Recidivism rates in the United States are staggeringly high, with 70% of those who were previously imprisoned returning. To address this high rate of recidivism in the African American community, two psychologists took an innovative approach: teaching meditation to probationers. They were able to pilot this project with an Innovation Grant from Alameda County’s Behavioral Health Care Services.
Now in its third round of funding, Alameda County’s Innovation Grants Program represents a unique collaboration between the public and social sectors. The aim of these grants is to provide funding for projects focused on mental health. As the administrator of these grants, PVF is able to see firsthand how these pilot projects are using innovative strategies to address mental health issues in at-risk individuals.
PVF staff recently attended the program’s learning conference, in which grantees from the second round of funding came together to discuss the results of their pilot projects. The meditation project was run by the Bay Area Black United Fund and called “Community Healing Circles: For African American Men and Adolescents on Probation.”
The project worked with young, inner-city African-American males on probation and was aimed at addressing historical and social traumas. As a vulnerable population in the process of transitioning into adulthood, these men struggle with extreme physical stresses in their communities due to homelessness, violence, and unemployment. In addition to conducting dialogue sessions related to topics relevant to the African-American probationer population, the Healing Circle focused on quiet sitting and meditation. These strategies were aimed at strengthening the self in order to heal trauma and foster self-awareness in an effort to put the young men on a positive path towards success.
According to Alex Briscoe, Director of Alameda County’s Health Care Services Agency, the Innovation Grants Program is the only ongoing collaboration between the public and social sectors in the country with the aim of addressing intractable issues through creative pilot projects. This type of innovative learning and resource-sharing is directly aligned with PVF’s focus on radical collaboration as a strategy for creating lasting change. For more information on how we are doing this, check out this recent piece on radical collaboration written by our Executive Director, James Higa.