Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

HJR 273: Joint Subcommittee Studying Prisoner Reentry Into Society

October 12, 2005

The Joint Subcommittee Studying the Commonwealth's Program for Prisoner Reentry to Society held its fourth meeting on November 15, 2005, in Richmond.


Jane Brown, Director of the Office of Community Partnerships and Virginia
Faith-Based and Community Liaison in the Department of Social Services (DSS), discussed the Virginia Reentry Pilot Program. These pilots will be established in five areas of the state [Exhibit 6].

Exhibit 6. Virginia Reentry Pilot Program.
Proposed Pilot Facilities Pre-Release Community Integration
Greensville Correctional Facility Greensville/Norfolk Greensville/Richmond
Coffeewood Correctional Center Culpeper Culpeper/Charlottesville/Albemarle
Haynesville Correctional Unit King George King George/Norfolk/Richmond
Powhatan Correctional Center Richmond Richmond
Fluvanna Correctional Center Culpeper Richmond/Charlottesville/Albemarle

Pilot areas were identified on a volunteer basis. The pilots will allow for testing and evaluating implementation of the recommendations developed from Virginia's participation in the National Governors Association Policy Academy on Prisoner Reentry (Policy Academy).

Pilot programs will be characterized by community collaboration, integrated service delivery, and systems of support. Directors of local departments of social services will serve as the convening agencies and will bring together representatives of public and private agencies, businesses, community-based service providers, and faith-based organizations to form local reentry councils. Each local council will develop a reentry plan for its locality that identifies available resources and methods for interagency coordination and implementation of Policy Academy recommendations. Each locality will have an assigned correctional facility from which up to a maximum of 50 prisoners will be referred for participation in the pilot program.

The reentry pilots will last for 24 months and have three phases. Phase I will focus on establishing local reentry coordinating councils and provide inmates from the participating correctional facilities scheduled orientations with information about services and obligations that effect them and their families during their time of incarceration and upon their return to the community.

Phase II of the pilots will begin six months before the release of participating inmates. Representatives of the correctional facility and the local reentry council will meet with individual prisoners and develop plans for their return to the community. This planning will address financial obligations, housing, financial and community resources, education and training, employment, health, mental health, and social reintegration and will include measurable outcomes.

Phase III of the reentry pilots will cover the 12 months following the ex-offender's return to the community. During this phase, there will be contact with a team representing the local reentry council. Councils will develop methods for on-going communication and support for the returning ex-offender. The established outcomes will be measured at one month, three months, six months, and 12 months following release. Phase III will also include a fatherhood/motherhood and family to family mentoring component in which trained mentors will work with the ex-offenders and his or her family during the reentry process. As well as relationship building and support, mentors will promote and facilitate ex-offender and family member skills building. According to Ms. Brown, better reentry preparation, integrated service delivery, and a support system of people that care will help decrease reentry barriers and help increase the opportunity for those prisoners returning to experience restoration and to be contributing members of the communities to which they return.


Pat Smith, Executive Director of OAR, stated that the programs offered by the Offender Re-entry Services Coalition (formally PAPIS) have successfully provided the bridge between state and local incarceration systems and the Virginia communities they serve for over 30 years. Continued state financial support is essential to keep the Commonwealth's communities safe. Reentry services include:

  • Assistance with obtaining identification documents.
  • Employability skills development.
  • Job search/job placement assistance.
  • Substance abuse education and counseling/treatment referrals.
  • Emergency services that include housing, food, clothing.

During the Fiscal Year (FY) 2005, the nine programs that provide reentry services in the Commonwealth served 19,707 clients--state and local prisoners being released into society. Providers of programs include both local and statewide community-based organizations with solid linkages to employers, faith-based organizations, landlords, and social services agencies. The Offender Re-entry Services Coalition is requesting $2.6 million for each year of the upcoming biennium from the 2006 General Assembly: $2.1 million will be used to fund programs and a program evaluation study and $500,000 will be used for capacity building activities with other reentry services providers, including faith-based organizations.

Martha Rollins, Chief Executive Officer of Boaz & Ruth, Inc., spoke about the difference her organization is making in Richmond. Boaz & Ruth, Inc., is a
non-profit, faith-based corporation that has helped more than 300 people who are released from prison. The organization prepares ex-offenders for reentry to society by providing job training, life skills, and business experience through a furniture store/training center. After just two years of operation:

  • 100% of those who came homeless now have permanent housing.
  • 85% of those completing the program have full time jobs.
  • 100% with no computer skills have developed basic email, writing, and web search skills.
  • Only 12 % have been reincarcerated.
  • The program is now being replicated in Martinsville.

Keith Wm. DeBlasio, Liaison on Research and Positions, Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants - Virginia, Inc. (Virginia C.U.R.E.), reminded the joint subcommittee of the federal Second Chance Act of 2005 (H.R. 1704 and S. 1924) and stated, "For the sake of public safety and restoring the lives of offenders, as well as the families and communities that are impacted by the criminal justice system, focus should be given to policies that positively affect and prepare this population for reentry. Special emphasis should be directed to families and children of incarcerated persons--those innocent, often overlooked victims who are most impacted by the judicial system." Mr. DeBlasio asked the joint subcommittee to consider the following issues:

  • Alternatives to incarceration.
  • Beginning release planning at the time an individual is incarcerated.
  • Increasing educational and vocational opportunities.
  • Continuing family and community involvement.
  • Maintaining physical and mental health.
  • Building positive social skills and work ethics.
  • Utilizing community and faith-based organizations and volunteers.
  • Creating or enabling viable work release programs.
  • Releasing prisoners with adequate identification, proof of educational and vocational training, and necessary medical records.
  • Establishing reasonable terms for collecting fines, restitution, and child support obligations.
  • Removing obstacles to employment and unreasonable restrictions on obtaining driving privileges.
  • Cultivating employment opportunities.
  • Finding ways to meet housing needs for former prisoners and their families.
  • Engaging former prisoners in the community.


Barry Green, Director, Department of Juvenile Justice, stated that the forecast released in October 2004 predicted that the state prison population would grow by almost 1,100 inmates during FY 2005. The actual growth was only 20. Further, the projected annual growth for the next 6 years was 3.2%; the new forecast now projects average growth of just over 2%. While Mr. Green cannot say that this decrease is directly due to the Commonwealth's prisoner reentry efforts since 2003, he does believe that the efforts played a role in the improved numbers. At the same time, he stressed that much remains to be accomplished. The jail forecast, which in 2004 was projected to grow 3.9% annually over the next 6 years, is still projected to grow at an average rate of 3.8% (based on the new forecast).

Mr. Green also spoke about the following General Assembly actions in recent sessions that have promoted alternative sanctions for technical violators.

2004 Session

  • Funded an additional 25 probation & parole officers ($1.4 million in FY06).
  • Continued funding for federally funded transitional beds ($1.2 million in FY06).
  • Continued funding for federally funded SA treatment programs in communities.
  • Funded additional transitional beds ($1.8 million in FY06).
  • Increased funding for Community Corrections supervision ($1.6 million in FY06).

2005 Session

  • Expanded electronic monitoring ($100,000 in FY06).
  • Technical violator night and weekend incarceration program ($270,400 in FY06 for treatment component; housing costs through Compensation Board).
  • Technical Violator Center(s) language.
  • Added two additional Day Reporting Centers ($799,995 in FY06).
  • Increased funding for Community Corrections ($500,000 in FY06).
  • Support for pre- and post-incarceration programs ($371,507 in FY06).

Mr. Green concluded his remarks by listing a few of the budget requests for 2006 from the Department of Corrections (DOC) for inclusion in the Governor's budget:

  • Funding for two additional Day Reporting Centers ($1.1 million per year).
  • Mental Health Funding for community programs ($3.3 million in FY07; $6.7 million for FY08).
  • Regional Transitional Specialists for high risk offenders ($170,000 for FY07; $155,000 for FY08).
  • Increase support for pre- and post-incarceration programs (replace lost federal funding - $1.7 million per year).

Despite the fact a quorum was not present, the joint subcommittee considered a compilation of recommendations that had been made to it and determined which recommendations to endorse pending a formal vote in January and which were not feasible to pursue. The joint subcommittee endorsed the following recommendations:

  • A budget amendment to give $300,000 in FY07 and $300,000 in FY08 to DSS for the Virginia Reentry Pilot Program to fund up to 10 pilot programs for ex-offenders returning to the community with mentors recruited from community and faith-based organizations. DSS shall establish as part of the Virginia Reentry Project during both Phases II and III a community-based program in the pilot jurisdictions linking mentors with offenders to help them make the transition from prison to the community safely and successfully. To respect individual inmates' faith perspectives, inmates will have the option of participating in a mentoring program of their own faith, or participating in a secular mentoring program. If there are no mentors of an inmate's faith available, the inmate may participate in the secular program. While the inmates are still incarcerated, the mentors can help them develop a life plan, think through employment options, and teach them what employers will expect of them on the job. After release, the mentors can teach them how to keep track of bills and pay them on time, obtain necessary identification, and hold them accountable for their obligations at work and their meetings with their parole officer. The mentoring relationship should include the inmate's family to the greatest extent possible, unless there are safety issues involved.
  • A budget amendment to require an annual report by November 1 of each year from the Secretary of Public Safety on the status of reentry programs pursuant to § 2.2-221.1 of the Code of Virginia, including implementation of the Virginia Reentry Pilot Program.
  • A budget amendment ($1.1 million per year) for DOC to create 2 new Community Day Reporting Centers to provide an alternative to probation officers and judges for offenders who violate the rules of probation or parole, but do not present a risk to public safety that requires incarceration.*
  • A budget amendment directing DSS's Office of Community Partnerships & Virginia Faith-Based & Community Liaison to maximize federal funding currently available or that will become available through the federal Second Chance Act of 2005 for faith-based and community organizations to partner with public agencies to provide prisoner reentry services.
  • A budget amendment ($170,000 in FY07; $155,000 in FY08) to give funding to DOC to train transition specialists (one per region) to provide case management assistance in transitioning high risk offenders from institutions to the community.*
  • A budget amendment ($1.7 million per year) to increase support of pre- and post-incarceration programs to provide transitional services (housing assistance, employment, treatment, case management, mentoring, etc.) for both prison and jail offenders just prior to and upon release.*
  • A budget amendment ($3.3 million in FY07; $6.7 million in FY08) to give funding to DOC for Community Corrections for mental health treatment services for those requiring mental health services after release from prison (as well as to prevent those on probation from reoffending).*
  • A budget amendment ($519,000 in FY07; $974,000 in FY08) to add 5 jails to the program per year through which offenders would return to their communities for reintegration services 90 days prior to release from incarceration.*
  • Legislation directing the Department of Housing and Community Development, in consultation with the Virginia Housing Development Authority, to develop a strategy for the development and implementation of housing programs and community development in the Commonwealth for the purpose of meeting the needs of formerly incarcerated persons being released from federal, state, and local correctional facilities into communities.
  • Legislation directing the Director of DOC to arrange for all offenders committed to the custody of DOC to receive the following documents upon their release from custody: a synopsis of the individual's medical records while in custody; any pertinent medical records necessary for the individual's continued medical treatment upon his release, including copies of the individual's current medication prescriptions; a physician's summary for any individual receiving medical treatment or documented as in need of pending treatment at the time of his release; verification of the individual's work history while in custody; and verification of all education and treatment programs completed by the individual while in custody. DOC shall be responsible for designating employees to insure that these documents are obtained and stored in the individual's institutional file until the time of such person's release from custody.
  • Legislation requiring DOC to give nonviolent prisoners who have not been sentenced upon a conviction of murder in the first degree, rape in violation of § 18.2-61, forcible sodomy, animate or inanimate object sexual penetration, or aggravated sexual battery or sentenced to life imprisonment the opportunity to participate in a residential community program, work release, or a community-based program. Current law requires that the prisoner not be convicted of any violent crime and be sentenced to at least three years. The bill also restricts the cost of a prisoner's keep to up to 30 % of gross earnings.
  • A joint resolution directing that the Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice report on the current status of family visiting rooms and the projected cost for the modification of correctional facilities to provide family visiting rooms in order to encourage healthy bonds between incarcerated parents and their children and expressing the sense of the General Assembly that construction of new prisons and any renovations of existing prisons provide for family visiting rooms.

    * If not included in the Governor's budget.

Legislation directing the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, in collaboration with the Secretary of Public Safety, to establish an integrated system for coordinating the planning and provision of services for children with incarcerated parents among and between state, local, and nonprofit agencies in order to provide such children with services needed to continue parental relationships with the incarcerated parent, where appropriate, and encourage healthy relationships in the family and community. All funds used shall be leveraged to the fullest extent possible and direct services shall be provided in the most cost effective means possible, including through agreements with local nonprofit organizations.


Because a quorum was not present at this meeting, the joint subcommittee will hold an extra meeting on Tuesday, January 10, 2006, at 10:00 a.m. in Richmond in the 3rd Floor East Conference Room at the General Assembly Building to take a formal vote on the recommendations.

The Hon. Linda T. Puller

For information, contact:
Patricia Davis, DLS Staff



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