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CLEAR, A Local Program, Lowers Recidivism Rates in Kent

Grand Rapids Police Department

How do you get police, wardens and citizens returning to society after doing time to sit down for a meal once per week? You call a CLEAR meeting—which is part of the Michigan Prisoner Reentry program.

"It’s basically a group of guys that are on parole, guys that have successfully completed parole (with) myself, a retired police officer (and) people that are with different agencies around. And we basically just sit at a table, and have really intentional conversations around issues that come up." 

That’s officer Dan Myers with the Grand Rapids Police Department. He heads CLEAR and convenes the group, which on the day I visit, is having pizza and lemon-meringue pie at Oakdale Christian Reformed Church. Serving the food it is retired GRPD Lieutenant Ralph Mason.

“Most of my career I’ve spent in the vice unit, 17 and a half years, kicking the doors, lock them up, move on to the next case.  But I started going to the meetings of prisoner reentry, and slowly, you know, I started thinking about this whole thing, I’ve always believed in second chances.”

Currently the recidivism rate in Michigan - that’s people who go back to prison after they’ve been released - is about 29%, or one in three.

The GRPD reports that people who have attended at least three CLEAR meetings have a recidivism rate of about 11% - that’s about one in 10. 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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