The IF Project

 The IF Project began in 2008 when Seattle Police Detective Kim Bogucki traveled to the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) after becoming a Girl Scouts Beyond the Bars partner.  As part of her assignment in the SPD Youth Outreach Unit, Detective Bogucki worked with girl scouts whose mothers were incarcerated at WCCW. Kim wanted to meet their mothers to discuss the program and to explain why a police officer was meeting with their daughters. Kim also wanted to tell the girls that she had met their mothers and to assure their mothers that the police would not say anything negative about them to their children. Kim hoped her visit would start to build trust among the inmates, their daughters, and the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars organization. Neither Kim nor the mothers knew at the time that this first meeting would lead to a national model exemplifying a unique collaboration involving police and prisoners working in partnership to help at-risk youth take a positive path.

Origins of the IF question

Being a police detective, when Kim entered WCCW for the first time, she was understandably nervous.  The dozen or so female prisoners attending that first meeting were also understandably suspect of Kim.  Why was a police officer bothering their daughters? How could they trust Kim to deliver a positive message to their children? When the meeting got underway, Kim introduced herself and let all know that she became involved in Girl Scouts Beyond Bars to ensure that their daughters did not become victims of crime and to support them in following a productive life path. Kim wanted to do everything in her power to prove the statistics wrong.  So in order for history not to repeat itself, Kim asked the women a simple question: “If there was something someone could have said or done to change the path that led you here what would it have been?”  The IF Project took off soon thereafter when one inmate, Renata Abramson, started collecting essays answering the IF question from meeting attendees and  even non-attendees throughout the prison.  When Kim returned for a follow-up meeting a few weeks later, Renata handed her 25 essays, and thus began the IF Project.

Today the IF Project has developed into a formal prevention program that relies on a multi-media curriculum. The goal is to help at-risk youth gain additional understanding and enough trust to ask for help. Partnering with school social workers and other mental and medical health professionals, the IF team listens, engages, guides and helps refer youth to needed services.  Statistics for the program for 2015 are impressive:

  • 58 IF Program workshops were attended by youth
  • 16 workshops were presented in juvenile detention facilities
  • 42 workshops were presented in Seattle Public Schools
  • IF  worked with 25 trainers who were formally incarcerated at WCCW
  • 66 IF writing workshops were conducted inside of WCCW
  • IF is maintaining 75 mentors who meet at least once a week with women recently released from WCCW (mentees). In 2015, there were over 3,600 contacts between mentors and mentees
  • IF provided 4 training sessions for 75 mentees
  • IF provided 4 training workshops for mentors
  • IF is contracted by King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to conduct their monthly mandated Truancy Workshops in Seattle. Numerous schools have contacted the coordinator and expressed success in the youth coming back and engaging in schools


The IF Project Partners

Under IF, the police step out of their traditional role of enforcing laws to promoting intervention, prevention, and to reducing recidivism and incarceration. Incarcerated adults refocus their efforts to guide future generations, preventing them from repeating their mistakes while also developing themselves and materials for the classroom.  Schools partner with law enforcement and corrections, embracing their role directing youth to needed services. Finally, reentrants serve as mentors and teachers, providing real life curriculum material while also learning responsibility and job skills.

Your support of Seattle Police Foundation provides clear, measureable results for making Seattle safer:

Researchers from Seattle University developed an evaluation component to measure how many youth are helped through the program.  The evaluation documented how many youth asked for help and were referred to needed services. The evaluation also looked at how the inmates inside WCCW were affected by the program. Process outcomes relating to the number of inmates who attend monthly writing workshops and workshop evaluations were collected.  The 120-page evaluation completed by Seattle University showed that the IF program helped youth to ask for help, increased trust level for both youth and adults with law enforcement, and that the inmates and youth felt hope for the first time in their lives.

Additionally, the Seattle Police Department, as a direct result of all the work that had gone into the IF Project, received a $1,000,000 federal grant to assist in the creation of a Women’s Reentry Transition Center. This is the first time a police department has received a Second Chance Act Grant to implement a reentry strategy. This would hot have been possible without financial and fiscal management support from Seattle Police Foundation over the past 7 years to build a solid and respected program.

The IF Project has built very solid relationships with various state, county, and city agencies who are working on youth violence prevention, youth intervention and prevention, and recidivism reduction. The Department of Corrections collaboration in the Reentry project has strengthened police and DOC relationships. Probation officers have reported to Detective Kim Bogucki that they appreciate the program and have referred several of their clients to be on the IF Team.

In Seattle Public Schools, IF is currently in 8 schools. In 2016, IF will be conducting 3-part workshops inside King County Detention. This collaboration assists in working with the youth on a reentry plan as well as providing mentoring.

IF continues to conduct workshops for Pioneer Human Service's Roadmap to Success. This workshop consists of those who were recently released from prison and adults getting out of chemical dependency treatment. Working with Roadmap to Success is a rewarding experience for all participants. Reentrants are able to see how far they have come, and they are given hope -- they see those that have come before them having success and giving back.

The IF Project has dramatically improved relationships among police and adults, and especially with youth who previously looked at police as the enemy. Former and current incarcerated adults and youth have seen the police in a different light. Having police work side by side with former inmates has blurred the “us and them” lines and is a true community based collaborative project.

There have been numerous calls from case managers and youth posting to the IF Facebook page that the project has changed their lives. It has helped them make healthier more positive choices. The youth have stated they finally feel heard and understood and it feels safe to ask for help.