The Chippewa Valley Post provides news of area nonprofit organizations in order to increase public awareness of their missions and activities, and to provide information that otherwise might not be made available.
Our “6 of Substance” series is part of this effort. It will present answers from nonprofit organizations, in their own words, to six questions we asked about who they are and what they do. The responses will be edited only for length, grammar and style concerns.
This series will be updated regularly to introduce Chippewa Valley residents to the many nonprofit organizations and people working to serve the needs of our area. If you have a favorite nonprofit organization that you’d like to see featured here, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chippewa Valley Ex-Prisoners Organizing
Who do you serve?
Chippewa Valley Ex-Prisoners Organizing (CV EXPO) is a group comprised of people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. We serve individuals who are behind bars by acting as their voice in the community. We also serve people who are navigating the barriers to reentry by offering our experience with successfully overcoming those very same barriers. We serve the greater community by sharing our insight into what has worked for us, and offering solutions that may not have been previously considered.
How long have you been established in the Chippewa Valley?
Our chapter began in 2015, shortly after the statewide organization was formed.
What are the major issues you will be facing over the next 18 months?
Over the next 18 months, we will be facing the major issue of housing after incarceration. A recent study done by UW-Eau Claire students showed most people surveyed did not feel they had adequate housing to return to upon their release. It also found that over 20% of people surveyed did not have adequate housing prior to their arrest. This is a major issue in Eau Claire, and we will focus on finding a solution to this problem.
Aside from financial support, how can the Chippewa Valley Community support you?
The best way the Chippewa Valley can support us is to give someone with a conviction history a chance. People who have made mistakes in their life, more often than not, want to change. The barriers to making the changes necessary to living a productive life come in many forms, including lack of adequate housing, employment opportunities and access to mental health services. People can have all the motivation in the world to change, and then when the doors keep getting slammed in their face, that determination slowly starts to fade away.
Imagine you are starting out with nothing, feeling much shame knowing that your situation is largely self-inflicted. You want to change, and you try to get a job and a place to live in a decent neighborhood. Then, one-by-one each place turns you down. It seems as if you will never get accepted anywhere. Eventually, the motivation you had to change is replaced by desperation to get your needs met just for that day, or to get a reprieve from the emotional rejection you are experiencing. This is not an excuse, but a reality for many people. If you are in a position to offer a second chance to someone with a conviction history, please consider doing so. You could be just the chance they need that will make the difference of life or death for them.
Who are some of the key people in your organization?
Chippewa Valley EXPO recently elected a board of directors. They are Stacey Acuna – Chair; Elizabeth Vieira – Co-chair; Chad Turgeson – Secretary; Jaclyn Reidel – Treasurer; Alison Frase – Communications Liaison; Susan Wolfgram – Advisor; and Sandra McKinney – JONAH Representative. The organizer for CV EXPO is Sarah Ferber, who has been in that role since Fall of 2016.
What is the most important thing about your organization that people should know, but don’t?
Our organization focuses on two things – advocacy and support. We recognize that in order for people with conviction histories to lead the fight of transforming the criminal justice system, they must be fully participating in their communities. One of the ways we achieve this participation is through our partnership with JONAH, which has been a strong voice in criminal justice reform for 10 years. They support us as an organization, as well as on an individual basis. The partnership with JONAH has been paramount in our organization becoming what it is today. On a personal level, I have grown both professionally and spiritually through my connection with JONAH members, and I encourage other CV EXPO members to get to know JONAH leaders as well. The book “Chasing the Scream” by Johann Hari talks about how the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is connection. Although not all people with conviction histories suffer from addiction, many do, and many suffer from a lack of connection to their community. JONAH has truly been a community where CV EXPO has felt welcomed without judgement, allowing us to grow into our full potential and make those connections.
— by Sarah Ferber, CV EXPO Organizer
To download a copy of the “6 of Substance” questionnaire, click here.
To see earlier “6 of Substance” listings, click here for the Archives.