HJR 273: Joint Subcommittee Studying Prisoner Reentry Into Society
September 12, 2005
The second meeting
of the Joint Subcommittee Studying the Commonwealth's Program for
Prisoner Reentry to Society was held in Richmond on September 12 at the
General Assembly Building.
HOUSING AND HOMELESS
ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS AND EX-OFFENDERS
Nikki Nicholau, Deputy
Director of Housing, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
(DHCD), provided an overview of housing and homeless assistance resources
in the Commonwealth.
- HOME funds, awarded
by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are distributed
through DHCD. Virginia sets aside these funds for projects targeted
at transitional housing focused on single room occupancy (SRO). Federal
HOME funds were also used for a tenant-based rental assistance pilot
- Virginia Balance
of State Continuum of Care application for funding for new permanent
and transitional housing for homeless people will provide over $1 million
for permanent supportive housing.
- SRO Pre-Development
Fund received $300,000 from the 2005 General
Assembly, which could fund start-up costs associated with at least six
- Homeless Intervention
Prevention program provides from four to six months of rental assistance.
- Emergency Shelter
Program is a limited resource for ex-offenders because there are fewer
male shelters and the shelters often do not take persons with criminal
Ms. Nicholau identified
the following significant challenges for ex-offenders:
cards for persons who are homeless because of the requirement to have
a residence in order to get an identification card.
- Housing for sex
- Reuniting with
families in public housing because the local housing authorities generally
have restrictions on housing ex-offenders.
- Cutbacks in federal
funding for housing generally.
- Limited state
funds available for housing.
- Access to emergency
shelter services particularly for those without necessary medications
coming from the regional jails.
In the fall of 2003,
the Governor appointed a team of state agency executives and partner organizations
to develop and implement Virginia's action plan to address chronic homelessness.
Partnering with local governments and nonprofit organizations, as well
as federal housing partners, the team is continuing to update and to implement
its action plan, "A Common Wealth to End Homelessness." See
website: www.endhomelessnessva.org. The team, now known as the Virginia
Inter-Agency Council on Homelessness and chaired by Ms. Nicholau, has
begun work on the challenges identified above, including funding for supportive
TREATMENT-THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITY PROGRAM AND TRANSITIONING FROM PRISON
Dudley Bush, Substance
Abuse Program Manager with Department of Corrections (DOC), gave an overview
of drug treatment within DOC. Eighteen months prior to release, inmates
are put through a screening, evaluation and assessment program for admission
into a therapeutic community. The criteria are: (1) no sex crimes history,
(2) documented history of substance abuse, (3) substance abuse related
crime, (4) must be sentenced to two or more years, (5) must have 18 months
left to serve, (6) must be classified as a level 1 or 2 inmate, and (7)
involuntary admission. The current DOC therapeutic communities house 1,567
- Indian Creek Correctional
781 male offenders
- Botetourt Correctional
352 male offenders
- Virginia Correctional
Center for Women-
274 female offenders
160 male offenders
The goal of the therapeutic
community is release to a transitional therapeutic community (TTC) for
six months. Currently, DOC has contracted with the following TTCs:
- Gemeinshaft Home
- Rubicon (Richmond)-24
- Vanguard (Arlington)-6
- Serenity (Newport
- Hegira House (Roanoke)-16
- Bethany House
Based upon the prior
offense and program progress, offenders are screened to enter a pre-release
option pool 90 days prior to the official release date. Such inmates must
have post-release supervision.
Jennie Amison, Executive
Director of Gemeinshaft Home, stated that, over the past 20 years, the
facility has grown to accommodate 60 nonviolent adult males with some
history of substance abuse. The program is a minimum of a six-month residential
stay followed by a six-month aftercare phase. The goal of Gemeinshaft
Home is to aid and assist the residents in becoming productive members
of their communities. Counselors teach life skills to residents to facilitate
reentry into the community. Services include: mentoring, financial planning,
legal services, aftercare guidance, recreation, counseling, employment
and educational support, support groups, and relapse prevention. All residents
are required to obtain and maintain employment. The Harrisonburg community
supports the program and its residents. A recent outcome study conducted
by Gemeinshaft Home, along with James Madison University professors Peggy
Plass and Tim Carter and DOC, revealed that prison therapeutic community
programs enforced with transition therapeutic community programs reduces
recidivism rates, producing the best outcome for a substance abusing offending
Robin L. Hulbert,
Ph.D., Mental Health Program Director with DOC, states that approximately
15% of the offender population requires on-going mental health services
within DOC institutions. A continuum of services has been developed to
meet the mental health needs of offenders while incarcerated and to assist
in planning for their release from the DOC. Services include acute care,
residential treatment, outpatient services and residential treatment for
sex offenders. Acute care services are provided to offenders who are the
most seriously mentally ill at Marion Correctional Treatment Center (120
beds for males) and Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (22 beds).
Such offenders go through a judicial commitment procedure. Residential
mental health services provide treatment to offenders who have mental
disorders, often chronic, at Marion Correctional Treatment Center, Greensville
Correctional Center, Brunswick Correctional Center, Powhatan Correctional
Center and Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. Outpatient mental health
services are provided in general population and special housing units
at every major institution. Services include crisis intervention, assessment,
and psychoeducational and therapeutic groups. Psychiatric services are
available at all major facilities on a contract basis one day a week.
The Sex Offender Residential Treatment (SORT) program is for male sex
offenders considered as moderate to high risk to re-offend and who are
within 18-36 months of their expected release date. The SORT program is
located at Brunswick Correctional Center.
for offenders with mental illness begins at the institution 90-120 days
prior to release. Offenders who require acute care treatment are committed
to Central State Hospital. For offenders who do not require acute care
services, contacts are made with community treatment providers to make
appointments for follow-up services.
According to Dr.
Hulbert, there are 49,000 probationers and parolees and at least 7% are
in need of mental health services and approximately 41% are in need of
substance abuse education or treatment. Community services boards (CSBs)
and behavioral health authorities (BHAs) are the primary local public
mental health and substance abuse treatment providers in Virginia. Thirty-one
CSBs have 49 existing memoranda of agreement with DOC community corrections
to provide substance abuse treatment and other services. DOC community
corrections and local community corrections programs have contracted services
with both public and private providers.
In 2002, SJR 97 and
HJR 142 directed DOC and the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation
and Substance Abuse Services (DMHMRSAS) to examine ways to ensure offenders
released from state correctional facilities have access to appropriate
medications and that these medications are managed while the offender
is in the community. In addition, the two departments were to include
a memorandum of agreement to ensure continuity of care for offenders upon
their release from prison. DOC, DMHMRSAS and each CSB and BHA have signed
the memorandum of understanding, which provides in part:
- DOC begins discharge
planning for specialized services needs upon admission to DOC.
- DOC implements
ongoing risk and needs assessments to identify high risk offenders and
their treatment needs and to assist in release planning.
- DOC will facilitate
the process for inmate application for SSI/Medicaid and other benefits.
- A local community
corrections liaison is designated to work with treatment providers.
- A 90-day advance
notice of release to community corrections, local treatment providers,
and other community partners.
STATE INMATE JAIL
Statewide Transition Program Manager with DOC, discussed the Offender
Reentry Program that was developed to initiate pre-release partnerships
with local jails and community resources. Beginning as a pilot in 2002,
the program provides reentry transition services to offenders. The program
now exists in the following jails:
- Albemarle Charlottesville
- Hampton Community
- Henrico County
- Riverside Regional
- Chesapeake City
- Roanoke City Jail
- Arlington County
- Norfolk City Jail
- Danville Adult
- New River Valley
- Northwestern Regional
- Detention Center
- Blue Ridge Regional
- Rappahannock Regional
A DOC Transition
Coordinator is assigned to each participating jail to oversee the development
and implementation of the program. The Transition Coordinator acts as
the liaison between the DOC, jail, local probation and parole and community
partners. The program consists of three phases:
Phase One: Offenders
participate in daily life skills and job readiness workshops for six weeks.
Phase Two: Offenders
who qualify will be placed in work release for a minimum of 45 days and
may remain on work release for up to eight months.
Phase Three: The
program provides a 45 day after release component. During this time, offenders
receive continued assistance and referrals. Peer support groups are also
provided during this time.
So far, approximately
670 offenders have participated in the program.
According to Ms. Motley, the benefits of the program include:
- Bringing an offender
closer to his returning locality and family.
- Job development
- Job placement.
- Providing connection
to community resources.
- Helping to reduce
the backlog of state responsible inmates.
The joint subcommittee
has scheduled its next meeting on October 12 at 2:00 p.m. at the Prison
Fellowship Ministries facility located at 44180 Riverside Parkway in Lansdowne,
Virginia. The final meeting date is November 15 at 10:00 a.m. in
Richmond at the General Assembly Building.
The Hon. Linda