OAR is Committed to Equity
Dear Friends of OAR,
The reason we are writing is twofold: first, to thank you for continuing to support the organization through this challenging time, and second, to share a brief update on where we’re heading.
OAR is an agency that works with some of the most underserved people in our community. It is important to us that all of our procedures, services, actions, and intentions are just, fair, and equitable. The nation-wide spotlight on issues related to justice and equity prompted OAR to institute equity trainings and conduct an independent, organization-wide equity audit.
We are pleased at the findings of the audit. The audit confirmed that OAR is committed to being a just and equitable organization. However, we learned that our commitment to justice and equity is not fully documented in all OAR policies and procedures. After much deliberation and many frank conversations, the audit has put us in the position to do much more. Below you will find the changes we plan to implement as an organization.
- Programs: OAR will conduct a deeper investigation into the impact of race on OAR’s clients and their reentry journeys. This will include the assessment and potential adaptation of programming and service delivery (e.g., course materials and content) to account for any biases.
- Governance: Priorities for justice and ongoing self-assessment will be built into our strategic planning process. We will formalize Board member recruitment policies and more actively recruit candidates with diverse backgrounds that reflects the population OAR serves.
- Internal Policies and Practices: OAR will revise existing policies and create new ones that acknowledge and seek to identify potential bias and inequity in the organization’s operations. These include explicit changes in the employee handbook on equity and harassment, ongoing and structured racial bias training at all levels of the organization, and an equity wage review. OAR will also revise policies and outreach attempts related to recruitment of diverse volunteers.
- Partnerships and Community: Engagement of the broader community will be a critical step. We are developing a written procurement policy that will include increased partnerships with both minority-owned organizations and businesses that prioritize equity and justice. We will advocate for partnerships that promote diversion and reduce mass incarceration, which disproportionately impacts people of color, and expand advocacy efforts led by our Board’s legislative advocacy team.
OAR is committed to being an equitable organization and will to work towards achieving our vision of a world where all people impacted by the justice system have equitable opportunities to lead fulfilling lives. In our 50th year of service to the community, we celebrate the ongoing changes and improvements that OAR has made since our start. Thank you for passionately supporting the OAR mission. We hope to see you this Fall at our annual event to celebrate the progress made by our clients and the great support from our volunteers and sponsors.
In solidarity and with gratitude,
Evan Vahouny, OAR Board Chair and Derwin Overton, Executive Director