jump to navigation

Offender Mentoring Tops Legislative Requests January 6, 2011

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

The bulk of those being released into Washington County after prison or jail do not have the social connections needed to help them avoid the types of people and behaviors that got them incarcerated in the first place.

In 2011, Washington County lobbyists will be asking its federal legislators for $300,000 in federal earmark funding to allow the county to continue to employ five re-entry mentors to work with as many as 325 of these paroled and released individuals.

About 480 people are paroled to live in Washington County each year, and another 250 serving sentences of less than 12 months are released back into the community.

Since 2001, the county contracts with several agencies to staff the Recovery Mentor Program, which helps take residents through the steps of rejoining the community — finding jobs and housing, maintaining healthy relationships and fulfilling ongoing commitments.

The Oregon Department of Corrections estimates the annual cost of incarcerating one prisoner at about $30,828, not including the cost of the crime, the law enforcement officers, jail and court costs.

The annual cost of mentoring one individual in Washington County is about $882, said Community Corrections Center Manager Karleigh Mollahan. Supported by an annual budget of $15 million and staffed by 106 full-time-equivalent positions, Community Corrections is responsible for providing probation, parole, post-prison supervision and residential services to the adult offender population.

Evidence suggests mentoring provides the stable environment that can lead to the long-term self-sufficiency needed to adjust to life on the outside, officials say.

Mentors meet with inmates prior to their release and assist parole and probation officers in the development of a re-entry plan that includes identifying stable housing. The federal funding could extend the duration of this successful program for two years to allow better assessment of the program’s success rate.

To facilitate real change, Washington County corrections officials say that once released, many justice-involved persons do not have the positive support needed to avoid unhealthy behavior patterns they had prior to incarceration.

With the help of mentors, they can avoid the pitfalls that lead to parole violations, returning to society clean and sober with a renewed sense of optimism about their future.

Many offenders eventually find themselves in the transitional drug and alcohol treatment programs at the Community Corrections Center in Hillsboro.

Often, the mentors are people who have had drug and alcohol problems themselves, and have been in the criminal justice system as a result. To be hired, they must have two years of sobriety, and receive ongoing professional and ethical training.

Following the release of the offender, mentors continue to monitor their progress until they have a sponsor and a place to live, a well-established support group, friends in recovery and a treatment program. This final phase lasts about three or four months.

Of 283 offenders in the Recovery Mentor Program in 2008, about 90 percent are now in stable housing, employed, financially self-supporting and attending continuing support groups and required treatment.

Other in-house programs include mental health services, wellness and nutrition, and life skills training for employment, parenting, computer literacy and fellowship.



no comments yet - be the first?