On Jan. 10, the Santa Cruz branch of Friends Outside hosted a fundraiser at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery. A portion of the drinks purchased between 12–10 p.m. went to the California-based nonprofit, which is dedicated to providing support not only to those who are incarcerated, but also to their families.
For the past few years, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery has been supporting local nonprofits such as Friends Outside by hosting fundraisers on certain Thursdays, where the bar charges one dollar per pint.
Among the patrons attending the fundraiser was Mike, a middle-aged man sharing drinks and laughs with three of his friends. He declined to give his last name.
“We’re here to support the fundraiser and to have a good time,” Mike said. “I’ve seen the difficulties incarcerated people face when re-entering society. It’s a cause I support.”
Lupe, a fundraising volunteer for Friends Outside who also declined to give her last name, said it was important that the organization reincorporates recently incarcerated people back into society.
“Our goal is to offer better aftercare for clients,” Lupe said. “Re-entering into society after incarceration is difficult, so we provide them with a variety of things ranging from bus passes, to food, to helping them find housing.”
Diana Adams, program director for the Santa Cruz branch of Friends Outside, said the organization also helps during the incarceration period.
“We have jail visitors, some of which are UC Santa Cruz students, who go into the jails and meet with inmates who requested Friends Outside visitors,” Adams said. “We help them, from contacting family members, relaying messages, picking up property, even helping them out with papers or explaining the process in how the family can get involved and help.”
Adams said the services Friends Outside provides are particularly important for first time offenders and their families.
“Most people who have family members in jail, it’s their first time so they don’t know what to do,” Adams said. “So we can help them in taking the right steps.”
Friends Outside not only assists those currently incarcerated, but also their families to cope with the trauma of arrest. The organization is also working on the Family Reunification Project, a project focused on reducing foster care and increasing kinship care, something they see as the best alternative for children unable to be cared for by their parents.
According to a 2007 report done by the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group for reform in crime and punishment, there were an estimated 1.7 million parents in prison who had a minor child, an 82 percent increase since 1991. In the same report, it reveals that one in 43 American children had a parent in prison.
Friends Outside strives to keep families intact, a central tenet of the nonprofit’s philosophy.
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing wholeheartedly supports Friends Outside and their mission.
“Everyone knows someone who’s been incarcerated,” said Anthony Carlson, the sales and distribution manager at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. “Re-entry is pretty difficult for incarcerated people, so we support Friends Outside’s mission.”