Changing Perceptions enables formerly incarcerated individuals (returning citizens) to reach their full potential, personally and professionally. Our goal is to create a life and career pathway for returning citizens willing to work hard that breaks the cycle of incarceration and intergenerational poverty.We are not a program looking for small results. We are a program focused on returning citizens transforming their lives and those of their families and communities. We focus on people who are ready to go “all in” to change their lives, and we go all in with them- providing seed capital to start a business or an intensive apprenticeship to learn a trade or transferrable skill, intensive mentorship in a focus area of choice, a “Navigator” acting as part case manager and part peer mentor to help each participant set goals and achieve them, and a cocoon of family-like support reminding each person of his or her incredible value and the love their Creator has for them.
We do this because it’s the right thing to do. Because we are all of value, and because we all have things to give and unique gifts to share, but we all need an infrastructure of support around us to be able to reach this potential. We also do this work because it’s smart policy. A year in prison costs $30K. A year on supervised release costs $3K. ~56% of returning citizens recidivate within a year vs. <10% of our participants. That $27K cost difference doesn’t even include the $65 Billion in lost output from felons who can’t find work (Center for Economic Policy and Research). As a society, we are spending (squandering) hundreds of billions of dollars because returning citizens are not reaching their full potential. We aim to change this equation in DC.
This is hard work, by the organization and by each person in the program. Our participants are overcoming a lot to succeed. But it’s work that is worth it- for the significant savings to taxpayers, and for the ripple effect of lives changed when someone is able to find family-sustaining wage work, be a better parent, be a community leader, be a high quality volunteer, etc
Finding high quality employment or starting a business provides the economic infrastructure, but that’s not enough. We provide a family-like atmosphere of support, build community, go on nature retreats, volunteer together, worship together (via many different faiths), and walk alongside each other because we know that the redemptive, supportive, personal infrastructure is also needed for an individual and their loved ones and community to thrive.
Every person has much to give, but to allow all to reach their potential we must change our perceptions, both of what we as society see as the ceiling of what a returning citizen can achieve, and for those of us in the program the perceptions we have of ourselves. When we change these perceptions, we can do transformative things.
Changing Perceptions was conceived by Will Avila, an ex-offender who was sentenced to an adult prison at the age of 16 years and spent 10 years in-and-out of prison struggling to transition back into the community. Will, like so many other returning citizens experienced first-hand the challenges—and rejection—that came with transitioning back into society and the workforce. Finally, in 2014 he decided to start a for-profit business, Clean Decisions (commercial kitchen cleaning and general labor services.) Will dreamt of helping employ returning citizens—people like him—who longed for an opportunity to prove to society they are worth investing. Clean Decisions has successfully provided full- and part-time employment to over 30 people, and they have a 100% anti-recidivism rate. However, in addition to employment, what the year highlighted was the desperate need for therapeutic and supportive services. Returning citizens not only struggle to find employment, but they also need training and counseling to help them successfully transition back into contributing members of society. Thus emerged Changing Perceptions.
Staff and Board
Changing Perceptions is founded and led by returning citizens. This ethos that we have the ability to change our own course and that of our brothers and sisters coming out of incarceration is important to us, which is why our paid staff are all returning citizens, albeit further ahead in their journey toward reaching personal and professional fulfillment than those just joining our program. They act as Navigators- part peer mentor and part case manager- helping program participants stabilize life and be ready to reach their own potential.
Current navigators are Will Avila, Charlie Curtis, Charles Binion, and Charles General.
Mr. Avila is founder and CEO of Clean Decisions, a general labor services firm employing only returning citizens. He is the visionary behind Changing Perceptions, a leader in and frequent speaker on re-entry policy, and a proud father. This program stands on his shoulders.
Swathi is a Sports & Entertainment Lawyer at Hausfeld Global Litigation Solutions who was drawn to this work in order to promote a level playing field for all parties involved in major sports. She brings this same desire for a level playing field to her work supporting Changing Perceptions, and in her current pro bono work and previous role at a civil rights legal clinic, as well as through her work on multiple presidential campaigns and working for then Senator Hillary Clinton.
Father Gregory Boyle, Emeritus
Founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles, CA, the world’s largest gang intervention, re-entry, and rehabilitation organization. Fr. Boyle — or “G-Dog” as he’s endearingly referred to by the “homies”– is an expert on gangs, intervention, and reentry approaches for formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and woman. He is a consultant to youth service and governmental agencies, policy-makers, and employers. He currently serves on the advisory boards for The National Gang Center Advisory Board (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention) and Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy. Fr. Boyle is an internationally renowned speaker and author of the NY Times Bestselling book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.
Charlie Curtis, COO, Clean Decisions. Mr. Curtis is a published poet, has won a DC Father of the Year Award from Council member Kenyan McDuffie, and, in his estimation, is the best driver in all of DC. Due to the positive impact he is making on the community, Charlie was just given early release from parole in early February, which is the first time he has not been incarcerated or on parole since the age of 13.
Mr. Ditto is President and CEO of Ditto Residential, a DC-based real estate development company. His professional interest focuses on creating beautiful spaces by providing more thought, time, and care into their creation than a typical provider. His personal interest aligns with this same ethos of thoughtfulness- analyzing how to live in the most mindful way possible, and being just as smart in designing a supportive infrastructure to help people reach their full potential.
Ms. Holland is an events professional responsible for running the largest outdoor food festival in the nation, Taste of DC, along with numerous other large-scale festivals and events. She has partnered with Clean Decisions professionally through her events work, and places great importance on leveraging her business to drive good.Ms. Holland has volunteered with Homeboy Industries when living in California, and is passionate about supporting returning citizens’ opportunities for employment.
Ms. Koro is a Senior Vice President at The Advisory Board Company, a publicly-traded organization focused on elevating the performance of healthcare and higher education organizations. In that role she has personally advised the country’s most progressive healthcare institutions, such as The Cleveland Clinic, The Mayo Clinic, and Intermountain Healthcare. She has also leveraged this business acumen to mentor returning citizens launching and growing their own businesses.
Mr. McLaughlin leads the corporate responsibility program at The Advisory Board Company, and is a frequent writer and speaker on best practices in the CSR industry. He has served on numerous Boards in the DC area, and past volunteerism has included work at the Youth Services Center and mentoring two young men.
Mr. Mutryn is CFO of CACI International, a multinational Fortune 1000 professional services and information technology firm supporting the federal government and national defense. He is a passionate supporter of programs to prevent and treat addiction, and has founded his own non-profit recovery house in Maryland, Mike’s Place. Tom is also on the board of Caron DC and the Ruddie Memorial Youth Foundation. He enjoys working out with the Changing Perceptions members during the Pancake Saturday workouts, where he is a regular.
Ms. Tribble is CEO of Ground Game, a political consulting firm focused on campaigns that build bridges between government, community, and business. She is also a passionate advocate for many in the city, playing leadership roles in activism supporting the LGBTQ community as well as Ward 8 residents, with an even more specific focus on community health, including as co-founder of the non-profit Community Wellness Collective and as a board member of United Medical Center.
Mr. Tyle is a Principal and Co-Head of the Seed Practice at NEA, a venture capital firm. He has invested in and incubated hundreds of businesses, including leading his former firm’s investment in Snapdeal, now India’s largest e-commerce marketplace and currently valued at over $5M, and personally investing seed capital in organizations like Pinterest and HelloGiggles (acquired by Time). Sheel has been recognized by Forbes as a 30 under 30 and is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. He marries his knowledge of how to grow businesses with his passion for providing returning citizens opportunity.