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Prison changed his life, now University of Tennessee student is opening DOORS for others

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Knox News on 5/3/2023 by Angela Dennis

Life looks a lot different now. Robinson is reflective, and he’s accountable. He’s clear about how far he’s come despite the pain of incarceration.

Life looks a lot different now that Zachary Robinson is beyond four prison walls within Tennessee’s infamous Corecivic Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility. He spent the last year of a nine-year prison sentence in a cage, envisioning what he would do with his life once he became a free man.

Today, he’s a student in the prestigious Haslam School of Business at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and the founder of a nonprofit based in Oak Ridge that works to reduce disparities in education, health and economic equality.

Just over a decade ago, and just a few months shy of his high school graduation, though, it was practically unthinkable that Robinson would be where he is today.

In 2012, Robinson and a couple of his high school buddies made a decision that changed the trajectory of his young adult life. They broke into a house near the campus of the University of Tennessee and robbed the people who lived there.

They were caught and prosecuted, and Robinson, just 18 years old, had to make a life-changing gamble: Plead guilty to the robbery and go free in nine years, or go to trial and risk spending the next three decades in prison.

“When you are told you are facing a 33-year prison sentence for taking it to trial versus the nine-year deal I was offered, the nine looks pretty good. I’ll take that bid,” Robinson said in a long-ranging conversation with Knox News about how he dealt with incarceration and has refocused his life since gaining his freedom in 2020.

Cash, Rocket, Banana, Diamond: DEA gives parents list of emojis they need to know about

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IndyStar on 2/24/2023 by John Tufts

Grouped together, do those emojis mean anything to you? They might for people who frequently buy and sell illegal narcotics, according to the DEA, which published a list of emojis (PDF from 2022) it says are frequently incorporated during drug deals.

The DEA issued its “Emoji Drug Code, Decoded,” last year as a reference guide to give parents, caregivers, educators, and others a better sense of how emojis are being used to purchase illegal drugs. With the recent spike in fentanyl-related deaths, officials are warning parents that smartphones and social media platforms could be contributing to the problem.

Northeast Indiana tobacco usage rates top national rates

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WANE on 4/27/2023 by Taylor King

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- The state of Indiana received over 130-million dollars last week from tobacco product manufacturers as part of an ongoing national settlement agreement. According to the CDC, U.S. cigarette smoking rates have dropped to another all-time low. However, in northeast Indiana, the percentage of smokers beats national rates.

According to the non-profit organization Tobacco Free Allen County, the adult smoking rate in Indiana is 19.4% compared to 11% nationwide. In Allen County , around 20% of adults smoke. The high school tobacco use rate is 22.9% and that’s all tobacco products combined together. But the majority of teen use is vaping. The organization reports that 5.2% of Indiana high school students smoke, more than double the 2% U.S. teen smoking rate, and 18.5% of Indiana teens vape.

Two Opportunities from Our Friends at National Association of Probation Executives (NAPE)

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Email on 05/22/2023

NAPE is hosting a FREE webinar in collaboration with the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA).

WEBINAR: The Impact of Staffing Shortages on Community Corrections Agencies

June 7, 3:00 pm Eastern Time

NAPE is co-hosting a webinar with the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) to examine the unprecedented challenge of finding workers to fill vacant positions and staff retention, discuss strategies to mitigate the negative impact of staff shortages, and provide creative solutions to meeting performance expectations with limited staff.
Panelists include several NAPE Board of Directors members. Register here.

NAPE is hosting a roundtable discussion for probation executives at the upcoming APPA Annual Institute in New York City this August.

NAPE is hosting an executive roundtable at the APPA Annual Institute this August in New York City. Leading the roundtable will be Marcus Hodges, former NAPE President and current at-large Board member, and Charles Robinson, NAPE Mid-Atlantic Regional Representative. This gathering is an opportunity for NAPE executives to learn from each other and discuss current topics in the field.

[Kentucky] Jail’s workforce readiness program graduates first class of women inmates

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Messenger-Inquirer on 4/19/2023 by James Mayse

Tuesday morning, the Daviess County Detention Center presented certificates to the first class of women inmates to complete the jail’s workforce readiness program.

Four woman received certificates, signifying they had completed the work skills program. Amanda Alvey, one of the graduates, said finding work can be difficult.

“With a felony record, it’s harder to find employment — not impossible, but harder,” Alvey said. The program “has been beneficial in helping me.”

Alvey said the program would be a bigger aid to inmates who are new to the job market.

“I have a lot of job experience in my past,” she said, “so this was a refresher.”

The program, in which inmates take online classes on information technology, problem solving, personal development, job skills and other areas, is a collaboration between the jail, Owensboro Community & Technical College, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., the city and county and local businesses.

The curriculum is certified by OCTC. The program is for low-level, nonviolent inmates.

A group of male inmates also completed the program Tuesday. As part of the program, the inmates are interviewed by local businesses that are actively looking for workers and can offer jobs to class participants upon their release.

Mortality, health, and poverty: the unmet needs of people on probation and parole

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Prison Policy Initiative on 4/3/2023 by Emily Widra and Alexi Jones

Research shows that people on probation and parole have high mortality rates: two and three times higher than the public at large.

That certainly suggests that our community supervision systems are failing at their most important — and basic — function: ensuring people on probation and parole succeed in the community.

With a similar approach to our recent series regarding the needs of people incarcerated in state prisons, we did a deep dive into the extensive National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The results of this survey, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provide key insights into these specific — and often unmet — needs faced by people under community supervision. Because this survey asks respondents if they were on probation or parole in the past 12 months, this dataset comes closer than any other source to offering a recent, descriptive, nationally representative picture of the population on probation and parole.

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