CROP Organization II
Founded in 2008 by then-incarcerated prisoner Ted Gray, CROP is a reentry service provider that focuses on providing returning citizens professional and personal leadership development, tech-centered reskilling, career placement, long term housing, and lifetime community support. CROP’s model commits to investment in people who have been justice-involved and fosters a culture of giving back by providing scholarships to at-risk youth to disrupt the school to prison pipeline.
CROP is seeking to launch a program modeled on Exercises in Empathy, a successful program run by the Palma School in Salinas. In this program, groups of students meet with groups of prisoners to discuss literature. Testimonials from participants indicate that this program was transformative for both students and incarcerated participants.
ACT completed a first project for CROP in Spring-Summer 2021, advising CROP’s leadership regarding Board recruitment and financial planning. CROP requested ACT’s help in a second project to provide a roadmap for launching its Exercises in Empathy program.
The project involved two key phases: situation analysis and opportunity assessment. For the first part of the project, the ACT team had several meetings with CROP leadership to understand both short- and long-term goals for the Exercises in Empathy program. In addition, the ACT team and the CROP team considered how the program might fit into the broader mission and priorities of CROP. For the second phase of the project, the ACT team interviewed seven schools and two other nonprofits working in prisons to better understand the opportunity for rolling the Exercises in Empathy program into schools. Importantly, the team spoke to public, parochial, and charter schools so that CROP could understand the different opportunities and challenges in each type of school. The interviews provided valuable feedback that the ACT team used to develop key recommendations and a roadmap for next steps.
The ACT Team make five key recommendations:
- Launch the program via a one-three school pilot with parochial or charter school(s) serving a diverse student population and offering robust programs outside of the classroom
- Partner with schools to develop the specific curriculum and provide connection to prisons, training for facilitation, and a basic structure for the program
- Spend time to fully and clearly articulate the Exercises in Empathy offering, particularly the goals and objectives
- Focus on capturing impact through testimonials and individual stories (vs. surveys and quantitative measures)
- Consider alternate formats such as bringing parolees to schools, summer programs, or partnering with nonprofits
- Strong interest/excitement in the program
- Biggest challenge is limited time in the school day
- Private schools much less complicated to work with and there are many types of private schools that have diverse student populations
- Schools need training, support, and guidance to run the program but have staff that would be willing to “lean-in” to this opportunity with help
Final Report Outline
- Key findings
- Action Plan