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Conceptual photo: human life before and after imprisonment. gray vs colored sky seen through wire Conceptual photo: human life before and after imprisonment. gray vs colored sky seen through wire

Reentry Summit Advanced Opportunities for Justice-Impacted Individuals

On May 13th, 2023, the University of Miami co-hosted alongside the Umbrella of Hope Coalition the highly anticipated Umbrella of Hope Reentry Summit. The event brought together a diverse group of over 100 attendees, experts, government officials, and individuals impacted by the justice system to the Coral Gables campus. The summit tackled the challenges faced by those reintegrating into society after incarceration by creating a platform for dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders in the reentry environment.

The Umbrella of Hope Reentry Summit, one of the initiatives of the Copeland Foundation Project Initiative of 2023, served as a unifying platform, bringing together prominent justice-impacted leaders and dedicated community providers. The summit's main goal was to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for coordinated reintegration services in Miami-Dade County. By delving into the challenges faced by new residents, the summit diligently outlined and defined Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART), aimed at effectively resolving these issues.

To support the resulting strategic plan, representatives from the Mayor's Office, Miami Dade Prison and Rehabilitation, and the Public Defender’s Office were present.

3 women sating next to the Reentry Summit poster
Participants of the Reentry Summit.

The summit provided a unique opportunity for policymakers, service providers, community leaders, and individuals who have experienced reentry challenges to come together and collectively find solutions. With panel discussions, working groups, and networking opportunities, the event was designed to foster a collaborative approach to addressing the complex issues surrounding reentry.

The morning session of the summit featured interactive panel discussions led by notable experts in the reentry community. These experts, drawn from their wealth of experience and insights, shed light on the challenges and opportunities related to reentry. Their discussions serve to broaden understanding, challenge preconceived notions, and inspire innovative approaches to enhance the reentry process.

“When compared to other high-income nations, the United States has a lower life expectancy and racial health disparities due to mass incarceration,” said Daniel Feaster, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences.

“More than 50% of inmates in Miami-Dade County – which has the eighth-largest jail population in the U.S. with an average daily population of over 5,000 – are black and more than 1,000 Florida laws have restrictions on the lives of those who have been convicted of crimes,” he added.

The summit centered on key areas including access to employment and education, housing and community outreach, healthcare, mental health and substance use, as well as legal services. By carefully addressing these crucial aspects, the summit diligently identified barriers and opportunities, fostering an environment conducive to innovative solutions.

In the afternoon, attendees had the opportunity to participate in working groups, allowing for in-depth exploration of specific reentry issues. These working groups provided a collaborative space where participants could pool their knowledge, expertise, and lived experiences to develop actionable solutions. By actively engaging in these sessions, participants played a vital role in shaping the future of reentry support and services. Recommendations from these sessions will be provided by leaders in Miami-Dade County.

audience clapping at the Reentry SummitBy bringing together experts, practitioners, policymakers, and individuals with lived experiences, the summit was a powerful catalyst for change and progress. The ultimate aim was to enhance the outcomes for individuals impacted by the justice system, paving the way for positive societal transformations through tangible and sustainable solutions.

As a result of this summit, the Umbrella of Hope Coalition and the University of Miami will publish a community action report that will assist the community in being stronger advocates in Miami-Dade County.

In addition to DPHS’ funding support, the Umbrella of Hope Coalition also partnered with Empowered Youth for catering services. Empowered Youth is a renowned nonprofit organization in Miami founded in 2006, dedicated to empowering young individuals by providing support and resources to young men from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Their programs include mentoring, life skills development, and access to mental health services. Empowered Youth focuses on addressing poverty and single-parent homes as drivers of juvenile crime. They offer job training in culinary arts and construction to provide long-term career opportunities.

Empowered Youth’s involvement further reinforced the Summit's commitment to collaboration and supporting organizations that align with the goal of advancing reentry opportunities.

Other UM collaborator includes Kathryn Nowotny, Ph.D., associate professor of Medical Sociology, director of Miami Health & Justice Lab.

Written by Deycha Torres Hernández
Published on July 25, 2023