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A newly revamped initiative aims to make Utah a model example of the success that can result when state, federal and community entities join together to provide services and second chances for people who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

The initiative is called ASCENT (Achieving Success Through Collaborative Engagement and Navigated Transition).

ASCENT was officially launched on August 24. ASCENT brings together key agencies and partners to tackle obstacles that keep offenders from achieving success and rejoining our communities as law-abiding citizens.

Those obstacles often include access to housing, employment, education, treatment and transportation. Efforts to help offenders succeed must incorporate victim assistance and public safety, which will also be a focus of ASCENT.

ASCENT is not a program itself, but instead is a coalition of multiple service providers and those interested in helping. ASCENT intends to establish a dialogue and cohesive action among partners who already offer services to people being released from prison as well as those who could improve how they offer services to that population.

By bringing together a variety of government and non-government participants, ASCENT intends to get services delivered with less confusion or duplication, which in many cases will ensure more people are served without relying on additional taxpayer dollars. The group also intends to see where there are gaps in current services and create new programs or opportunities to fill those needs. By addressing this issue in a cooperative way, ASCENT has the potential to reduce recidivism, increase successful re-entry and ultimately better protect public safety.

Some of the partners participating in ASCENT include: Corrections; Board of Pardons and Parole; Workforce Services; Human Services; Office of Rehabilitation; State Office of Education; U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services; Federal Public Defender District of Utah; housing authorities (county and state); faith groups; treatment providers; and others.