is far greater than the available services. Parole and probation officers are overburdened with cases and may lack the training and skills to guide their clients through the maze involved in reestablishing an acceptable lifestyle. The reentry plan is often reduced to a monitoring process in which return to custody may be perceived as the fastest, easiest solution to removing a file from one's desk.

2. Philosophical obstacles - Until national and local policies and practices foster this approach, we face obstacles in the long-term effort to stop violence in our homes and in our communities. The positive paradoxical reality of this effort will be accomplished through government's collaboration with formally violent offenders.

Main Financial Challenges

While open to all types of investors, when local and federal governments invest in RSVP, they will realize long term cost savings in areas such as public health and public safety. RSVP receives many requests from other jurisdictions for support in replicating the program. Thousands of staff hours are devoted to meeting these requests, but these efforts compete for the time of our limited staff who are needed to run the day to day operations of our program. The main financial challenges are:
1. Recruiting and training staff for each component is time consuming and takes existing staff away from essential duties. For example, training for the manalive curriculum used in the Offender Component requires a minimum of 24 three-hour sessions and follow up one-to-one work with the trainer.
2. The program is in need of a new data base, training for staff in data collection and analysis and salaries for staff to maintain these functions. An evaluation of RSVP has been in progress since the beginning of the program by Dr. James Gillingan of and Dr. Bandy Lee but additional resources are needed to support his effort.

Main Partnership Challenges

The most significant partner obstacle has been fear on the part of custody staff, as typified by the following comments: "we can't put all violent offenders in one dormitory -- they'll all end up killing each other and rioting!"; "no deputies would want to work in a dorm like that"; "we've never done it this way"; "the victim rights groups will be mad at us"; and, "we can't hire ex-offenders: they breach and compromise the safety and security of the jail and the community." In a battle against cynicism and long-held but limiting assumptions, the greatest obstacles were emotional and psychological. In this climate of doubt, the steady and consistent leadership that demonstrated the Sheriff's unequivocal approval of and support for a seemingly risky venture was a key factor in keeping the reform on course. Despite these challenges, the implementation process itself brought many positive results even prior to the program's start. Alliances were formed between groups representing traditionally divergent viewpoints, and individuals who had considered each other political enemies began to work together. Staff training was key to integrating civilian and custody philosophies.