Don Murphy- Team Cincinnati, Team 1, Quarter 3
Have you ever wanted to have a second chance at something? For many ex-felons, they want just that, but they rarely get a second chance. This is where Don Murphy and his Game in the World, A New Lease on Life, stepped in.
Don began formulating A New Lease on Life in October 2008, when he got excited an idea that the re-entry process for ex-felons could be transformed. As a public defender, he had firsthand experience of the criminal justice system and didn’t like what he saw –a constant stream of low-income felons entering and re-entering the prisons, people stuck in a cycle without a support structure to change anything. Don dreamed about creating a safety net for ex-felons, a program that would provide inspiration, completion, and an opportunity for service. A New Lease on Life would give them a second chance where they could discover ways to not only survive outside of prison but make a contribution to their communities.
Typically, when felons are released from prison, they are given a little money and sent out into the real world. In many cases they have no job, no shelter, and no food—and little chance to succeed. Companies don’t want to hire ex-felons and apartment owners don’t want to rent to them. Some ex-felons are even ineligible for any Federal assistance programs. To get by, some resort to old habits and commit crimes, while others violate parole simply due to lack of transportation to attend required meetings. With the cards stacked against them, a high percentage of ex-felons end up back in prison.
A New Lease on Life is out to break that cycle. The program’s mission is to provide ex-felons with opportunities for employment and self-sufficiency; in fact they get a new lease on life. Participating in the program, they have an opportunity to, not only reverse the high recidivism rates for prisons, but to go out and make a difference for themselves and their communities.
To accomplish his mission, Don partnered with Jesus House, a halfway house, with a goal of providing food, shelter, and transportation to parolees. The ex-felons are able to stop worrying about basic necessities and start speculating on what they can accomplish in their lives. Jesus House already has a successful model, with an 87% success rate in keeping ex-felons from re-entering the prison system. Now, Don and his team are in the process of improving upon that success rate by creating a series of classes teaching ex-felons life skills, things like how to write a resume and how to interview for a job. A New Lease on Life is also creating a safe space for the ex-felons to discuss what stops them from being able to reach their goals.
With new hope, the ex-felons are also participating in creating the career fair by recruiting potential employers. Others in the community are getting involved, creating “suit drives” to provide these ex-felons with suits for their job interview. A New Lease on Life also wants to raise $10,000 for Jesus House by the end of 2009.
People in the community are starting to take notice. An Indiana University criminal justice professor has begun an independent evaluation of the program that will allow Don and Jesus House to apply for grants to fund programs and expand Jesus House to other cities.
While it’s predictable for released felons to be trapped by the circumstances of criminal activity they find themselves in, Don and his team are committed altering their circumstances and giving each of them a chance to have their dreams fulfilled.
If you would like to join Don in his mission or contribute to A New Lease on Life, you can email him at DSMurphy@iquest.net.