Transitional Services Overview
Under Commissioner Theresa C. Lantz, the Connecticut Department of Correction has established as a priority, the enhancement of the agency's commitment to supporting offender reintegration back into law abiding society. This has involved a shift in the agency's correctional mission, from the strict confinement model of the mid and late 1990's to a new Reentry model. To reflect this change in priority, the Department's Mission Statement has been changed to read, "The Connecticut Department of Correction shall protect the public, protect staff and provide safe, secure and humane supervision of offenders with opportunities that support successful community reintegration."
While offenders will continue to serve 100 percent of their sentences, appropriate inmates will be eligible to be released to the community under the supervision of the Department's Parole and Community Services Unit as they near the end of their incarceration. This period of time in the community is intended to not only bridge their successful re-entry, but it also enhances public safety by involving supervision during this crucial period of reintegration. The alternative of releasing offenders from prison at the end of their sentence, without supervision or a re-entry period, too often leads to a cycle of reincarceration with an accompanying adverse impact on the crime rate.
Since more than 95 percent of offenders will eventually be released from prison, the Department already offers extensive educational/vocational, substance abuse, parenting and other programming that will aid in supporting that transition. Supplementing these programs are new initiatives that provide crucial information and contacts for re-establishing a life after incarceration. A key component of these initiatives is an expanded collaboration with other stakeholders who serve the incarcerated population at other points in their lives. These stakeholders include other state agencies such as the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Labor and the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as with community based advocacy groups.
Discharge planning begins at a minimum of 45 days prior to release. Staff assist the inmate with making arrangements for a smooth transition by addressing matters such as housing, clothing, transportation, medical and mental health treatment, identification and after care programs.
The agency also contracts for more than 1,200 halfway house beds and supervises more than 3,500 additional low risk offenders in the community as a means of supporting a graduated and successful transition back to community self-sufficiency. With the consolidation of the Board of Parole field services into the Department of Correction, the number of offenders who are afforded this opportunity will increase.
- In June of 2005 the innovative Charlene Perkins Reentry Center was opened at the York Correctional Institution. This program prepares appropriate women offenders who are within 18-months of release for their successful reintegration into law abiding society. The approximately 75 offenders are housed in the Center which features intensive programming in areas such as substance abuse, anger management, parenting and other skills that are crucial to break the cycle of incarceration.
- The Transition Services Program is designed to systematically give inmates information, instruction and the ability to acquire the tools they may need to find employment, housing, clothing and further their education. Some of the tools include, birth certificates, social security cards and driver's license renewals. It also provides information concerning paternity obligations, community resources, health, mental health and addiction services. The purpose of the program is to reduce recidivism by helping inmates prepare themselves to enter society prior to discharge. All facilities, including jails, are responsible to conduct this program. It is not mandatory that inmates participate, however we strongly encourage them to do so. The program consists of a workbook and a video presentation. The video is a series of presentations from private and public service agencies that highlights what the agency does and how an inmate can access their services. The program began as a pilot in three facilities in January of 2004. In September that year, it was introduced to all sentenced facilities and by October 2006 it became fully operational in all facilities, including jails.
- A Job Center Program has been established at four institutions- Willard-Cybulski CI, Bergin CI and Webster CI, and York CI. Each Center has a full time counselor and access to computers linked to the State Department of Labor Job Bank where soon to be released inmates can look at available jobs and then pursue possible employment.
- Transition Counselors offer guidance at the agency's discharge facilities including Bergin CI, Brooklyn CI, Enfield CI, Manson Youth, Osborn CI, Robinson CI, Webster CI, York CI and Willard-Cybulski CI. At these institutions, many inmates enrolled in school are given instruction in job readiness and leave prison with a written Transition Plan and a resume. Since 1999, Career Fairs have been held each year at these institutions which are attended by prospective employers and community based social service providers. Each year, several thousand inmates are exposed to community services in this way. Just recently, a "Job Developer" was hired to meet with businesses throughout the state in an effort to expand our Employment Bank.
- In the area of supportive housing, DOC is working with the Community Renewal Team (CRT) and the CT Coalition to End Homelessness to secure 15 Supportive Housing Units for repeat offenders with severe mental health, physical disability, and/or substance abuse problems. Also, DOC administrators are working on a proposal to identify initially 100 half-way house beds in the system as "Employment Beds", a designation which would fast track selected inmates for immediate employment after they completed an employment readiness program prior to release. A new partnership with the State Department of Veteran's Affairs will insure that discharging offenders who are veterans but are without housing will be welcomed at the State Veteran's Home and Hospital.
- Addiction Services offers three pre-release programs at many institutions that address relapse prevention, staying clean, coping skills, and community resource referrals. "Bridging the GAP" operates in 16 prisons under the auspices of Addiction Services and Volunteer Services. In this program, hundreds of recovering inmates are linked with a community Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Group and transition services at the same time.
- As part of its consolidation of mental health services, which is intended to improve the delivery of care to the offender population in a fiscally responsible manner, the agency is also improving its linkage to community mental health treatment. A transition discharge plan is created for offenders with mental health needs offering them a continuum of care in the community upon release. A collaboration with the State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will improve these transition plans and will follow 100 discharging offenders in the community to gauge their progress and assess how the program can be further improved. Additionally, Mental Health Transition Counselor positions are expected to be established in each of the Parole and Community Services regions across the state.
- "Transitional Linkage into the Community (TLC) Program" is managed by Health Services and contracted to Community Partners in Action (CPA) of Hartford. This program provides critical discharge planning for inmates with HIV/AIDS in all prisons.
- At several prisons, Bergin CI, Brooklyn CI, Cheshire CI, Corrigan/Radgowski CC, Gates CI, and MacDougall/Walker CI, vocational instructors and school counselors have developed a variety of in house programs. These programs generally emphasize job readiness skills and resume development. At MacDougall CI, ABE/GED a comprehensive, ten-week course on inmate transition has been developed.
- Religious Services offers two major transition programs-Chrysalis at York CI, an intensive 26 week transition course and "Life Plan", a 12 week transition course offered at five institutions. Prison Fellowship Ministries has introduced a new "Aftercare Program" for recently released inmates that includes life planning, mentoring and Sober House placement with full support from area churches. Volunteer Services manages a number of transition programs to include the Family Reentry Program at 18 prisons, the STRIDE Program at five prisons, the Resettlement Program at Bergin CI and York CI, and pre-release information groups at Brooklyn CI and Radgowski CI.
- At York CI, facility staff operates the "Head to Toe Program " which provides new and used clothing and accessories to inmates preparing for release. Also at York CI, the Life After Incarceration Program, run in cooperation with the UCONN Extension Program, offers 12 weeks of thorough transition planning for eligible inmates.
- Information Kiosks, available to all inmates, have been established at Garner CI (Library), Corrigan/Radgowski CC (Library), Gates CI, Osborn CI (Library), Webster CI (Library) and Willard-Cybulski CI. The kiosks consist of an Information Board, Resource Guides, and an Information Book listing pamphlets and brochures of some of the most popular statewide resources used by inmates. Additional prisons will receive the kiosks, as funding becomes available.
It is estimate that 6, 000 offender students within the Department's Unified School District #1 received some level of transition service in FY 2002-2003, while it is estimated that some 5, 000 inmates in the general population received transition assistance. This figure does not include the tireless efforts of unit counselors throughout the system who deliver transition service support to inmates under their supervision. For all the transition programs in existence and for those in the planning stages, the goal is a reduction- in recidivism, in the cost of holding offenders accountable, in revictimization and that the offender's responsibility to be law abiding will be reinforced. Investing in the success of a returning offender impacts not only the life of the individual and his or her family but it also serves to reduce the adverse impact that their criminality had on their communities both fiscally and in terms of quality of life issues. A cohesive program of treatment, education and pre-release planning can make a difference in an offender's future and the Connecticut Department of Correction is committed to supporting their successful reintegration.