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Ex-inmates apply open source to rehabilitation

Almost 70% of released inmates end up returning to prison. A new project uses gaming and cooperative development techniques to train ex-inmates for personal and family life.

By Marco Fioretti, LinuxWorld.com
July 29, 2008 02:11 PM ET

LinuxWorld.com - Ric Moore and Dennis Gaddy met in prison, and started to discuss how Open Source software and methods could help other inmates to avoid further mistakes and get better chance to start over after their term. In this interview, Ric explains how they are doing it through the NuOAR program and why.

Ric, what is the organization you and Dennis work for?

Community Success Initiative (CSI), which Dennis founded in 2005, while under the umbrella of Good Work, Inc. in Durham. Dennis taught a "Principles of Leadership" program in the prison we were in and started CSI formally after his release. Dennis supports my development of the "New Offender Acknowledgment of Responsibility" program (NuOAR), while I do the IT stuff for CSI.

In which field do you work?

Across the U.S.A., we're releasing almost a half million inmates per year nationally for the next 10 years. I was lucky, I had family and supportive friends to help me when I got out. Many leave through the gate with a small gate check and nowhere to go. The result is highly predictable. President Bush signed on the "Second Chance Act" which finally acknowledges the plight and provides grant monies towards such efforts. It remains to be seen where the money goes and how it is spent. It also remains for us, the ex-cons and the communities, to keep an eye on it as well.

CSI helps inmates when they do get out, as many find no one at the exit gate to take them home, or help them find a place to live. We're just getting started, with a lot of assistance from several hundred community/county/state projects and offices. The CSI program already has about 1,400 individual members and participating organizations around the greater Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina. We've had attendees from as far away as New York.

Why are North Carolina agencies assisting CSI?

Because North Carolina is leading the nation looking for new ways to reduce an issue that not one of our Presidential Candidates addresses: the percentage of inmates that re-offend and return to prison, that is almost 70% statistically. This is intolerable, both for the recidivist inmates and for their potential victims. It's the victims, not the state, that bears the hidden tax of being victimized.

CSI is a portal for inmates leaving the system and in need of being coordinated to the myriad of Agencies and Groups that exist to aid them. Dennis coordinates everything and has earned a working relationship with NCDOC. What I'm working on with NuOAR is to have the inmates heads on straight and ready for that moment, before they leave prison. We'll demonstrate NuOAR to them, when we have a final proof of concept to show. "No More Victims" is our motto, as well as our goal. So, I'm sure we'll get a shot at trying it out somewhere.

What exactly is NuOAR, and how do you intend to use it to solve this problem?

NuOAR is a computerized learning system that we are developing. It is inspired by the SOAR (Sex-Offender Acknowledgment of Responsibility) program conducted at Harnett Correctional, in Lillington, NC, whose success rate is around 97% over 10 years. SOAR is very dynamic, up close and very personal. "Anger Management", "Stress Techniques", "Family Roles", "Assertiveness Training", "Relating Dating & Mating", and other "modules" are presented in little bites at a time, switching modules from one to another until the overall scheme of integration of all the modules makes a cohesive whole. It takes some time and understanding to relate and personally accept what is being presented. Then, using peer-groups in real-world settings, to meet to discuss and relate to what is being presented through introspection and, like a 12 Step program, air to the group personal acknowledgments of responsibility.

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