This is a cursory review of identity used by organizations that directly support offenders and ex-offenders. Also included are peripheral organizations whose efforts are aimed at transitioning ex-offenders from incarceration and lifestyle patterns that lead to incarceration, many proving 360-degree family support. This list is by no means complete, but the cross section herein gives a view of what organizations exist and how they communicate not only to their clients in the justice system, but also to the supporting government and corporate institutions, and to the public.
This review shows the organization’s brand, an excerpt from their statements of purpose or mission, and a description of the brand graphic. Each of the brands’ graphics are linked to the respective organizations’ website.
Children of Promise, in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, focuses on the children of incarcerated parents rather than only the ex-offender adult. It recognizes that offender patterns develop in families, and it offers programs for children and parents to interrupt these patterns.
Language: Children of Promise, NYC (CPNYC) is a community based, non-profit organization, in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed Stuy) Brooklyn, whose mission is to embrace the children of incarcerated parents and empower them to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system.
CPNYC offers an innovative and unique after-school program and summer day camp, the only one of its kind in New York City, specifically designed to meet the needs, interests and concerns of children left behind by parents serving time in prison.
Graphically: Features simplified people symbols commonly found in not-for-profit organizations. The parent and child symbol are both represented together with the parent symbol touching a star, which may imply hope, resource, or future.
Sheltering Arms (formerly Episcopal Social Services) is a New York City family-based organization that provides a variety of services for low-income people including juvenile justice programs and family support for those in the offender-justice cycle.
Language: ESS’ Family Preservation Program works with 105 families each year in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx. Our goal is to avert foster care placement for 200 – 300 children and teens, and we also help with children’s transitions from foster care back to family caretakers. Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of all children in the household by addressing risk factors before the home environment tips toward child abuse or neglect.
ESS is proud of our 97% success rate in keeping families intact, achieved by dedicated work in support of stabilizing home environments and strengthening family relationships.
Graphically: The original identity could be described similar to the Christ the Redeemer statue that looks over Rio de Janeiro. The new name, Sheltering Arms, is presented in typography only, and the type’s presentation, which includes its date of establishment, could easily replicate a cornerstone chiseled indicia referring to the organization’s longevity and stability.
Exodus Transitional Community, Inc. is a faith-based organization that offers support for ex-offenders to reintegrate into their communities. It works from locations in East Harlem, Poughkeepsie, and Newburg, New York.
Language: Exodus Transitional Community, Inc. (Exodus) was founded in 1999, by Mr. Julio Medina. Exodus began as a grassroots organization built on the notion that individuals released from prison cannot be released into mainstream society without any resources to support their transition. Throughout his twelve year sentence, Mr. Medina constantly witnessed his peers succumb to the desperation of not being able to find employment, reconnect with their families or adapt to a changed society, despite their desire to embrace their freedom and re-create their lives without crime. Stymied by the gap in services necessary to address their transition and goals to live productive lives, they found themselves trapped in the criminal justice’s revolving door. As a result, Mr. Medina vowed to dedicate his life to breaking the cycle of recidivism through the replication of Exodus, a prison group that provided transitional services and was modeled after the Book of Exodus (there’s a lot more).
Exodus’s subsequent success at meeting the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals has garnered national attention. In 2004, we were chosen as the signature program by the White House for faith based post-release initiatives.
Graphically: Exodus is one of the few organizations to break from the Microsoft blue color palette and the use of people symbols. Its custom typographic form includes a phoenix or eagle symbol and could be inspired by a motorcycle or tattoo imagery.
National Fatherhood Initiative, operating nationally but located in Maryland, offers programs and maintains databases of resources for fathers of all backgrounds.
Language: National Fatherhood Initiative’s Mission: To improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.
We strive to ensure a brighter future for America’s youth. By equipping and educating fathers, we’re working on an issue that is at the core of our nation’s well-being.
Graphically: This organization uses a grayscale photographic image of a dad and child hand. They are enclosed into a rounded-corner icon shape and supported with a bold serif typeface.
Father Source is a database resource effort of the National Fatherhood Initiative above. It is a database resource of activities, materials, groups, and ideas to support fathers of all backgrounds.
Language: Dedicated to giving children a brighter future by connecting fathers and families, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is working hard to strengthen communities like yours across the country.
Mission and Strategy
NFI’s mission is to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with an involved, responsible, and committed father.
To accomplish our mission, we use what we call our 3-E Strategy:
- Educating and inspiring all Americans
- Equipping organizations and fathers in six different sectors of society
- Engaging all sectors of society around this issue
Graphically: The symbol is a combination parent-child human symbol of a very simple geometric type. It uses light and bold sanserif type to communicate the organization name.
The Fortune Society is a ex-offender organization based in Queens, New York. There programs include housing, work, family, addiction, health, and mental health.
Language: Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society’s vision is to create a world where all who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated can become positive, contributing members of society. We do this through a holistic, one-stop model of service provision. Our continuum of care, informed and implemented by professionals with cultural backgrounds and life experiences similar to those of our clients, helps ensure their success. Fortune serves approximately 3,000 men and women annually via three primary New York City-area locations: our service center in Long Island City, and both the Fortune Academy (a.k.a. “the Castle”) and Castle Gardens in West Harlem. Our program models are frequently recognized, both nationally and internationally, for their quality and innovation. Click here to view a summary of Fortune’s program and service accomplishments over the past year.
Graphically: The Fortune Society brilliantly uses a bird leaving a cage for a symbol. It is simple, and the bird’s upward motion neatly captures the organizations progressive approach to changing lives of ex-offenders.
Healthy Fathering Collaborative in Cleveland supports men from of all ages with an emphasis on father-children relationships.
Language: Our focus is to create access to education, services and support throughout the lifespan of fatherhood. There are five primary stages in the lifespan of fatherhood: Fatherhood Preparation, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Early Childhood, and Parenting School-Age Children. The 6th stage, preparing young males for the next generation of fatherhood, cycles back to the first stage in our lifespan model.
Graphically: Using humanoid shapes viewed from above looking down, the symbol captures a moment before a parental embrace. The chosen colors are fresh warm greens.
Homeboy Industries directs its efforts at women and men who have been incarcerated using progressive tactics to disconnect ex-offenders from destructive behavior and patterns.
Language: Recidivism among youthful offenders is extremely high: 2/3 will be re-arrested, up to 1/3 re-incarcerated within a few years after release
“The math on these sorts of initiatives is simple,” says Adam Gelb, a public-safety specialist at the Pew Center on the States: A day in prison costs $79 on average; a day on probation costs $3.42. “States can substantially beef up supervision in the community and do it at a fraction of the cost of a prison cell,” he says. (Wall Street Journal March 20, 2010).
According to the California Department of Education, the rate of 9-12th dropping out among black high school students rose to 43.5% and to 36.1% for Hispanic/Latino students in 2009. In East Los Angeles, over 53% of adults never completed high school. In October 2010, Education Week labeled Los Angeles the “dropout epicenter” of the nation. Los Angeles County is home to 34% of California’s poor, with a poverty rate of 16.1%. 75% of youth gang homicides in the state of California occur in Los Angeles County.
Graphically: This identity could easily double for an emerging West LA or Williamsburg fashion brand. The organization name is presented as a mid century industrial monogram (wildly popular now in consumer product design and entertainment), and it’s by-line is a show-stopper.
Hope House in Washington, DC offers teleconferencing, reading, lectures, films, and mother-child programs to strengthen families who are separated when parents are incarcerated.
Language: Hope House began in 1998 providing cutting edge programs to strengthen families and, in particular, the relational bonds between children and their fathers imprisoned far from home. In addition our goals include reducing the isolation, stigma, shame and risk these families experience when fathers and husbands are imprisoned, and to raise public awareness about this most at-risk population.
Graphically: An unusual symbol of an H shape with photographic hands forming the roof of the house, all encased in two opposing corner shapes that create a perfect square. It conveys security and partnership. The adjoining type is a shadowed version of the sanserif typeface, Futura.
The Osborne Association uses work-related programs and public advocacy to help ex-offenders.
Language: The Osborne Association offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives through innovative, effective, and replicable programs that serve the community by reducing crime and its human and economic costs. We offer opportunities for reform and rehabilitation through public education, advocacy, and alternatives to incarceration that respect the dignity of people and honor their capacity to change.
Graphically: The Osborne Association uses a circular orb showing a door with a pathway out. The sanserif type is integrated with the symbol as is the by-line. Warm Spring green is used for all elements.
Span, Inc. is a Boston-based organization that works with offenders/ex-offenders to deter behavior that sends people to prison.
Language: Our mission is to assist people who are or have been in prison to achieve healthy, productive and meaningful lives.
We believe that breaking the cycles of addiction, unemployment, crime, and imprisonment benefits everyone – victims, offenders, families, and communities. By treating our clients with dignity and respect and by encouraging them to take advantage of the life-changing tools we offer, we are fulfilling our duty to help these men and women who are in need to rebuild their lives.
Graphically: Nearly a full color humanoid illustration and storyboard, this identity portrays an entire incarceration-to-freedom pathway.
Passages is a faith-based organization in Cleveland that offers workforce related programs to parents that include job applications, literacy, interviewing, computers, finance, stress, and life skills.
Language: At a small desk in his attic in 2000, Rev. Dr. Brian Moore committed himself to strengthening urban families. As the son of a single mother raised in public housing in Cleveland’s dangerous Central neighborhood and as an urban minister for 25 years at that time, Dr. Moore recognized that the families of incarcerated men were in crisis. His experience as a prison chaplain opened his eyes to the corrections system’s residual, and often invisible, victims; the children and families of the convicted. It became unbearably clear to Dr. Moore that a sentence of 1 or 2 years feels like eternity to an innocent child who has no way of reaching his incarcerated mom or dad. This led Dr. Moore to secure a van that was more than a transportation vehicle; it was also a healing vehicle. He began transporting family members to visit loved ones in correctional facilities all over Ohio. With Dr. Moore’s help, children visited their convicted mothers in Marysville (central Ohio), and they visited their convicted fathers at the state’s other 33 institutions. As a result, severed families began to sew themselves back together.
Graphically: Passages uses a swerving path shape to communicate a process or a transition from a former ex-offender life to a new society-integrated life. The name and symbol are encased in a round-corner rectangle, and its by-line encompasses both the family and the community.
There is no shortage of organizations inside or out of those servicing ex-offenders using humanoid shapes in victory poses or nested compositions. They are Christ-like in appearance or much like a comforting Madonna and Child. The United Way and the former YMCA identities are landmark examples of this. The most clever and professionally executed versions of humanoid symbols speak to the public and institutional realms repeatedly, and they create a type of nonprofit social service visual vocabulary we all recognize.
However, once organizations stray from the humanoid nonprofit visual lexicon and explore other symbolism, whether primitive tattoo-like or entertainment-fashion in nature, then real differentiation and uniqueness occurs. Some of these symbols are clearly aimed at target clients, other, like the Homeboy Industries identity, uses a fashion label approach to attract both target clients and supporting institutions. Sheltering Arms instead embraces and celebrates its longevity of success and its institutional presence by creating a corner stone.
The Fortune Society stands apart from the rest by solving its identity showing the incarceration-to-freedom narrative in one handy symbol while Osborne Association uses a circle to create a dark place where an open door invites us to escape.
It is clear that Midtown Community Court must represent its efforts with symbols that communicate to lawyers, the State and City government, corporate sponsors and potential employers. However, the ex-offender uses a completely different symbolic language that originates in urban survival and hardship tribalism, and it will be our goal to create brand identity that unites Midtown Community Court’s two parallel ex-offender services, and combines them into an effective job-readiness and family-supporting brand — an identity that institutions supporting Midtown Community Court can place their support behind, while the ex-offender takes ownership of it and claims it as identity for his or her personal transformation.