Project Reentry is a relatively new program that supports re-sentenced juvenile lifers in Michigan. We are based out of the State Appellate Defender Office and collaborate with a team of public defenders, masters-level social work interns, and community organizations, united by a shared mission to help incarcerated people successfully reenter Michigan communities. Our clients were arrested as children and given life without parole sentences but became eligible for resentencing after a 2016 Supreme Court decision. Now they are being released back into society, never having lived as adults.
Many of our clients have trouble using the internet to find and access services in their communities. Technology advanced rapidly while they were incarcerated, so many websites and devices are difficult to navigate and understand. We are planning to build an easy to use website that connects incarcerated people to felony-friendly resources nearest to them. Users will input their location and needs, and the website will generate a list of nearby organizations that can help. The descriptions of the organizations will include eligibility requirements, hours, a map view, what to bring, and other important information.
As many of our clients are unfamiliar with new technology, we are partnering with a member of the Detroit Community Technology Project, an organization that specializes in making technology more accessible and expanding digital literacy in Detroit. We are also going to run focus groups with our clients to determine what makes technology easier to use. In researching this project, we have been in contact with Purple Binder and the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project, who have similar websites in Chicago and Pennsylvania. We are planning to pilot the website in Washtenaw County and then expand it to all of Michigan.
Funded by Ann Arbor, MI (July 2018)