President’s Report

KPEP Strategic Planning: Accomplishments and Priorities

Every three to five years we convene a group of board members and staff leaders for a strategic planning session. On February 27, we held such a session.

Our first item of business was to review our progress since our last planning session in January of 2015. The big idea to come out of the 2015 session was to explore the possibility of starting vocational training programs and a restaurant. In the fall of 2016, we launched two vocational training programs – culinary arts and janitorial – which were later combined into a hospitality program.

Then in March of 2017, we opened the Walnut & Park Café. That venture has been so successful and the community support so tremendous that we are opening a second restaurant, this one a Diner, sometime in the next year.

In the fall of 2017, we also started our building trades program. Like hospitality, this is an eight-week program that provides hands on training, certifications and results in preparing the graduate for the workforce.

As we met to review our accomplishments, we also looked to the next three to five years. What strengths can our organization build on? What are some of our challenges? What opportunities exist or what are the greatest needs in community corrections? Are there threats to our ability to succeed in any of these areas?

After much discussion, we determined that we need to focus on four key areas in the next year or two.

Vocational Programs

Over the last three years we have developed a robust hospitality training program that includes extensive culinary and custodial training and certification opportunities for residents. Walnut & Park café has enriched this program in providing a real-world experience for the participants and a valued service to the community.

Opening a new Diner in the Edison Neighborhood is our immediate focus as we look at program expansion. It will be a very positive addition to Kalamazoo and will provide a different type of training opportunity than that provided in the coffee shop. Positions will include host, cashier, servers and cooks.

We will also look to increase enrollment in the building trades programs and possibly look to add another vocational program designed to feed high demand industries.

Transitional Housing

There is a huge need in many areas for affordable housing. For people coming out of prison and returning to the community, this is a huge issue. But it’s not just an issue for those coming out of prison. When some of our KPEP residents graduate from the program they often have a difficult time finding suitable housing, as well. Challenges include their criminal record, a poor credit record and the inability to come up with both a security deposit and the first month’s rent.

The new building trades program and aligned community partnerships have created a new pathway for KPEP to develop and operate transitional housing. In 2017, KPEP purchased two homes from the Kalamazoo Land Bank for this purpose. KPEP building trades participants and local contractors completed renovations and the houses are in use. We now have a total of six houses in Kalamazoo with capacity for 14 residents.

This has been so successful in Kalamazoo that we want to replicate it in other counties. We are working right now on a similar partnership with the Muskegon County Land Bank. We had one house given to us in a will last year and we hope to be able to have this available for occupancy this summer. With our experience we feel we are uniquely positioned to help meet these needs.

Community Partnerships

As KPEP works to rebuild lives, we have developed partnerships with various organizations that work to rebuild communities. In Kalamazoo County these include the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services (KNHS) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

We aim to strengthen these partnerships as well as develop new partnerships that align with our mission.

Treatment Programs

KPEP is first and foremost a nonprofit agency that operates as a community-based alternative to incarceration for adult offenders. We are a correctional facility with a heavy emphasis on treatment programming.

Treatment programs are a significant part of the services we provide to the program participants. While it is important for each participant to secure gainful employment, if he/she has not corrected criminal thinking errors through our cognitive behavioral therapy or addressed his/her addiction issues through our substance abuse or sex offender treatment, the chance for long-term success is greatly reduced.

With our facilities and experienced staff, we have been able to meet a variety of needs in the communities we serve. At any given time, we have about 400 residents in our program. Some of those participants are in a “residential” level treatment program. Others may be involved in “outpatient” level treatment. There are others who are just involved in cognitive behavioral therapy. What treatment program each person is involved in and the intensity of that treatment is part of an evidence-based assessment and client service plan. Treating everyone the same or assuming residential level treatment based on simple residency is neither evidenced-based nor effective.

In addition, we have nearly 600 people involved in outpatient-only treatment at any one time.

Our philosophy has been to work our program schedules around the needs of the offenders or participants. It is counterproductive to force people to comply with orders that would interfere with other productive behaviors such as employment. We offer day and evening groups for all of our programs. We have drug testing hours early in the morning and late into the evening, so someone doesn’t have to quit a job to be drug tested. We send staff to various locations once a week for programming in communities where we don’t have a full time operation. This model has been successful and is appreciated by the courts, probation and parole.

It is always good for an organization to take time periodically to look critically at what it is doing and how. When faced with a problem I have found it is always better to first ask “What did we do wrong and how could we do better?” Placing the blame on someone else or saying there is nothing we can do about it is really not a good first response.

Reforms in both the federal and state criminal justice systems, as well as increases in substance abuse throughout the state, have us continually assessing the need to expand treatment services to meet these needs. These would include the use of medically assisted treatment programs, jail-based programs and changes in the types of drugs for which we test. For instance, marijuana is now legal and fentanyl use is on the rise.

A strategic planning session like we just completed is a good way to make sure we are doing things that are aligned with our mission and that we are doing our best to meet the needs of the communities that we serve.