About Direct Your Life
Direct Your Life believes that correctional institutions are filled with people who have untapped potential. Over 90% of inmates arrive at these institutions without a high school diploma, while over 70% have never made it past the ninth grade. We help participants access opportunities and receive mentorship that equips them with the life skills, education and supports necessary to increase the likelihood that they will reintegrate successfully into society
Our objective is to make positive changes in the community through a restorative justice approach. Restorative justice invites the victims of crime and the community to participate in a process of dealing with offenders and repairing the harm caused by the offender. Retribution and punishment, key elements of traditional criminal justice processing, play less of a role. A restorative approach takes Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair and Reintegration. It is essential to produce a real and lasting transformation in the lives of individuals. DIRECT YOUR LIFE mentors these individuals on building good habits that foster success, while also providing meaningful connections in their communities and a positive support system.
About Our Participants
DYL works with the Kennedy House Youth Treatment Center, Kennedy House Youth Shelter, Vanier Center for Women and Collins Bay Institution. The participants in these programs want to be employed upon release but need support to reach their goals and meet their potential.
Our target population experiences complex institutional and emotional barriers, such as lack of social support, and lack of access to education and meaningful employment. Other challenges and barriers include poverty,housing insecurity and/or homelessness, and cycles of trauma inflicted by the system and their environment. The lack of timely support for their basic needs, such as housing, employment, or mental health supports, as well as barriers in the system that limit their opportunities to find stability in the labour market (i.e., stigma of a criminal record), creates tension and motivation for individuals to re-offend just to make ends meet and survive.
Why Our Work is Needed
Public Safety Canada finds that Canadian federal offenders face poor economic outcomes, even years after their release from a correctional institution. In a 2014 analysis of taxes, many released offenders were earning below the poverty line with a median income of $0. Only half of released offenders from Corrections Services Canada institutions who filed taxes that year were participating in the labor market The average income of those who reported employment income was $14,000, which was at least half of the median employment income reported by men ($39,580) and women ($27,750) in the general Canadian population that year.
As such, it is not surprising that many individuals with a criminal record are almost 10 times more reliant on government support agencies than individuals within the general population. In our sample, 41% received at least some form of social assistance payment; a rate that is almost 10 times higher than the general Canadian population.
DYL found that certain characteristics were linked to employment income for released federal offenders. Women received more social assistance payments than men (54.5% vs. 39.9%), but their earnings remained significantly lower even 14 years after leaving a correctional institution (under $10,000 for women vs. over $14,000 for men). Similarly, Indigenous individuals earned less than non-Indigenous individuals, with an average income of just over $10,000 for Indigenous individuals and just under $15,000 for non-Indigenous individuals.
This illustrates how interactions with the federal criminal justice system can have financial consequences for people for the rest of their lives and why mentorship is critical to facilitating and encouraging stronger outcomes for justice involved youth.
How DYL guides our work:
Olusola Olumogba founded Direct Your Life in 2015 with the goal of creating a safe and supportive environment for released, formerly incarcerated individuals. Olusola faced his greatest life challenge in 2007 when he was embroiled in the criminal justice system. He was lucky enough to have a support system in place that allowed him to get back on his feet, but realized many others do not.
In 2010, Olusola graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor's degree in Criminology and Media Studies. A former collegiate athlete and ex-CFL agent, Olusola also runs InstantScouting to help athletes secure professional opportunities. He was honoured with the Top 30 Under Thirty Award by Sports Launch Magazine. Olusola has held several leadership positions across organizations dedicated to supporting underserved individuals. He served on the Board of Directors at the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals. Olusola has volunteered at United Way and the Brampton St. Leonard’s Halfway House, of which he was a resident.
Volunteering at St. Leonard’s inspired Olusola to start Direct Your Life to empower recently released individuals through coaching, mentorship, and training. He completed the YouthREX Critical Youth Work: Bridging Theory and Practice Certificate at York University in 2018. He is a trained Critical Period Interventionist for people with high risk behaviour and people impacted by gang activity. Olusola holds speaking engagements at schools, prisons, and halfway houses. He has formed partnerships with the Province of Ontario, Islamic Relief Canada, Major League Sports Entertainment, and United Way GTA to provide individuals supported through Direct Your Life with resources and job opportunities. Olusola’s partnership with the Province of Ontario and Toronto Community Benefits Network resulted in the co-founding of NexGen Builders Mentoring Program which offers individuals from the Black, Indigenous, and newcomer communities with apprenticeships in construction.
Olusola is uniquely positioned to lead Direct Your Life bringing together his personal and professional experiences. Olusola has continued to expand the impact of Direct Your Life by building a team of community leaders. To date, 320 people have been supported by Direct Your Life through group sessions and 64 have been supported one-on-one. Olusola’s goal is to continue to grow those figures to empower recently released individuals and remind them to never give up on themselves.