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Anti-Recidivism Coalition Changes Young Lives

Recidivism rates drops for formerly incarcerated youth with support services and criminal justice reform

June 2018 - While ARC was founded in 2013, its roots can be traced back to 2003, when founder Scott Budnick first stepped into Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall. At the time, Scott worked in the film industry as Executive Vice President of Green Hat Films, where he produced numerous successful comedies, including The Hangover series. A friend in the industry invited Scott to attend a writing workshop at the juvenile hall through the InsideOUT Writers (IOW) program.

Scott sat alongside incarcerated youth in the Compound, including some as young as 15 years old, who were facing adult prison sentences. One boy was facing more than 200 years in prison. In their writings, he learned of the terrible decisions they had made, but also of their childhoods, marked by trauma, violence, and neglect. That day, Scott committed to mentoring incarcerated youth, and has since conducted regular writing classes in the facility.

Over the years, as Scott's students were released from juvenile halls and prisons across California, he witnessed many of them returning to incarceration, unable to overcome the challenges of reentry due to the lack of community and support that led them into the system in the first place.

ARC began as an annual camping trip bringing together a few dozen formerly incarcerated young people with positive mentors to offer encouragement, guidance, and resources. Today, the Coalition has grown into a support and advocacy network of more than 450 members, and hundreds of volunteer mentors and allies, committed to helping one another through reentry and advocating for a fairer criminal justice system.

Today, ARC serves more than 450 formerly incarcerated men and women, who commit to living crime-free, gang-free and drug-free; enrolling in school, working, or actively searching for work; and being of service to their community. The majority of ARC members live in Los Angeles County, where the organization was founded. Over the past three years, ARC has expanded its network to also include members in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties, as well as Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. In September 2016, ARC opened a second office in Sacramento County, and is now providing reentry and supportive services to more than 130 formerly incarcerated young people in the region under the leadership of Victor Jerome Malin Jr.

The success of ARC’s model is evidenced by the exceedingly low recidivism rate of less than 10 percent from members, compared to California’s recidivism rate of nearly 60 percent. ARC’s advocacy efforts have also been exceptionally successful; leading to numerous reforms in California’s justice system that have drastically improved the way the system treats young people. These reforms, which have affected more than 20,000 incarcerated individuals across the state, include limiting the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole and providing second chances to individuals who committed their crimes as youth and received adult prison sentences.

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