It is often said that donating money is easy but donating time is difficult and more valuable. I guess it depends on what perspective you view time and money from. Our country is noted for volunteerism. Whether that be the original volunteer colonial army, international relief efforts, or something as simple as volunteering to help a friend or family in need, volunteerism is one of the strengths of our society.
Most think of volunteerism as officially being an approved badge carrying volunteer for whatever organization you are donating your time with. However, we are so used to giving of our time, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish volunteer work from just lending a helping hand. The dictionary defines volunteer as one who helps or volunteers without expectation of pay or rewards. Therefore, we are probably volunteering to do something without reward or pay on a daily basis. Department of Corrections’ employees are renowned for providing such free assistance. Our work with youth camps, Special Olympics, and a host of other projects is engrained in our culture.
In corrections we normally think of volunteers from faith based groups since a majority of our volunteers are in that arena. Components of reentry are now becoming the focus of many groups who volunteer with us as the country struggles with over 800,000 offender releases each year from state and federal facilities. This does not take into account county and local jails. I realize that sometimes networking with so many volunteer groups requires additional work efforts to allow them access to facilities and offenders, provide space and to monitor activities. Everyone is working for the common good of each other and the dividends in improved offender behavior, families reunited, and the positive effects on many other areas of a person’s life, justifies the investment.
I recently interviewed the finalists for probation and parole officer of the year, correctional officer supervisor and correctional officer of the year. It never ceases to amaze me that every year these finalists always have many causes they volunteer for. This year was no exception. Volunteerism is a way to serve that is more self satisfying and also rewarding to those receiving your time, than anything else you can do. I applaud everyone who gives of their time in volunteer efforts and it is a pleasure to recognize a few of those efforts in this edition.
During Fiscal Year 2008, 1,272 female offenders were released. Of these offenders, 60 percent (N=768) were released to probation and parole, and 40 percent (N=504) were released without a requirement for continued supervision.
Female offenders have significant needs upon reentry to society. These needs include:
The Family Justice Initiative will provide significant and welcome support to the agency’s efforts toward improved reentry outcomes. Family Justices utilizes the Bodega Model of family case management which is characterized by:
Oklahoma joins the state of New Mexico as the two states selected to participate in the Family Justice initiative entitled, “Reentry is Relational: Sustaining Tools that Engage Family/Social Networks for Improved Reentry Outcomes.”
Family Justice develops creative initiatives with a wide range of strategic partners, including government agencies and community- and faith-based organizations with a strength-based, family-focused approach that results in better outcomes for people who are involved in the criminal justice system and their families.
This is not the first time the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has had the opportunity to partner with Family Justice. With support of the National Institute of Corrections, the Relational Inquiry Tool was developed in partnership with state departments of corrections in Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, as well as the Safer Foundation in Chicago.
Staff from the Hillside Community Corrections Center, Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, and several other areas of the agency assisted in the development and piloting of the Relational Inquiry Tool in 2007.
Additionally, with support of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Family Justice developed a 10-minute video that highlights how correctional facilities, probation and parole departments and social service agencies at the state and local levels are adapting and integrating their strength-based, family focused tools and methods. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections was recognized for outstanding adaptation of The Bodega Model.
For this current initiative, staff from the Division of Female Offender Operations administrative office, Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, and Central District Community Corrections will join valued community stakeholders as members of a Diagonal Work Group responsible for working with Family Justice to achieve the following outcomes:
Staff from the Hillside Community Corrections Center will be participating
in this endeavor as well in order to continue integration of the Relational
Inquiry Tool into their reentry efforts.
Funding for this initiative is provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Family Justice will provide technical assistance and training for agency staff on the use of the evidence-based Bodega Model, the Relational Inquiry Tool, and cross-agency collaboration; evaluate the integration of Family Justice’s methods and tools into staff practices; and provide ongoing technical assistance to ensure sustainability.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is pleased to partner with Family Justice on this important endeavor. Additional updates will be provided as information becomes available.
The Relational Inquiry Tool is designed to:
Margaret diZerega, Director of Training and Technical Assistance, Family Justice, will be working with the following members of the Diagonal Work Group:
EVIDENCE BASED PRACTICE:
Officer’s Work Yields Significant Results in Oklahoma
Evidence Based Practice(EBP), Evidence Based Supervision (EBS), Research Based Supervision(RBS); all of these terms refer to a body of knowledge resulting from an analysis of criminal justice research that has been conducted over the past thirty plus years. This body of knowledge has produced validated “principles” that have demonstrated remarkable outcomes with our correctional population. Documented reduction in recidivism in some populations has exceeded thirty percent. The long-term goal of evidence based supervision is sustained behavioral change that results in reduced recidivism.
Oklahoma began implementing these practices in supervision during 2006. Probation and Parole officers have worked diligently to use tools available to effect and support behavioral change in the offenders they supervise. Our preliminary outcome data demonstrates the dedication and tenacity of our officers in the application of these new skills for successful intervention with offenders. Since these practices have been implemented, Oklahoma’s revocation rate for offenders supervised by probation and parole officers has been reduced by thirty-two percent in the initial year and is trending thirteen percent for the current fiscal year.
With the application of EBS, Oklahoma established the desired goal of supervision as increasing successful offender outcomes, thereby reducing recidivism. Success is measured by decreasing the number of offenders accelerated or revoked to prison while under supervision.
INTERMEDIATE MEASURES OF PROGRESS INCLUDE PERCENTAGE OF:
While many of the principles of EBS have previously been identified as components of “what works,” research has elevated them to a new level due to determining a “statistical significance” between the use of the practice and lowered recidivism. All the components of EBS have been demonstrated as valid practices for the reduction of recidivism in the management of community based corrections populations.
THE PRINCIPLES OF EVIDENCE BASED PRACTICES ARE:
The components of evidence based practice are directed toward identifying
criminogenic risk factors of moderate and high risk offenders and applying
scarce correctional resources to this population. Research documents that
the best results are realized with moderate risk offenders. High risk offenders,
or at least those on the far end of the risk spectrum, are least likely to
benefit from therapeutic interventions. These are the offenders, who, regardless
of supervision techniques and interventions, will eventually re-offend and
return to the criminal justice system. Supervision interventions with this
population, termed life course persistent, are directed toward control and
containment in order to best protect the public. Intervention with low risk
offenders has been shown to be a poor use of correctional resources, and
in many instances, has been documented to increase risk factors of this population.
Through the use of various tools, probation and parole officers work with targeted offenders in an effort to develop, or enhance, an offender’s internal motivation to make behavioral changes. To support these major life changes, officers apply assessment and evaluation results and work with offenders to identify interventions available in support of changes to move an offender away from a criminal lifestyle toward desistance.
Oklahoma began using the LSI-R (Level of Services Inventory-Revised) as the agency’s primary risk assessment tool in early 2000. This is a third generation risk assessment tool that is administered by officers trained to incorporate motivational interviewing (MI) techniques in the semi-structured interview. These techniques enable the officer to better elicit responses from an offender. MI has also been demonstrated to be an effective tool for use in brief behavioral interventions with offenders. More specifically, MI techniques are well suited to help the officer challenge an offender’s sometimes distorted thinking patterns and engage the offender in examining behaviors and their impact on not only the offender, but also on those around him. While the goal of supervision targets changing an offender’s behavior, the responsibility for that change rests solely with the offender. An officer can challenge and question, and provide advice and support, but only the offender can elect to make changes.
Interventions include drug and alcohol treatment, mental health treatment, cognitive restructuring programs, anger management programs, and educational and employment programs. All treatment programs are based on a cognitive model and target specific risk factors. Risk and need factors of each offender are different and require varying levels of intervention. Officers must take this into consideration and work with treatment providers to match each offender to appropriate programs.
As offenders learn new ways to deal with old behaviors, it is critical that the opportunity to practice new behaviors is provided; and the new behaviors are acknowledged and rewarded as appropriate. An offender’s learning and recognizing triggers, or antecedents, to unhealthy or unlawful behaviors, allows the offender to implement and practice newly acquired skills that serve to redirect their actions. Through gaining skills in problem solving, offenders are provided with tools for better decision making.
Engagement in pro-social activities serves to increase protective factors and support an offender’s long term behavioral change. Protective factors are those skills, associates, and learned behaviors that support individual risk reduction. As with all skills, repeated practice in everyday situations is critical for supported acquisition and retention.
Since incorporating the principles of evidence based practice, Oklahoma has seen outcome results not unlike those promised by the research. As noted, the long term outcome is reduction of risk and an increase in protective factors. Since this type of evaluation and measurement takes several years of outcome data, short term and intermediate measures were identified that would provide an indicator of supervision success. Components for measure were identified as case status at discharge; employment status, program participation; and the rate of offenders who abscond supervision.
In order to evaluate ongoing outcomes, a base rate was established by identifying each of the outcome components for FY’07. Revocations were identified by the total number of probation and parole offenders who were accelerated or revoked to prison at the time their supervision was terminated. Table 1 reflects that 3,015 offenders were revoked from community supervision to a period of incarceration during FY’07.
Revocations were divided into three distinct areas, technical violations
and absconders, new law violations, and revocations by specialty courts.
Revocations are the most critical area for evaluation. Offenders who are
revoked to prison take the most critical correctional resources that should
be reserved for those who pose the greatest risk to the public. Technical
violators are best suited for revocation reduction activities due to sanctioning
alternatives available in managing these offenders. Reduction in the number
of offenders who commit law violations is the most difficult population to
impact. Law violations are committed by all offenders, not just those identified
as high risk. Consistently identifying these offenders prior to the commission
of a new crime is not always possible. Many times, the best result occurs
when officers move quickly to intervene with an offender who has become noncompliant
and with whom intermediate sanctions have not been successful. Probation
and parole officers provide courtesy supervision for many drug courts, DUI
courts, and mental health courts and for some community sentencing councils.
In these specialty courts, failure to comply with strict guidelines often
leads to revocation with few additional options for the participating offenders.
Although lack of employment is not a criminogenic risk factor for all offenders, stable and satisfying employment provides an offender the opportunity for developing pro-social relationships that are supportive of a crime-free lifestyle. Employment serves to provide structure to an offender and can serve as a basis around which to schedule an offender’s time. Lack of consistent employment can be correlated to a higher risk for criminal behavior. Due to this, employment serves as a protective factor for an offender. For the use of outcome measures, the average employment rate is considered for each time period, calculated on the monthly average over the year. An offender for whom employment is not required, such as an individual who is permanently disabled, is, for the purpose of this measure, considered employed.
Offenders who fail to submit to supervision are classified as absconders.
This classification of offender can be the offender who poses the most risk
to the public (due to failure to comply with supervision directives) or the
offender who simply fades away never to be seen again by the criminal justice
system. Until their status is resolved, their eventual risk cannot be adequately
Participation in treatment programs has the greatest potential for risk reduction. It is in these programs that offenders are exposed to behavioral alternatives that lead to desistance. Consideration must be given to ensure only offenders with identified criminogenic risk factors are placed into targeted programs. Program participation is monitored through rigorous communication between the offender, the treatment provider, and the supervising officer. Probation and parole officers have become experts in assessing change readiness which is the foundation for behavioral change. Baseline treatment participation is shown in Table 2.
TABLE 2: Treatment Program Participation FY ’07 By Program Type and Number of Offenders Participating
Another critical factor contributing to successful offender outcomes is the supervision relationship. When an offender perceives the officer to be supportive in the offender’s change process, outcomes improve. Officers who are “firm and fair” establish expectations and behavioral parameters that serve to guide the supervision process by providing the offender a roadmap to success. Inclusion of the offender in all planning processes is central to improving desired outcomes.
The base measures for FY’07 are consistent with previous year’s results before the implementation of evidence based supervision. As officers began to focus their supervision strategies toward activities that supported offender behavior change, there has been a continued trend toward meeting expected and desired goals of supervision.
During the initial year of implementation, officers were able to focus their supervision activities on moderate and high risk offenders while realigning low risk offenders to administrative levels of supervision, or by terminating supervision altogether. Low risk offenders, identified by the LSI-R, were subject to closure upon completion of the assessment process. For continued supervision, an officer was required to develop a case plan that would target offender needs and develop a time line with the offender in which to meet expectations for completion of supervision. Once those expectations were met, supervision would be terminated, or if justified, continued for an additional six months.
By realigning supervision resources to moderate and high-risk offenders, caseload sizes statewide were reduced. This provides officers more time to direct their efforts to those offenders most in need of supervision. At the close of FY’08, the average statewide officer caseload was 76. This was calculated based on the total number of offenders subject to active supervision, divided by the total number of officers state-wide.
The intermediate measures indicate a significant reduction in the number of offenders who were revoked to a prison term from a period of community supervision. The overall number of revocations was reduced by 975 from the base measure established from FY’07. This 32% reduction is phenomenal. Interestingly, it holds steady across the range for technical/absconders and for new law violations. Specialty courts experienced a 37% reduction in revocations. Each year, the total percentage of each type of revocation class remained fairly constant.
Current trending for the fiscal year (through January 2009) indicates the reduction is continuing with the exception of the specialty courts where the number of revocations appears to be on the rise (Table 6). Based on the data available, overall reduction in revocations reached 32% for FY’08 and is currently trending a 13% reduction for the current fiscal year.
While a reduction in the number of offenders revoked to prison is even more significant in light of the current economic crisis faced by the agency, it is not necessarily a reflection of long term behavioral change. This measure is only reflective of the offender’s status at the time of termination of supervision. Until there is at least three years of data available, the reduction of individual offender risk cannot be determined. Indicators that demonstrate movement toward this risk reduction include the other intermediate measures that have been previously identified: employment and program participation.
Employment rates of offenders increased by 2.95% from FY’07 to FY’08. For the current year, unfortunately, those rates are trending a drop of over three quarters of one percent. When considering the economy and our population, this small drop does not seem too significant at this point.
Program participation is an indicator as an offender’s active involvement in the change process. All program areas reflect continuous improvement, with the exception of assignment to educational programs. While this is a concern, education is not a criminogenic factor for all offenders and may not be considered a priority for an offender who is attempting to address substance abuse or other critical risk factors.
The rate of active absconders from supervision has declined steadily over the time under review. Before any offender is classified as an absconder, officers make diligent efforts to locate the offender and return them to supervision. Absconders from supervision are typically held active by a felony warrant issued by the agency of jurisdiction. If an offender has remained an absconder for a lengthy period of time with no new arrests, many jurisdictions allow the agency to be discharged from the obligation to continue supervision.
Although preliminary, these results are extremely promising in relation to our long term outcomes. Officers have demonstrated a dedication to working with offenders to shape behaviors into more pro-social avenues that are proven to result in lower rates of recidivism.
Oklahoma is extremely fortunate to have officers and supervisors who exemplify excellence in all they do. Our officers are committed to engaging offenders as partners in their supervision in order to provide an opportunity for life changes that will help lead them to not only lower recidivism rates, but also to desistance from a criminal lifestyle.
When their efforts are converted to dollars and cents, probation and parole has diverted $19.6 million of incarceration costs since implementing evidence based supervision. This is based on a reduction of 1250 offenders revoked since FY’07 at a daily cost of $43 per day and assuming a term of one year for each revocation.
The cost savings realized by the state is significant, but are immeasurable to those citizens who could have been potential victims.
Bob Rubin - Uniquely successful in the Southern California film, TV and advertising communities for 25 years, Bob Rubin was recruited to come to Oklahoma in 2002 by a major Indian nation for a year as a media consultant.
At the end of the year, Bob and his wife Paula, an educator, decided to make Oklahoma their home. They photograph, write and publish the very popular Fun Country: OKLAHOMA! Travel Guide, promoting tourism in Southeast Oklahoma, distributed extensively by the state Travel & Tourism Department.
They are both badged DOC religious volunteers, with Bob serving as the statewide liaison for the Oklahoma Jewish offender community.
Volunteers in Corrections:
"If I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?"
Those two questions posed by the renowned rabbinical scholar Hillel, 2000 years ago, comprise the rationale for why I am invested in helping create a better tomorrow for Oklahoma offenders.
Working closely with wardens and chaplains, I oversee and monitor religious rights, practices and observances for Jewish offenders at each prison facility, statewide.
I work in collaboration with two major Jewish prisoner-service organizations: the Aleph Institute's enormous prison outreach, headed by Rabbi Menachem Katz, in Surfside, Florida; and Seattle-based JPSI, Jewish Prisoner Services International, the highly respected advocacy group, led by 2005 Corrections Industry Chaplain of the Year, Gary Friedman.
I perceive the responsibility I have accepted as being that of the liaison between Jewish offenders and the often threatening, disorienting and overwhelming experience of being separated from the only world they have ever known. Incorporating positive reinforcement, I work to help connect or reconnect those willing to grow and open to change, with the tradition, richness and values of Judaism.
I represent our state's Jewish community on the Oklahoma Corrections Advisory Council on Inmate Religious Rights and Practices, serving as its vice chair. This is where many of us, representing both the major and minority faiths are able to share and work through our mutual challenges. It is indeed important for those of us of faith to support each other. A valuable seat on this council of mostly ordained clergy members, utilizing the top-notch seasoning and vital perspective of DOC Chaplain Leo Brown, enables us to do so, while providing much-needed input, ideas and advice directly to the DOC.
Along with the loyal dedication and hard work of prison chaplains, the many committed prison staff members and other DOC employees, there are 4,500 religious volunteers in Oklahoma's prisons, each doing his or her part to help get and keep offenders on an ethical road to a better future, filled with values, standards and positive behavior. There is, however, great room for growth and improvement, which accompanies the crucial need for moral and character development.
Technological effectiveness is the empowerment parolees must have. Eighty percent of those incarcerated today will, at some point, become our neighbors –– mine and yours. Would it not be wise to see that ex-offenders have truly learned right from wrong, and are values-driven, strongly committed to practicing their faith, drug-free, degreed, skilled, prepared, capable, self-confident and employable the very day they are released?
We need to regard –– not foolishly lock up and ignore –– these men and women. Indeed, they are there to be punished, but why does that mean warehoused, dumbed-down and distanced from education?
There are certainly key religious concerns, as well. As Jews, we know that Judaism does not offer the only way to the "world to come," nor offer the only path to salvation, nor do we make any attempt to convert others to Judaism. Uniquely, there are many offenders who claim to be, want to be or seem to wish they were Jewish. Practicing Judaism does not make one Jewish, nor does attending Jewish prayer services or learning sessions, or eating kosher food. Jews retain the right to determine who is a Jew. Simply speaking, being born of Jewish parentage or converting via the challenging, lengthy conversion process are the only two ways that one becomes a Jew.
We find it most beneficial if Jewish offenders learn about Judaism from a Jew. This is not always easy. With relatively so few Jews in Oklahoma, unfortunately, even most of its 3.5 million residents only learn about Judaism from a Christian perspective. It is no wonder there is so much misunderstanding of Judaism. Though there are relatively few Jewish offenders at any one prison, perhaps only a couple dozen total, statewide, it seems there are constantly well-intentioned folks from other faith groups who find it necessary for Jews to convert to THEIR faith, instead of encouraging Jewish offenders to excel as observant members of their Jewish faith.
Discrimination toward offenders of various minority faiths and denominations is prevalent in our prisons, and it remains one of our biggest challenges. Whether those be of Native American religions, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or those of so many other belief systems –– as Jews, we respect all other recognized religious faiths, particularly, their right to practice those faiths.
Oklahoma's bright, capable prison chaplains –– who do their best to be fair to offenders of all faiths –– are usually well-trained in the Protestant denominations. Thus, they are not always as knowledgeable as we, or they themselves, wish they were about the minority religions or denominations. That is certainly an area where we, as volunteers, can make a valuable contribution. All of us, who are part of these smaller groups, want to be regarded in even-handed fashion, whether inside or outside of the institution walls and electronic fencing. To me, my commitment in the Oklahoma corrections system is all about four words: No Jew Left Behind.
Religious faith is not just about belief; no one is exempt from focusing on doing the right thing, even doing it with the folks who have done some terribly wrong things. I believe putting back –– volunteerism –– is a key ingredient for a better tomorrow, in every Oklahoma city and town. Every American can find a couple hours a week, take the spotlight off ourselves and help elevate someone else, if they really want to. It feels good to do the right thing, reaching out with a hand up.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program (RiP)
“We are dedicated to enriching the lives of our citizens in the hopes
that one day they can fulfill their dreams and put their past behind them
by creating a brighter tomorrow through a positive today.”
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program is under the Division
of Human Development designed to assist Creek Citizens who have been incarcerated
make the transition back into society. The program’s objective is
to make our neighborhoods and communities safer by providing alternative
opportunities for ex-offenders to become a productive citizen and to decrease
offender recidivism. Services offered through the RiP include setting up
housing, job advocacy, food assistance, clothing assistance, referrals
to behavioral health, substance abuse and medical agencies as the need
requires. Pre-release applicants may be advocated for at their parole or
court hearing. Each client is assessed and an individual “Reintegration
Aftercare Plan” (RAP) is established to meet the client’s personal
needs. Seminars are presented at correctional facilities geared toward
getting the client ready for life upon their release from prison. Seminars
cover topics concerning character building, stress solutions, identity
resolutions, job skills, reintegration techniques and educational options.
Speak-out tours are designed for juveniles as a preventive measure to deter
bad behaviors and law violations. Speak-out tours will be conducted at
area schools, detention centers and shelters. Eligibility requirements
consist of the applicant being a Creek Citizen, currently or previously
incarcerated in an in-state penal institution under the Department of Corrections
custody and willing to or residing within the Creek Nation boundaries.
Applicants must be two (2) years post release or eighteen (18) months pre-release.
The program is open to male and female, adult and juvenile applicants.
R I P GOALS:
112 West Gentry
Henryetta, OK 74437
Tony Fish, Program Coordinator
Cell Phone (918) 637-7404
OFFICE CONTACT NUMBERS:
TOLL FREE 1-800-259-1059
LOCAL (918) 652-2676
FAX (918) 652-2678
The RiP program is vital in the efforts of successful reintegration and transition assistance. We are a tribally funded program geared towards providing Creek citizens who have been incarcerated or soon to be released the opportunity to benefit from our services. To be eligible for services, certain criteria must be met. Those elements are:
In Partnership with Community resources and other Tribal service programs
such as Social Services, Food Distribution, Vocational Rehabilitation and
Behavioral Health, we strive to come together as one to reduce recidivism,
rebuild hope, strengthen individual skills and rekindle the spirit of those
that deserve second chances.
STEPS of RiP:
The “Count Down To Re-Entry” Seminar series include sessions titled: Reintegration Techniques, Character Building, Stress Solutions, Job Skills, Identity Resolutions, and Educational Options. Institutions, Facilities and Centers are encouraged to request booking.
SPEAK OUT TOURS
The “Speak Out” Tours are focused on Mentorship, Educational Counseling, Faith-Based Initiatives, Out-Reach and Preventative Measures. These tours are committed to social, political, and cultural diversity issues among juveniles and their peers. “Speak Out” encourages critical and problem solving solutions to prevent crime and gang participation. These tours are conducted at public schools, juvenile service units, training schools, shelters, and detention centers. These facilities are encouraged to request booking. For a detailed outline of each series and scheduling, please contact the RiP Program Coordinator.
These tutorials are designed primarily to fit the individual with total focus on the client’s weaknesses. Tutorials increase awareness and knowledge which improve self-enhancement skills. Tutorials cover subjects like: Anger Management, Parenting, Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, Teenage Violence, Employment and Educational Options.
WHY I BECAME A VOLUNTEER - by David Collins, ex-offender
Ever since I was thirteen years old I have been in trouble, I went to a
juvenile institution a few times. Then when I was seventeen years old I went
to prison; got out, went back at age nineteen; got out, went back at twenty-four;
got out, when I was twenty-eight. Then I went back to prison when I was
forty-three. All my life I never had God in my life, and was strung out
on drugs and was an alcoholic.
When I went to jail in 2004, I talked to someone in jail about God, and we started going to Bible studies. When I went to prison on January 8, 2005, I went forward and got Baptized. After that I have hungered and thirsted for the Lord. I came to Oklahoma City to OKCCC in March of 2006, and started going to Redemption Church. At this church I grew in faith and really learned a lot about Jesus. I have been coming to Wednesday night Bible study for over two and a half years, and services twice a week for three years now. I got out of prison on February 4, 2009. I met a good woman about a year ago at this church, and we started seeing each other regularly. She has been out of prison for about ten months, and we both keep coming to church here to grow in faith with God and we pray together, go to Bible study and services together.
We both are growing Christians and we decided to get married on March 15. God has really blessed our marriage and our lives. We both have good jobs and I have been clean and sober for over four and a half years.
God has brought peace into my life and within me, and we both love Jesus with all of our hearts. God showed me what real love is, and has changed my life completely. So even though I am out of prison I still come to church.
The people at Redemption Church didn’t care what I did in the past. They accepted me and they have shown me God’s love. It feels good to have real family in my life and that is what this church is to me. It is my family. I thank God for this church and I hope others come and learn that God is real and that there are people who really care about them. Redemption Church helped bring me to the light of who Jesus Christ is.
WHY I BECAME
A VOLUNTEER -
by Brian Johnson, ex-offender
Self centered, egotistical, envious….just a few of the adjectives that can describe the way I lived my life before I came to know Christ.
The times I spent in prison, twice in Oklahoma and the last time on a parole violation, is what it took for me to get it through my head that there had to be a better way to live life to the fullest without doing it on society’s dime, in a jail cell.
I made my mind up at James Crabtree that I was not going back to prison when I got out this time, but I needed a plan. I was willing to do whatever I needed to do, but what?
I found my way to the chapel. It didn’t take long for me to get the right idea when I started seeing all these free world people giving up their time to come to prison. I had no idea that there were people that thought we, the drudges of society, were worth their time. That I was worth something was the first thing that they were telling me. It was an alien concept to me, because for so long I lived with the idea that I was destined to be what I was. The adjectives at the beginning are not me anymore.
I was lucky to have found two loving people that took me, and a whole lot of others into their arms. Mentored me, showing me that there was and is another way.
The giving of one’s self is love. I came to Redemption Church about four and a half years ago. I saw the importance of giving back freely what had been given to me; love. I feel that it is important for me, an ex-convict, to show those that are still incarcerated that there is a new and better way. I know what it is like to be in both places, and where I am now is so much better.
I want the inmates that come to Redemption Church to see me and to know that it is possible to live a normal productive life. I lead by example.
I am not the same person that I was described as at the start of this. I am honest, loving, giving, and caring. This is my life now. If I am not at home or work I’m giving myself freely doing volunteer work here at Redemption Church, because I know in my heart that this place of love and understanding helps people make over their lives, to become productive members of society and not a burden.
Redemption Church has made a difference in my way of life and the lives of countless others. I am now a badged volunteer for the Department of Corrections, I have been for several years, and it is a privilege and honor for me to serve in this capacity.
People trust me, that is something that I cannot remember having, it’s a wonderful feeling.
My Experience as a Volunteer -
by Andrea Alexander, Case Manager,
Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Initially, when I accepted the job offer of case manager I truly believed I was only going to conduct groups, do some individual counseling, that it would be in the “free world,” and the clients would all be Muscogee (Creek). Well, you can imagine after three years, how this has not been the case; what an eye opener this job has been and continues to be. I would say the biggest challenge has been the concept of Reentry. For instance, when we are conducting an informational seminar, you can see on the faces of the offender, even the Department of Corrections (DOC) staff, the hesitation and the disbelief. That a tribe would even come to the prison; offer some information, offer resources for when they hit the “free world.” Classically, this is a population that has been forgotten, that whole “lock them up and throw the key away” is just not working. Reentry is all new for the offender, it is inconceivable to think, much less believe that outside that fence, that gate, that, yes, there are options other than coming back to prison.
Although it has been challenging and it is also very rewarding, I would say I love my job, and the work I do, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation for their support in letting their Citizens know, they matter. Native Americans as a whole, are a giving, kind people, so Reentry, wraparound modeling, peace circles are not a new concept for us. This program has afforded me opportunities to speak with these men and ladies, to actually hear their stories and to allow them the opportunity for both growth and hope. Do you remember that feeling at Christmas time, that whole anticipation of not knowing what you were going to get, how many presents you were going to receive or even if you were the recipient of the “Dirty Santa” gift? All that, can for me be equated to the “joys” I receive in the work we do with DOC. As stated earlier, when we conduct our information seminars, or even the recovery group, I do not know what is going to happen, I don’t know who will attend, and, of course, if they will be receptive to the information.
That anticipation is there, that relief when it is done, but not a relief it is over, the relief that we were able, for a moment, allowing these people an opportunity for a venue, a forum for them to get their questions answered, also an opportunity for self reflection. Now, I look at it in the way of “service payback,” by spreading the recovery and reentry message, it is safe to say or write that all in all, the greatest joy is to be allowed the opportunities to do what I do. People change, business is not 100% guaranteed, but I know I have given 100% in my effort to do my job well.
Why I Became A Volunteer - by Fredo S. Anderson, Case Manager, Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Being a volunteer helps the inmate have some hope that there are people
who care about their future, even the ones who are serving long sentences.
This also helps the ones who never have anyone who come to visit them. They
need someone to visit with and give them hope. I have volunteered for many
years and have enjoyed every year that I have volunteered. This gives the
long-term inmates whether they are males of females someone to talk to and
give them hope.
The time I spend with inmates is rewarding for me. Out of the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center at Taft, OK, I was voted Volunteer of the Year in 1999. The warden at the time was Ms. Debbie Mahaffey. I am still volunteering and will continue to volunteer as long as I can.
My Experience as a Volunteer - by Tony Fish, Reintegration Manager, Muscogee (Creek) Nation
I have enjoyed my work as a volunteer immensely. I never would have guessed
my life path would have taken the route it has, straight through the Oklahoma
Department of Corrections. Early on, my thoughts of helping prisoners was
somewhat obscured to say the least. My position was that they did it to themselves,
I had no empathy for them and no regard for their future. As a paid employee
in the private prison sector, I began to have a paradigm shift. I began to
realize that these prisoners were actually people with real feelings and
a desire to change and for the most part succeed. This evolution made me
realize that my calling was on the other side of the fence. Doors began to
open for me and I was placed in an administrative role to help the people
I used to shun. Though I have faced many challenges, the reward of seeing
someone get out, become the father, brother, husband, wife or sister they
are capable of is immeasurable. I look forward to the opportunities that
await me, and embrace the challenges to come as a D.O.C. Volunteer.
Beginning in December of 2004, Oklahoma Corrections became the first correctional system in the nation to use Wraparound with high-risk adult offenders in order to reduce recidivism; wraparound was originated as a process for working with children.
Dr. John VanDenBerg, a pioneer in the development of the wraparound process,
conducted the training for wraparound facilitators called transition coordinators.
Transition coordinators are trained in the wraparound process, a highly individualized,
strength-focused and family centered philosophy of care, and utilize the
model in accordance with national standards. Transition coordinators work
with the offender to identify the strengths, needs and culture of the offender
and to develop a wraparound team using natural supports, community volunteers
and professional service providers. Transition coordinators guide the wraparound
team to develop a transition “wraparound” plan based on the identified
individual strengths, needs, goals and limitations of the offender.
This innovative process organizes resources to improve the lives of discharging offenders and their families by enlisting the collaboration and support of the community. Offenders typically have no support systems or unhealthy ones which are detrimental to living a crime free life. Their supports generally helped them get to prison in the first place. Because discharging offenders have many complex needs which they are often ill equipped to deal with on their own, those who have used traditional services may find wraparound a helpful process in meeting their individual and specific needs so they can achieve successful reentry into the community. The wraparound process is voluntary for offenders; no one is mandated to participate.
The wraparound process begins with engagement when the transition coordinator first makes contact with the offender. Engagement continues throughout the process and will include the offender’s family and additional team members. It is a vital step and sets the tone for the entire process; developing an ongoing rapport with the offender and his family based on trust and support. Engagement is accomplished through conversational style meetings during which the transition coordinator solicits enough trust from the offender and family to engage them in the process. The conversations may result in the early identification of primary needs and goals for both the family and the offender. Active listening skills are a critical tool for transition coordinators to possess.
These conversations will also result in producing a multi-page document containing key information about the offender and family’s strengths, needs, culture and vision for the future; this document is called a Strengths, Needs, Culture and Vision Discovery (SNCVD). The purpose of the SNCVD is to support a highly individualized wraparound plan ensuring that it fits the unique needs of the offender and family and permits the plan to include strength based options that reflect the culture of the family.
The SNCVD helps ensure the wraparound plan is strength based as opposed to deficit based; it ensures that what goes into the plan is designed to address the offender’s specific needs rather than readymade services that look good in a plan but leave the real needs unaddressed and the offender at-risk. Transition coordinators identify characteristics and resources the offender has that have been successful in the past and that can be used in the plan to accomplish a successful transition into the community. The offender identifies his needs and what he thinks he needs in order to have a better life, however the transition coordinator, through review of all assessment information, will determine what areas of need must be addressed. The offender’s choice of needs maintains the wraparound principle of “Voice and Choice” except when the offender has mental health, medical or substance abuse issues.
The SNCVD also contains information indicating the offender’s family culture; the informal rules and structures of how his family operates. This will ensure the wraparound plan looks and feels like his family, increasing the probability that he will use the plan. A culturally competent wraparound plan is more likely to gain ownership and participation from the offender and his family.
One of the unique and key characteristics of the wraparound process is that the Wraparound Plan is developed by the offender and a family centered team. The team is selected by the offender and the transition coordinator and consists of four to six people who care for and know the offender and family best. The SNCVD helps surrogate family members, volunteers who act as family members when traditional family are unavailable, community supports and professionals to know and understand the offender in such a way that they are able to effectively offer genuine care and support. Friends, family, neighbors, faith-based community members, and professional service providers can all be included on the team.
Once the team is established, team members meet with the offender on a regular basis and assist the offender in developing the wraparound plan. They aid the offender in crisis planning, help coordinate the offender’s access to resources, support the offender as he implements the plan, and provide unconditional care. Wraparound teams become committed to the offender, as a family member, continuing long term support after formal services are complete.
Wraparound team meetings foster trust and mutual respect while the team works with the offender on developing his wraparound plan. Transition coordinators initially act as the meeting facilitator and the guardian of the offender’s plan. Eventually a family member or the offender himself will become the team facilitator. Because wraparound is based on offender “Voice and Choice,” the offender always has the final decision when it comes to the specifics of his plan. It is also critical to team cohesiveness and trust that each member and the offender work to ensure that everyone feels heard and that the options chosen have a reasonable chance of being met.
Team meetings are held both pre-release and post-release. Pre-release team meetings are held at least two months before release and often earlier. The earlier team meetings begin, the more team meetings can be held, which ensures a more detailed and useful wraparound plan. Post release team meetings are held as quickly after release as can be arranged and take place several times during the first year following release; it is at this time that a team member will take over as facilitator, pledging to maintain the fidelity of the team and the plan.
Team meetings are often videotaped for supervisory benefits of transition coordinators and to help them to hone their wraparound and team leading skills. Strong leadership skills are needed to help quality teams develop and flourish even when conditions are not optimal. For example, when team members are unable to physically attend a team meeting, technology is used to help them attend. A member can attend by use of a speakerphone, conference call or interactive television.
Possible problems that the offender could face in the implementation of the wraparound plan are discussed with the offender and his team. A functional assessment is completed; a document that assists the offender and team in discovering the offender’s probable behaviors that could threaten his potential for success. The functional assessment answers the questions: what behaviors have gotten the offender into trouble in the past; what happens before, during and after the behavior; when does the behavior not occur; what need or needs does the behavior address; and what are some alternative behaviors that the offender can use to effectively deal with those same needs.
The wraparound team also helps the offender develop a crisis/safety plan. The safety plan addresses the behaviors that could cause the offender to get into trouble after release. Strengths that the offender has and that he can use to deal with his potential trouble causing behaviors are discussed. A plan for which one of the team members will take what specific action and when that action will be taken are detailed for three different occasions; before the behavior (prevention), once the behavior starts and finally intervention during the behavior. Fundamental to the wraparound process is the foundation principle that the wraparound team has persistent commitment to seeing the process through to the end; they never give up.
Wraparound assists the offender in building meaningful and healthy support systems in the community so they will be less likely to gravitate back to the unhealthy systems that would, more than likely land them back in prison with new crimes and new victims. Transition coordinators assist the offender in joining with their team and community members in order to agree upon a vision and strategic plan for supporting the offender as he reenters the community.
A typical scenario that will dramatize the process is as follows. An offender discharges from prison and will be on probation. Being on probation means he will have scheduled meetings with a probation officer and certain obligations and expectations to meet due to his probation. This same offender might have a chemical abuse issue and is need of, at the very least, a support group to stay clean and sober. He might also have small children who are involved with Department of Human Services (DHS) and will have to meet with their caseworkers on a regular basis to keep his children at home and doing well. He must also maintain a residence, something that is not easy for a discharging offender, he needs a job and will have to keep his new boss satisfied. He might also have a wife or girlfriend and possibly other people who are or will be an integral part of his life.
What often happens, not intentionally, but it happens, is that the probation officer’s requirements might conflict with the new employer’s needs. The DHS worker’s conditions and actions to help the family might conflict with the chemical abuse counselor’s efforts to support the ex-offender and they all tend to make the wife feel second-class.
The wraparound process gets all of these people, who are important to the offender, together to develop one plan to meet all the needs. One plan that meets the needs of the offender; needs such as housing, employment, counseling, getting a driver’s license and paying fines, and also helps the probation officer, the DHS worker, the new employer, the apartment manager, the chemical abuse counselor and the wife and his children to work together helping the offender and themselves.
The success of wraparound is founded upon several values and principles which must be an integral part of the process for each individual offender and his family. Adherence to these values is essential to the effective and successful execution of the process.
IN CONCLUSION, the wraparound process is implemented with the involvement of those people who are important to the offender. It improves the lives of offenders by building on their strengths. It encourages and gives them an individualized and specific plan for them to make helpful, caring connections in the community. The process ensures that services are focused on the needs of the individual and his family.
Offenders identified as high risk are eligible for participation in the process if they score a Moderate-High LSI-R score of 25-35 or have been incarcerated for more than ten years. The offender must be ineligible for community security and must have been incarcerated for more than one year including jail time.
Unit and facility staff at assigned facilities may refer offenders who meet the criteria for wraparound to a transition coordinator. A transition coordinator will review the offender’s eligibility and reply in writing with an approval or reason for denial. Normally, transition coordinators will request a list of possible eligible offenders from the facilities to which they are assigned and review files and interview offenders to determine if the offender is a good candidate for the wraparound process. Transition coordinators are located in the communities where their caseloads are returning; Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Southeast Oklahoma. One transition coordinator works specifically with female offenders who might be returning to communities around the state. (It is important to note that throughout this article the “he” and “him” have been used for simplicity. Female offenders like their male counterparts can volunteer and participate in the wraparound process.)
It takes dedicated volunteers in the community to help the wraparound process be successful. You could become a wraparound support volunteer today and help make the difference of a lifetime for someone in need of support. Interested? Contact the Programs Unit Reentry Manager at (405) 962-6165.
Adult Offender Wraparound is making a difference in recidivism in Oklahoma. Both quantitative and qualitative data are being collected that will demonstrate the cost effectiveness of this innovative process.