Service Projects

The Umbrella of Hope Miami Reentry Summit

The Umbrella of Hope Coalition organized a one day summit to to engage in a dialogue that identifies problems, develops real solutions, and provides action items to subject matter affecting our reentry community. Organizations, community stakeholders, and individuals impacted by the justice system have joined forces to discuss and find solutions to the challenges facing those reintegrating into society after incarceration. Our An Umbrella of Hope Reentry Coalition mission is clear: To uplift and unite our reentry community! To date, we have over 60 organizations represented in the body of our membership. Each group plays a significant role in positively engaging and impacting the lives of justice-impacted persons and their families. In a short period of time, our coalition has made tremendous strides in strengthening our collaborative efforts and placing the concerns of those we serve upfront and center. The Summit was held at the University of Miami on May 13, 2023 and was sponsored by the Department of Public Health Sciences (DPHS) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the Copeland Foundation, with additional sponsorship from CHARM, the UM College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Sociology. For more information, please see the attached event program.

Miami Med Reentry Care Clinic

The Miami Medical Reentry Care Clinic (MMRCC) is a student run clinic within the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Department of Community Service (DOCS) program.

Returning to the community after incarceration is a process filled with many challenges –accessing transportation, obtaining a job, finding a place to live. For many formerly incarcerated individuals, this return is made more difficult by chronic health problems. Our model is to partner with local organizations working with individuals recently released from prison to identify a cohort of participants interested in receiving patient navigation services. We then match each of these participants with a medical school student trained to work with this patient population and to be a patient navigator. Medical school students and participants initially meet to establish goals and assess a participant’s health literacy. Subsequent meetings occur biweekly for 6 months and focus on achieving health goals and navigating the health system. Specifically, medical student navigators may assist by identifying healthcare insurance options, locating available clinics, making appointments, and providing social support and encouragement.

Our clinic provides medical students with a positive learning environment to build their knowledge of healthcare issues faced by individuals formerly incarcerated and techniques in motivational interviewing. The DOCS Miami Med Reentry Care Clinic is designed to further the mission of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine by empowering the next generation of physicians to address healthcare disparities and promote the health and well-being of all members of our community. Click here to learn more about the clinic or to apply for patient navigation services.

Exposing the Expansive and Disproportionate Reach of Mass Incarceration

Mass incarceration is one of the most significant outgrowths of systemic anti-Black racism. The harms of incarceration are not only felt by the person behind bars. Children with a parent incarcerated suffer emotional trauma and are more likely to be homeless or placed in foster care. Adult family members are also affected by health-related stressors and financial burdens. For example, in Miami, people spend up to $1,000 per month to talk to their incarcerated loved ones on the phone, forcing numerous families into debt. Because there is a concentrated racial/economic geography to incarceration, the cumulative impact of cycles of incarceration can diminish the economic resources of an entire neighborhood, creating significant pockets of people who are locked out of employment opportunities. Even brief periods of incarceration can have devastating consequences, resulting in the loss of employment, work licensing, and even the custody of one’s children.

We are partnering with Beyond the Bars (BTB), a grassroots membership organization that tackles this system. Its mission is to build the power of incarcerated people and their families with the goal of changing the carceral system from the ground up. Its staff, board, and members are all people who have either been incarcerated themselves or have a family member who is currently incarcerated. We are conducting a hybrid research and service project. UM students will team with members of BTB to conduct a canvassing pilot in selected neighborhoods in preparation for a county-wide canvassing effort to determine 1) the estimated number of county residents who have themselves been incarcerated or who have a family member who has been incarcerated; 2) the demographics of the respondents; 3) the geographic distribution of people impacted by incarceration. Canvassers will also provide information about the services and advocacy in which BTB engages. This project is funded by the University of Miami’s Racial Justice Grant Program and it being conducting in collaboration with Cassandra Michel (student lead), undergraduate student in the UM Department of Psychology, Donna Coker, JD, MSW in the UM School of Law, and Dr. Zinzi Bailey in the Miller School of Medicine.

Prison Visitation Program

Exchange for Change and the Frederick Douglass Project for Justice have teamed up to facilitate structured meetings and respectful conversations between members of free society and people confined to South Florida prisons, so that they can learn from each other, form powerful human connections, and transform both their own lives and society at large. We believe that these unique encounters will spur understanding and empathy–for both visitors and prisoners–that will, in turn, drive meaningful personal and systemic change. With funding from the University of Miami’s Racial Justice Grant Program, we are coordinating visits for student groups across the university campus. This project is being conducted in collaboration with Melanie McKenna (student lead), PhD student Department of Sociology, Sofia Mohommad (staff representative), and Dr. Zinzi Bailey in the Miller School of Medicine. For more information, see the flyer below.

Exchange for Change teaches writing courses in South Florida prisons and runs letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside. The Frederick Douglass Project for Justice seeks to change the public’s perception of the criminal justice system by becoming proximate with the humanity of incarcerated people.