Then and now
Jessica Turral founded Hand in Hand Baltimore to reduce recidivism rates among boys ages 17 and younger who are charged as adults for crimes. The program offers them academic and mental health services, employment, and personal support. The organization also provides re-entry services to young people ages 18-22 who are newly released from the Baltimore City Detention Center or other correctional facilities. Since 2009, the program has served 140 young men—90 inside the detention center and 50 in the community. Of those who have remained active in the community-based program, 100 percent have not re-offended, 50 percent are employed, and 90 percent have remained in their educational programs.
Challenge of sustainability
“I think a lot of non-profit founders are similar: we don’t have a background in business or program management. We just have a love for what we do,” Turral says. “That big heart can sometimes cause a nonprofit to lose ground. Having mentors and a board forced me to get out of my heart and into a business mind—and that has helped tremendously. ”
OSI-Baltimore has helped
Turral had a full-time job when she started the program, so she was juggling work and program development. Often, she was awake at midnight or later, working on projects for Hand in Hand.
“OSI really is the reason that Hand in Hand is where it is today. The fellowship allowed me to totally focus on Hand in Hand,” Turral says. “It really allowed me to develop the re-entry model and to recruit more volunteers and more partners.”
Turral plans to use new funding from OSI-Baltimore to expand the re-entry services Hand in Hand provides to youth who are charged as adults. The organization will hire a full-time re-entry coordinator who will help bridge its pre-release and re-entry program by recruiting volunteers, keep better track of youth after they are released, and identify jobs or educational opportunities for the youth.
Turral wants to expand to other cities, not just regionally, but nationwide.
“In Maryland, we charge 1,250 youth as adults each year. And nationwide, there are 200,000,” she says. “That’s why I want to be in every major urban city. There are a lot of kids out there who are really struggling and there are very few programs that are willing to work with them.”