Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

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.


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 project.
  • 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 projects.
  • 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 records.

Ms. Nicholau identified the following significant challenges for ex-offenders:

  • Identification cards for persons who are homeless because of the requirement to have a residence in order to get an identification card.
  • Housing for sex offenders.
  • 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 housing.


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 offenders:

  • Indian Creek Correctional Center-
    781 male offenders
  • Botetourt Correctional Center-
    352 male offenders
  • Virginia Correctional Center for Women-
    274 female offenders
  • Lawrenceville Correctional Center-
    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 (Harrisonburg)-59 beds
  • Rubicon (Richmond)-24 beds
  • Vanguard (Arlington)-6 beds
  • Serenity (Newport News)-63 beds
  • Hegira House (Roanoke)-16 beds
  • Bethany House (Roanoke)-7 beds

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 population.


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.

Discharge planning 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.


Charlene Motley, 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 Regional Jail
  • Hampton Community Correctional Center
  • Henrico County Jail
  • Riverside Regional Jail
  • Chesapeake City Jail
  • Roanoke City Jail
  • Arlington County Jail
  • Norfolk City Jail
  • Danville Adult Detention Center
  • New River Valley Regional Jail
  • Northwestern Regional Adult
  • Detention Center
  • Blue Ridge Regional Jail
  • Rappahannock Regional Jail

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 skills.
  • 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 Puller

For information, contact:
Amy Marschean, DLS Staff



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