Patrons & Partnerships

Ep 31: Kevin Scott with Just Income GNV

August 11, 2022 Library Partnership Branch, Alachua County Library District Season 1 Episode 31
Patrons & Partnerships
Ep 31: Kevin Scott with Just Income GNV
Show Notes Transcript

Thanks for joining us for another episode of Patrons & Partnerships, presented by the Library Partnership Branch of the Alachua County Library District.

Welcome to Part 2 of our interview Kevin Scott, Director of Just Income GNV, Gainesville’s pilot guaranteed income program which focuses on previously-incarcerated individuals here in Alachua County. We talk about how the history of Just Income GNV and how came to be, what the program aims to do, and what Community Spring intends to do with the data they collect. The first part of this interview can be found here.

Just Income GNV: https://jignv.org/
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/JustIncomeGNV
Community Spring:
https://www.csgnv.org/
Contact:
https://www.csgnv.org/contact 

Visit the Alachua County Library District website to browse our collection and to find other resources and services offered at your favorite, local library!

You can view a transcript of this podcast on ACLD's YouTube Channel.

Hi! Thanks for listening to Patrons & Partnerships. Today we have the second half of our interview with Kevin Scott, the Director of Just Income GNV, Gainesville’s guaranteed income pilot program.

Kevin:

The grand total is $7,600 a year. It's not enough to live on. This is only providing like, a guaranteed cushion. What we see in this population in particular is, like, you come out in the hole. So like, you have the same expectations as everyone else of like, you know, the things that we all have to pay for. However, you have an extraordinary amount of debt, And you have like a diminished opportunity to make money. People come out really on fire and to be back in the world and then the inability to pay those legal fees can result in re-incarnation. I know here locally, it's about like 25% of the technical probation violations are rooted in just simply a lack of money. Like, there's no offense - the crime is your bank account. You're too poor to be free. If money turns out to be the answer, then maybe money was the problem to begin with. [music]

Tina:

Can you talk a little bit about - and even bringing up the California study - the people that actually didn't participate in the program that were also surveyed, how did they fare throughout the period of time? Is there a huge discrepancy in how successful the paid group was between the non-paid group?

Kevin:

Yeah, I don't know all of the stats. But yeah, if you look at like the Stockton - it was called SEED, was the name of the study. Yeah, it was a huge difference. I mean, you know, like - two times as likely to get employment, people fared way better in like, some, like, really measurable ways in terms of like employment, housing, transportation, things like that. But also, one of the things that oftentimes gets maybe like, undiscussed or like underdiscussed is just like wellbeing, just a person's sense of like how they're doing in the world. And I think the, the findings - and I hope I'm not quoting this wrong - I want to say that it turned out it was better than Prozac, that in terms of people just feeling like, better? And just like, at ease. Like, it reduces stress. You know, if you have like - Especially with our population, if you have this hovering axe of Oh, my God, if I can't generate X number of dollars by x o'clock, I'm going to be re-incarcerated. That absolutely is like gravity like you can't imagine on a person's shoulders. Meanwhile, trying to like, just operate in the day. Like go on a job interview. How do you feel going in that job interview, you're in a panicked state, like, I need this, I need this. So that sense of like, Oh, my God, oh, my God. I know from the first round and even the second round, just last week, one of the first things that several people did was took that axe from over their head, like, immediately went and paid probation payments. You know, they were like, if you don't make these payments, we're gonna lock you back up. So now that that burden is off of people, that is like a huge deal. One guy said, for the first time in my whole life, I feel like this is going to be my year. Like I've never felt like people like, supported me. Like, he feels good. He feels hopeful for the first time. Another guy said, I've heard no so many times, I forgot how to hear yes. He's just been like, rejected from everything, everything. And I kind of alluded to it earlier, that skepticism is so understandable. It's so earned, that like, people feel - it’s like a scam, it's too good to be true. Everything around me tells me I don't deserve anything. Everyone around me tells me that I'm not part of this society anymore. So the fact that there's an organization saying, hey, we want to give you money for a year, no strings attached. People were like, no, that sounds like some bullshit, you know, like - [laughing] because it kind of did! And if I wasn't on this side of it, too, I was like, I made - I might feel the same way. But like, what we're seeing is people feeling like well, prison said I was done. And so I had to leave and now my community or like the city or whatever is like, well, I guess we got to take you back. Like begrudgingly, like, we have no choice. This is not that. This is like open arms. This is not anything other then like, we value you. Like I said before, some of the most intelligent, creative, ambitious, driven, like, compassionate people I've met are like rotting in cages. And like when they come home, they suffer greatly, greatly. And it's not because they're not, they're not trying. They're really trying. And so I think this is important to, to demonstrate that by providing people with some support, this can make a huge difference. And if this, you know, even if people don't really care about like the human toll, even just financially, this just makes good sense. The numbers are wildly in the favor of - if this works, we'll see - if this were to work, this could represent, I mean, monster savings to taxpayers in terms of what we pay for re-incarnation.

Tina:

So that brings up the point of, what do you hope to do with the data? Because to change the mindset of the population to spend money upfront, rather than… Because a prison, operating a prison, each prisoner takes up an extraordinary amount of money to house and incarcerate. If this could contribute to less recidivism? How do you hope to use the data to convince the general populace that this is a good, good thing to spend money on?

Kevin: Yeah, that's a great question. So I mean, part of it is:

We shall see. Like, we don't - we just don't know yet. So one of the things that we thought was important at this point of this is to remain privately funded. So there are no taxpayers’ dollars in this, we are 100% privately funded by some foundations and donations. We thought that that was crucial, because this is very much proof of concept at this point. And we know that not everyone is going to be a huge fan of what's happening. So. So part of it is we want to see what the data shows us. And like at our roots, Community Spring is an advocacy organization. So we plan to advocate for people that are coming out of incarceration, while they're incarcerated, because that's the sort of - what we've been doing. And so, you know, there's definitely some things that we want to shine a light on. Because this is a research study, there's a few points that we have called out in advance of like, these are some metrics we very much want to look at. And hopefully that will be compelling to the general public as well. And you kind of hit on one already is that we want to look at the relationship between income and recidivism, you know, does that increase? Does it decrease? Does it stay the same? So recidivism is a big one. We want to look at housing security. We know that over 10% of the people who we reached out to that were eligible for this self identified as homeless, either literally just the word homeless, or giving the address of the shelter of Grace here locally. And then so that was like, self identified, but we know that from our outreach and discussion with people, it was actually way more than that. People were like couchsurfing, or just like, I was staying here. Now I'm over here, I've stayed at five places since I've been out for the last three months, whatever it may be. So we want to see the relationship between income and housing security. We want to look at well-being, that sort of sense of identity. There's a - we learned about this thing called rejection sensitivity, which is just a thing that people experience in the world, but it’s extra high and formerly incarcerated people. Like way extra high, meaning like, you go into a job interview, you already know how it's gonna go, you already know. You walk in with that preconceived idea of I'm going to be rejected. You're looking for rejection everywhere based on your experience. Kind of like that one guy said, I've heard no so many times, I forgot how to hear yes. So we want to look at like, a person's sense of identity, their sense of well-being, a sense of place in the community. And then the fourth big metric we want to look at is the fines and fees part. Like, how are we criminalizing poverty? How are we looking at people's inability to pay money for supervision or correctional oversights and how are we criminalizing that? And how are we getting people back incarcerated just due to lack of money? So I mean, so all this to say, we hope to be able to like, really, you know, release the findings. It'll take a long time, honestly, like, because we're doing research while it's happening. And then, you know, post as well, we want to see, like, you know, how's it going six months after the final check? Did things stay better? Did they go down a little bit, did they get way better? We want to look at that. And then release the findings and then advocate from that place. And hopefully, you know, we can change some people's perception of formerly incarcerated people. We have, of the 115 people getting the money, we have five who will be our storytellers. They’ll be like the names and faces of the whole project. And they're going to be doing - and they've already started - some media engagements, you know, through like, prints, through video. We've had some good national news, which is great. There's a documentary that's already started filming about the five folks that are our storytellers, part of a larger documentary. And then we're doing like video diaries and like written blogs, just people like sharing their experience. So hopefully that will like help to humanize as well. Oftentimes, in our target population, people are just sort of hypothetically seen as like… There's these prisoners, and like you don't really think about well, this is somebody with this name that has parents, maybe they have children, you know, this is like, this is a fully realized human being with hopes and dreams and like a favorite salad dressing and a song they hate. You know what I mean [laughing], like, these are like, you know. Full, full human beings. So we're hoping to like, poke some holes in some stereotypes as well and hope for the better, you know.

Tina:

So where would the community find these videos and find information about your program?

Kevin:

So, we have a website, you can go to justincome.org or jignv.org. Either way, that'll get you there. And so, there's a media page linked there. So you can see a lot of the coverage that we've had. We have social media as well - I would encourage people to follow those because as we make announcements and as things progress, we'll be posting things there. And since we just started, we'll be introducing to our sites sort of like a repository of storytellers as they chronicle their lives moving forward. You can see some already and some of the media hits that we've gotten as well. Shaquille O'Neal gave us a little love the other day, that was exciting. The Shaquille O'Neal. Tina: The Shaquille O'Neal. Not the other one. Yeah, that one. Tina: Yeah. [laughs]

Tina:

Last question - well, second to the last question. So is there anything that the community can do to be involved with your organization?

Kevin:

Yeah, so one of the things that we love doing is some education stuff. So on our site, one of the tabs is why, why in the world are you doing this? And so under that tab, there's some pretty good information that's not commonly known. I would encourage people to check that out

of just like, here are some of the stats, like:

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world by good measure. Some of the other countries that most people would seem or deem to be like, appalling or like, Oh, they're so backward, like - we out incarcerate every other country on the planet. Florida is even higher than that. So we outpace the country with the highest incarceration rate. Important to know. And then here in our county, we have to say that the racial disparity is like, outrageous. The last I saw, you're nine times more likely to be arrested if you're black in this county, which is not nine times more dangerous, not nine times more likely to cause harm, just nine times more likely to be arrested. Can't ignore that. The fastest growing population inside prison is women of color, that's through the roof. Also, women of color are the people who most likely bear the financial brunt of a loved one's incarceration as well. So they're getting kind of boned on the inside and the outside, really. We want people to know that when you're in prison in Florida, Florida is one of five states that do not pay prisoners for their mandatory labor. You have the ability to earn exactly zero cents during your incarceration. So you have no money coming in, but you have to pay the commissary fees, which can be seven times as expensive as a grocery store. Any communication with your family is monetized - email, phone calls are like very expensive. Health care, it's $5, every time you request to see a doctor - not even to say you're going to see a doctor. Typically it takes three days, $15, just to get seen by a doctor oftentimes. So we want to like shine a light on like the cost of being incarcerated. All that to say, the education part I think is important. We want people to sort of come to know these maybe hidden facts or lesser known facts. And then, you know, follow us on social media, because we hope to have some like maybe community events and like panels, things like that, we would welcome people's discussion and feedback. And then like I said, we are privately funded. So if people feel compelled to support this work, to make a donation, we absolutely would welcome all of that as well. I think that would be wonderful. If we can like further this message, we want to keep advocating, we want to like be able to share these stories, we want to be able to release the findings and disseminate them when it all comes comes out. So financial support, and then just, you know, maybe looking at people's hearts and minds and seeing like where the stereotypes are, where the where the hooks are, and then trying to hopefully change people's perspective.

Tina:

So what do you hope for yourself when this study is completed?

Kevin:

I'm gonna take a nap. [laughs] Tina: [laughs] You know, just - Tina: A long one? Just go lay down, just just go lay it down for a while. I mean, I don't know. I mean, part of it is we'll see. Like, we don't know, if we're gonna like, replicate it, if this is a one time thing, if it'll evolve into a different form. We do know that there have been quite a few other locations that have reached out to us that have said, we think this is a brilliant idea. We would love to replicate that here in our community. People in Miami, Alabama, South Carolina, different states, you know, that are considering this as well. Separately, there are a few other cities that have begun similar work with formerly incarcerated people as well. So Durham, North Carolina has one called Excel that, that is just beginning. They're part of the MGI network as well. We've had a lot of communication with them. Virginia, part of their guaranteed income work, they have carved out X number of recipients will be formerly incarcerated. The other places that - California has one - like, so this is sort of a growing movement. So if I can stay involved and continue to add voice and experience then, then great. I'm just excited to kind of see how it goes, you know, like, how's it gonna go in July? What's gonna be happening, you know, 10 months into it? What about 17 months? You know, I'm curious like everyone else to kind of see what the findings are. So I'm, I'm sort of a very interested observer who happens to be very close to the action.

Tina:

Is there anything else you would like to close on, anything else you would like to add?

Kevin:

No, I mean, checking out our website is good. I want people to engage with us. We, you know, we love discussion. I think that's a big part of this. This is like the system that we are attempting to address has a lot of momentum. So this sort of like a big, a big idea to kind of get people's minds around. So we would love to have discussions with people, and then just maybe, sort of like, furthering that idea of humanizing people. Just to consider that the people that are incarcerated, that is somebody's parents. That is somebody's spouse. That is somebody's sibling, your friend. Like, that's somebody's child. Like, that, that is someone's dear, beloved, precious child. What would you want for your child? If they were in prison for whatever reason, what would you want for them? How would you want their existence to be when they got out? Yeah, ask people to kind of like, maybe ask themselves those questions of like - it's different when it's hypothetical and somebody else but like when you kind of bring it home, bring a little closer to your own experience. Sometimes that can really open up some things in your mind and your heart, so.

Tina:

Thank you very much for being here today.

Kevin:

My pleasure. Thanks. [music]

Eleanore:

Thanks for listening to Patrons & Partnerships. As always, if you know of an individual or organization you’d like to recommend for an interview, email us at lpsfprogram@gmail.com. To listen to more episodes, find us anywhere you listen to podcasts.