GTL’s mission involves creating impactful connections, providing industry-leading service, and ensuring everyone has access to technology and education to improve their personal outcomes. In some of those areas, we have the capability to create success. In other areas, we need a little assistance. As a company, we recognize that we need partners that contribute to our mission and help us expand our vision beyond what is traditionally recognized as the purview of a corrections technology company.
In 2020, we started an ongoing series of Town Hall meetings in which we engage our employees in discussions about issues that affect the company. This is a way to allow our employees to get more in tune with our mission and start on a new path forward.
In November 2020, we hosted a Reentry and Technology Town Hall meeting that featured a panel of experts sharing their stories about the importance of reentry and what they have personally done to drive change in this area.
Reentry begins the moment a justice-involved individual sets foot in a correctional facility and continues long after release. With stories from individuals with lived experiences, all GTL team members were invited to participate, listen, and understand how the availability of, or barriers to, resources influenced their reentry success. The discussion also touched on how GTL is using technology to transform correctional facilities into rehabilitative environments.
The panelists for this Town Hall were:
- Dan Kingery – Prison Fellowship, Executive Vice President – Dan shared how his perspectives have changed over 40 years of working in prisons, working with incarcerated individuals, their families, and correctional leaders, including recognizing prisons as communities and incarcerated individuals as opportunities not problems. Prison Fellowship focuses on three main points in its programs to fuel successful outcomes: reentry vs. pre-entry, reentry vs. entry, and reentry vs. reintegration.
- Topeka K. Sam – Founder & Executive Director, Ladies of Hope Ministries – Topeka discussed the epidemic and disparity of incarceration on women, specifically women of color, which she experienced firsthand while in federal prison. After her release in 2015, Topeka created The Ladies of Hope Ministries (The LOHM) to help disenfranchised and marginalized women transition back into society through education, entrepreneurship, spiritual empowerment, and advocacy.
- Christian Conte – Anger and Emotional Management Expert – Dr. Conte discussed his work helping correctional facilities implement a New Day Movement program, which focuses on universal goals regardless of a person’s background or situation. Three things—inner peace, education, legacy—compile into people becoming the best versions of themselves as they approach not only reentry but a continued, meaningful life outside of correctional facilities.
- Brandon Edwin Chrostowski – Founder, EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute – As a young man, Brandon was staring down a long jail sentence when a judge granted him probation instead. He discussed how this influenced his life, including the creation of a six-month program conducted at EDWINS restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as in correctional facilities to provide training in the culinary arts and hospitality industry. They focus on five main pillars: meeting people where they’re at, teaching to the top, perspective, care, and getting out of the way and letting someone grow.
- Christopher Washington – Functional Analyst, GTL – Christopher discussed his growth since serving time in Federal prison and how he sought out non-profit and reentry-focused organizations that could help him grow and succeed as a returning citizen. He became involved with the Free Minds Book Club and successfully completed the Georgetown University Pivot Program before joining GTL to help build the reentry program from the ground up.
“I couldn’t be prouder when I reflect back on my now-2.5 years at GTL,” said Deb Alderson, GTL President & CEO. “When I joined the company, this [town hall series] was something I was excited about. I thought it was important for our mission and very important that we became a good corporate citizen…that we helped others who were in need.”
GTL will continue hosting Town Hall events throughout the year, providing more and differing perspectives on the challenges faced not only by incarcerated individuals but by returning citizens, family and friends, and other organizations focused on improving incarceration and reentry success.