Locations: Highland United Church of Christ in Northeast Portland, Oregon
Founded in December of 2009 by a group of men and women volunteers who are currently working as drug and alcohol counselors and mentors. Most of the HARRP workers are formerly incarcerated themselves who use their experiences to connect and help other formally incarcerated people transition smoothly into society. The program started with a small amount of funding that increased over the years until the past 2 years, 2016-2017, funding began to decline.
A mentorship program that refers clients to trainings, housing units, and employment facilities if needed. Mentors are reliable for mentees during crisis situations in order to help mentees succeed in society. HARRP is motivated to make a difference in the lives of the incarcerated.
There are 4-10 mentors, each responsible for 4 mentees. The background of the mentors varies. Some may have a felony conviction, others may be drug/alcohol counselors, and others may be mentors who are willing to listen and help other individuals. The goal is for mentees to be comfortable when partnered with their mentor of similar experiences. Usually women are paired with women and men are paired with men. The mentee can also rely on their mentor coordinator, administrator, and director as an additional 3 person support group. What makes HARRP stand out are the meetings. As of now, HARRP takes place in the Highland Christian Center. However, rather than having mentors and mentees discussing in the church, meetings are held anywhere from a coffee shop, to the park, to the homes of the mentee.
The mentees do not live in the HARRP facility. Staff is currently paid $12 per hour. There is not a consistent schedule for staff meetings because HARRP is not the main source of income for the workers. Mentee and mentor meetings occur at least once per week. HAARP has been collaborating with the Reentry Organizations and Resources (ROAR) program for two years in which they are given funding for resources.
HFG requires proof of progress from programs in order for them to gain early access to prisoners. HARRP receives clients through written letters under HGO, ROAR, and nearby areas of Oregon. Clients are both adult men and women.
Mentees are able to lean on HARRP as their support group as they navigate post-prison life.
In 2016, HARRP began losing funding due to lack of public support, staff incapabilities, and jail/prison program connections. Larry Johnson, the director of HARRP, explains how difficult it is for HARRP to raise money because people are not willing to emphasize a second chance for prisoners. The stigma against criminals is so strong, that families are more likely to care about the education, counseling, and jobs of anyone except those who have been formerly incarcerated. It is hard to persuade the public about the importance and impact that reducing recidivism rates have on the country’s economy, taxes, and safety.
Larry encourages anyone to start volunteering to reduce recidivism rates. Larry started HARRP from almost nothing except for a bit of pocket money to buy coffee for his mentees. However, because he did not have any experience in creating a mentorship program, there were some setbacks, especially when it came to funding. By not being able to renew grants with other programs, HARRP’s database began to weaken. Structure was needed and funding became unstable. HARRP intended to get to know their clients 6 months before release, but because Oregon prison programs are facilitated under the Home for Good (HFG) corporation, HARRP was denied from meeting clients due to the lack of substantial data.
What could be improved:
HARRP would like to increase wages from $12 to $20 per hour thus making HARRP a main source of income for the staff. In addition, the size of the staff as well as their abilities needs to increase. HARRP would like to have a development director, an assistant, someone who can write grants, and a structured database that can create stability for the HARRP program.