This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Tim Stay, one of Utah’s leading tech entrepreneurs and executives, recently launched a new venture with successful entrepreneur Joseph Grenny. They’ve chosen several ex-convicts to run the new business, The Other Side Academy.
This may not be such an odd choice. You see, the new venture, modeled closely on Delancey Street Foundation, is a nonprofit that will work to really rehabilitate convicts.
Stay explained to me recently that our prisons “provide criminals with a masters degree in criminology” rather than rehabilitating them.”
He elaborates, “The problem is that there is a portion of the criminal population that doesn’t get better by doing time. Many of them are repeat offenders, spending their lives in and out of jail and prison. They usually have substance abuse problems and many times find themselves unable to secure or keep a job and eventually wind up on the streets, being involved in criminal activity, and going back to jail. And this cycle continues at great expense to taxpayers. These people are living lives of increasingly destructive behaviors to themselves, to their families, and to society.”
He says that TOSA, as everyone involved in The Other Side Academy quickly abbreviates, will “provide a two-year live-in educational program for ex-convicts, drug abusers, homeless and others that have hit rock bottom that teaches our participants how to live successful, productive lives free from crime and substance abuse.”
Dave Durocher, TOSA’s managing director, explains further, “Our mission is to address the issues of drug addiction and criminality and improve the dismal record of the rehabilitative community when it comes to addressing the issues of relapse and recitivism. We belive that a long term “theraputic community” approach is what works best. While there are mixed and often conflicting statistics in this regard we know from first hand experience that it can work.”
Durocher and his colleagues Alan Fahringer and Lola Zagey, know first hand, “We know this because [we] have over 25 combined years residing in arguably the most succesful theraputic community in the world, Delancey Street, which is the model we are replicating with a few twists that we believe can make The Other Side Academy even more succesful.”
Having already raised $750,000, Stay has a wish list for the next several months. “In the next 3 months, we are moving into our new facility in Salt Lake City and we will be launching several of our businesses so we can become self-reliant.”
“We need financial contributions to cover the start-up costs of the facility and of the new businesses. We need in-kind contributions of cars, trucks, construction tools, warehouse space, and housing supplies such as beds and dressers. We need volunteer help with things such as business plans, web design, marketing, graphics. We need champions to help spread the message through social media and with their friends,” he concludes.
On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Durocher, Fahringer and Zagey will join me here for a live discussion about TOSA and their plans to create a program that will truly change lives. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about The Other Side Academy:
We provide on-the-job vocational training, education, and basic life skills along with long-term residential housing to former drug/alcohol abusers, homeless and others who have hit rock bottom. Our organization is run by graduates of the program and we are a mutual self-help organization. That means that healing occurs when we can have “Each One Teach One” and that when A helps B, A gets better. We run our own businesses so we can be self-reliant and not dependent on Government money and so we can offer the program at no cost to those that join us. Participants obtain a minimum of high school equivalency and gain the job and life skills needed to return to various communities as decent, law abiding individuals.
Managing Director Dave Durocher was arrested for the first time at the age of 13 years old. By the time he was 38, he had been to prison four times for a total of 15 years. When he was given the option to go to Delancey, he was facing 29 years in prison. Dave pleaded guilty of his crimes and went to Delancey in Los Angeles. Dave was at Delancey Street for 8 years and became the Managing Director of their 250 person Los Angeles facility for 5 of those years. Dave is articulate, humble, tenacious, interpersonally skilled, a good manager and a good public speaker. He was able to double revenues in their Training School businesses while he was there and when he left, he had tripled their earnings from when he had took over the facility. Dave has helped countless others regain their dignity, their families and their lives before he moved on to enjoy his own success as the person he had become. Now Dave is embarking on the next chapter of his new life; to help create a place, much like the one he credits with saving his life, only better. A place people can come to learn about integrity, honesty, hard work and self-respect. All the things that protect those inclined from falling prey to their addictions so as not to become the kind of person Dave was, but rather the kind of person he is today.
Alan began using marijuana and other drugs in his early teens. He spent his adult life as a “functioning addict” until he was introduced to methamphetamine. That began a thirteen year downward spiral of multiple arrests, lost marriages, lost careers and eventually homelessness. Alan’s troubles culminated in his being arrested three times in a span of eleven months for manufacturing meth. Facing many years in prison, Alan says he was rescued from himself by an empathetic Judge who allowed him to go to Delancey Street instead of prison. That most fortunate occurrence, as he calls it, saved his life, he says. He stayed two years as required by his plea bargain and another four years voluntarily to help others experience the redemption and renewal he had found. While at Delancey Street Alan worked in Corporate Development, Finance. Retail Sales and eventually found his niche in Community Relations. Alan was responsible for advocating Delancey Street as a sentencing alternative to the Judicial and Legal communities. He was a natural. He is articulate, persuasive and living proof that the process can work. Alan has done speaking engagements throughout New Mexico and southern California enthusiastically advocating for just the type of therapeutic community that he will now help foster in Salt Lake City at The Other Side Academy. “I’m so blessed. I get to help build a place just like the one that saved my life. What could possibly be more gratifying than that?”
Lola has always dreamed of making a difference in the world. Her progress was stopped dead in its tracks twenty years ago when she developed an all-consuming addiction to heroin. This new path took Lola down to a place where all drug dependent people go… to rehabs, jails, and prisons. She was stuck in hopeless desperation and after being arrested one more time, she knew she had to try something different. Lola had heard about Delancy Street Foundation and wondered if the judge would give her a chance to try this program. The judges quickly agreed to two years in Delancy Street or do five years in prison. He gave Lola a stern warning. He said he would offer this deal to her but he recommended she do the prison time. He has seen addicts like Lola before and at this point, he believed she would fail the program and end up in prison anyway. Lola had a different idea. With gratitude for this opportunity, Lola excelled at Delancy Street. She worked her way up to the finance department where she learned skills in accounting, auditing, and bookkeeping with an emphasis in rehabilitation management. Lola’s two year sentence in Delancy Street turned into a five year life changing stay. Once graduated, Lola quickly found work in the medical field as well as property management and the sky was the limit. The only thing missing was her desire to help other addicts still suffering. Enter The Other Side Academy. Now Lola can live her dream of making a difference in the world.