The Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DOCR) was chosen as one of two sites in the country to pilot a federal grant program that seeks to enhance jail reentry services for returning offenders by building on family and social supports. Also chosen was the Green Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin.
With support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit organization that works closely with government to improve the services that people rely on for safety and justice, will offer training and technical assistance to enhance DOCR’s ability to implement strength-based, family-focused methods and tools to improve reentry outcomes and coordination between agencies and community partners.
“We are honored to be selected to participate in this program and to partner with the Vera Institute which has developed and supported evidence-based correctional programs throughout the country for almost 50 years,” said DOCR Director Arthur Wallenstein. “Ultimately, programs that strengthen families and communities also reduce recidivism, save taxpayer money and enhance public safety.”
Michael Jacobson, president of the Vera Institute of Justice, echoed these sentiments. “Our partners on the Close to Home project understand that successful reentry and good corrections practices go hand-in-hand. “We are excited about working with them to develop new tools to engage the families of people leaving jail, because research shows that such support is important in helping them stay out.
“Vera looked at what happened to people in New York City during the first month after their release from jail,” Jacobson said. “Our 1999 study found that supportive families were a key indicator of success, correlating with lower drug use, greater likelihood of finding jobs, and less criminal activity. These are outcomes we all want to see in Green Lake and Montgomery counties – and throughout the country.”
Vera’s proven family-focused methods and tools include the following:
The Relational Inquiry Tool – a list of questions designed for case management staff, developed by Vera’s Family Justice Program in partnership with the National Institute of Corrections and several state corrections departments. This tool has proven effective at enhancing release planning in facilities by engaging family and community networks and supporting incarcerated persons in maintaining positive connections to their community.
Supportive Inquiry – a creative process of gathering information through non-judgmental, open-ended questions that complements motivational interviewing. Promotes self-exploration and spurs new thinking and orients people toward solutions and possibilities.
Family Mapping Tools – provide a visual representation of families’ connections to government and community-based organizations, as well as inter-generational patterns and social support. These tools help prioritize which relationships need to be developed and identify new sources of support.
For more information, call Patricia Braun at 240-773-4222 or Gale Starkey at 240-773-9769.
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