The Leading Edge of Corrections
THE RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Transition from Prison to Community
by Steve Lindly, Deputy Director, Wyoming Department of Corrections
You hear it from time-to-time or read about it in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the local newspaper occasionally.
The “revolving door” of the criminal justice system; by which people are referring to the number of “repeat customers” the system absorbs.
It’s well documented in the literature that a small group of offenders make a big impact in terms of their role in crime and the criminal justice system.
That smaller group will often need to be addressed from the more traditional public safety approach, but it’s the much larger majority of offenders with whom the system has a responsibility to do the best it can to make sure system involvement is a one-time event.
When there is a discussion about corrections with policy makers or nearly anyone else for that matter, one is virtually guaranteed the question will be asked, “What is your success rate?” It is that question the “Transition from Prison to Community” (TPC) effort is working hard to both address and improve.
This is a three year “technical assistance” grant the Wyoming Department of Corrections was successfully awarded in 2009 through the National Institute of Corrections, the Center for Effective Public Policy and the Urban Institute.
It is a substantial and meaningful effort to improve the successful movement of offenders from being inmates to probationers, in the instance of Boot Camp graduates, or more commonly to parolees.
The department’s mission can essentially be summarized into two parts: it will contribute to the public safety by effectively managing offenders both inside and outside of prison and, it will actively provide offenders the opportunity to change.
The research is clear that the most effective way to positively influence offenders to become law-abiding and contributing citizens is to utilize validated assessments, which identify and target those areas that can be influenced and that contribute to a criminal life style.
Once those risk factors are identified, interventions with evidenced-based programs must follow.
The TPC effort involves many of the department’s employees, representing its various components, along with the Board of Parole.
The goal of the first year of the initiative was to establish work teams and a steering committee, which implements the work groups’ recommendations, addressing the areas:
1. Automated communication, evaluation, technology, and data;
2. Assessment, case management, and staff skill building;
3. Pre-release programming, parole release, education, and special populations;
4. Transition process, and;
5. Community supervision.
The goal of year two for the TPC Initiative is to begin implementation and completion of the recommendations related to the work group areas.
Additionally, it will establish a statewide task force, of other critical partners, to bring greater focus to the reality that in order for re-entry efforts to be successful, it takes the coordinated efforts of multiple entities and outside individuals.
The vision for an effective re-entry system and approach revolves around collaborative partnerships, developing within offenders the skills and resources that will allow them to remain in the community successfully; a process that is as “seamless” as possible, in other words a system that works and includes effective communication, a single “episode of care,” and matching services to the individual offender; using evidence-based practices and programs which research has shown accomplishes what is intended; and concluding with the successful discharge from the sentence, prepared to remain law-abiding and successful into the future.
The TPC Initiative is being coordinated by Christy Hahn, as the re-entry manager, and nearly 20 department employees, across three divisions, serving on the five work groups.
The TPC Steering Committee is composed of an additional 15 department staff, along with representatives from the Board of Parole.
The technical assistance and guidance is under the leadership of Richard Stroker, a nationally recognized corrections expert, with many years of impressive professional experience.
The majority of offenders the department is responsible for are living in the community by a 3:1 ratio, and the substantial majority of the inmates in prison will eventually return to the community, so it is incumbent on us to do all we can reasonably do to move offenders toward a successful, crime-free life.
In my view, the TPC Initiative holds real promise to move the department closer to the fulfillment of its mission.
“What is your success rate?”
We expect to be able to answer, “It continues to improve and here’s how.”