In an exclusive interview with The Seattle Lesbian, The IF Project‘s Detective Kim Bogucki says she is aware that so often the incarcerated population is silenced by reputation alone, and offers suggestions on ways to change their trajectory.
“I believe [the situation] can be turned around by sharing the very human stories that brought them to the place in their lives that led to incarceration in the first place,” she says. “We, as a people, need to look at each person individually before passing judgment, and realize that they are going to be members of our community. It benefits all of us to provide the supports the formerly incarcerated need to successfully reenter the community.”
According to her bio, the out detective co-created the West Side Story Project in 2007 to bring together young people and law enforcement around the performing arts to address the plight of gang violence. She also developed the Donut Dialogues, a series of programs that engaged young people and law enforcement to enhance connectedness and dispel misconceptions about police officers. Det. Bogucki recently launched Kind 2 All, a non-profit focused on creating communities of kindness.
Det. Bogucki has received numerous awards for her work, including The Red Cross Heroes Award, the Seattle Storm’s (WNBA) Women that Inspire Award, the Center for Children’s Youth and Justice President’s Award, the Seattle Police Foundation Excellence Award, the Department of Corrections Volunteer of the Year at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW), the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) Community Leader Award, and Washington State Mentors Association Unsung Heroes Award.
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has praised the community leader’s work.
“One of the most significant public safety investments we can make is to do more to prepare people leaving our criminal justice system for a successful re-entry to society.” Inslee said. “Det. Bogucki recognizes this and helping to motivate inmates for success post-incarceration. Kim is making a real difference in people’s lives and I am pleased to have her input, counsel and guidance through her work on the Statewide Reentry Council and the Advisory Committee for Youth Homelessness.”
Det. Bogucki formed The IF Project in 2008 with “formerly justice involved folks” as a means to represent the diverse community the organization serves.
“The IF Project team is primarily composed of formerly justice involved folks. They are both men and woman and represent diversity on all levels,” she says. “In our workshops for youth, they courageously and honestly tell their story. Not in an aggressive manner, but from their hearts. It isn’t always easy for them, but they find it cathartic to give back and help a younger person hopefully learn from their mistakes and not follow in their footsteps. They continually inspire me and make me a better person and a much better cop.”
The IF Project co-founder Kathlyn Horan (The Indigo Girls: One Lost Day) is “one of the most creative and skilled storytellers I have ever met, and one of my best friends,” Det. Bogucki says. “She has a big heart and uses her talent and experience to expose and explore social issues that need our attention and to inspire change. She does it because she genuinely cares about making the world a more fair and equal place for all people.”
In fact, The IF Project documentary was Horan’s idea.
“We were filming our work inside the prison for an education piece to use in our youth workshops and Kathlyn just kept rolling film,” Det. Bogucki recalls. “She wanted to gather and document what was unfolding. We were talking just recently about how we had been trying to get the documentary done for quite a while, but we realize now that it got finished at just the right time. Mass incarceration, race relations and policing are top of mind in our country today and many people are starting to realize that we need to make change. I also think that our systems are beginning to understand that the reasons that women and men end up in prison are very different and the things they need to successfully reenter society are different. It’s the perfect time for it to come out because people are more ready to see it.”
Aljazeera reports that there have been 441 sweeps of illegal homeless encampments in Seattle since November 2015. During this time, approximately 126 people received permanent housing provisions. Seattle City Councilmembers are currently negotiating how best to handle the growing homeless crisis. The city of Seattle released a statement saying, “On any given night in Seattle, 2,813 are living unsheltered in our community. To address this, each year HSD spends $40.84 million to assist single adults, youth, young adults, and families, survivors of domestic violence, older adults and veterans who are currently at-risk of or experiencing homelessness.”
“It is a well-known fact that a person with a felony on their record has a very difficult time finding housing, and the bias they experience from landlords can lead to homelessness,” Det. Bogucki shares. “We are fortunate that Seattle has a ‘ban the box’ ordinance that says that landlords cannot ask about felony status on rental applications. I do not think incarceration or felonies are a significant part of the homeless issue, but I do believe it is small part of the problem.”
Det. Bogucki has been employed with the Seattle Police Department for over 28 years. She is currently assigned to the Community Outreach unit.
“The IF Project is about 95% of my job. I am fortunate that SPD fully supports the project,” she says. “It makes sense – this project is about intervention, prevention and the reduction of incarceration and recidivism. We believe The IF Project is leading to a reduction in the crime rate and recidivism. We are bringing together parts of the community that have had less than favorable relationships with the police and is helping us to understand each other better.”
She adds, “The Seattle Police Department has always been supportive of ‘out of the box’ community engagement type of policing – you just don’t always hear about it. We in policing aren’t accustomed to saying ‘Hey look over here, look at what we are doing.’ We just go to work and do our jobs. Seattle police officers have been doing innovative policing throughout my career.”
There’s no doubt Det. Bogucki has seen quite a lot during her tenure with SPD, so what would she like to change about the system if given the chance?
“I would say that we are starting to have much needed conversations about re-entry and what real rehabilitation looks like,” she says. “First, we need to address racial bias and the breakdown in communication between police and the community. And I believe we need to really look at the inadequate resources to address our mental health and substance abuse issues which contribute to our broken system.”
Another contributing factor to a broken system – the common misconception “that everyone that has a felony is the same, because they are not,” she says. “Each person is an individual – each with reasons that landed them in prison and at different places in taking responsibility for their actions and preparing to be productive members of our community. They should not be lumped into one box. I think people assume that they are not smart, but a lot of them are extremely intelligent and articulate. Even the ones without a degree or diploma have had an unimaginable ‘school of life’ that could help us start to make some much needed changes in our system. They are an untapped resource.”
Favorite music/band: Of course, as any good Seattle lesbian should respond, Brandi Carlile! Not only is she a brilliant musician, she has been a big supporter from day one of The IF Project and continues to be.
Favorite dinner after a hard day: My comfort food is Pho at Ba Bar. I practically have a table with a name on it there.
How do you unwind? Work out and meditate.
Favorite Seattle haunt: Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle.
Det. Bogucki believes that by exposing the community’s preconceived notions, a bridge might be formed.
“If people would listen to the stories of folks who have been incarcerated, they would understand that they have more in common than they would think,” she says. “That we have laws and practices on our books that make it nearly impossible for formerly criminally justice people involved to succeed, often leading to a revolving door in our prisons. When we look at high recidivism rates this is a major factor.”
At times the reality of the situation can become too real. Det. Bogucki remembers having to halt production during filming.
“Yes, I remember it well. I literally had to ask them to stop shooting,” she says. “I was talking to a woman who is doing life. She was talking about her daughter and that she would never be able to experience all of the important moments in her life. Then she looked at me and said, ‘I would give anything to walk along the beach and feel the sand under my feet.’ That vivid image, that realization caught me off guard. That she would never feel that. That she will only leave prison in a body bag. Even if her crime warranted a life sentence, it was so hard to see such a young woman in front of me saying this.”
She implores Seattle residents to look beyond the stereotype and into the lives affected by incarceration.
“I hope they will take pause to look at the person instead of the felony. To learn about the reasons people end up in prison,” she says. “To look at the staggering statistics of incarceration in America, the billions of dollars wasted. To give someone a second chance, because we all need those in our lives. If someone has the opportunity to hire or rent to a person who has been incarcerated, to not write them off because they checked a felony box. If it’s the right person for the job or to rent to, to look at the person…otherwise we keep paying taxes to keep people behind bars. I’d rather they be tax-paying citizens. Also to look at the long-term effects on the children of the incarcerated. We are creating our own pipeline to prison instead of really addressing the social issues that cause people to commit crimes.”
Interested parties can support The IF Project in a variety of ways.
“First and foremost, we can only do this work with the financial support of our community – so people can make a charitable gift to The IF Project,” she suggests. “Currently, we have a mentoring program for women released from prison. We always are looking for volunteer mentors. If they cannot become involved personally, I would suggest that they start learning about the people behind bars, their needs and the needs of their children as when they release. They can ask elected officials to eliminate laws that make it impossible for people who have been involved with the criminal justice system to be successful.”
The IF Project premieres on Logo Wednesday, September 14 at 8pm ET/PT.