Read about re-entry from two outstanding jail practitioners who have integrated re-entry programs into their organizations: Sheriff Karl Leonard and Major Amanda Trent.

Major Amanda Trent – Services Division Commander, Western Virginia Regional Jail in Salem

amanda trentIn my opinion, it is not simply enough to meet standards and maintain institutional order and security but to do my very best and seek to expand services and make a positive impact on the criminal justice system. To this vein, it’s not acceptable to me to be professional and complete the tasks assigned in my current position but to use my influence and position to effect positive social change.

Effecting social change and utilizing collaboration among various field of study is a hallmark of programming in a correctional setting. I want to end my career in law enforcement and corrections as a practitioner that completed the requirements of my position but also went the extra mile to research, implement and facilitate genuine, actual change for offenders suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. In order for these offenders to be successful upon re-entry and to effectively treat their disorders with evidence-based programming while incarcerated and ensure access to continued treatment with community-based services. This is something I’ve implemented on a small scale in the correctional facility that I’m currently providing to those incarcerated persons who volunteer or court ordered with grant funding.

My goal is to make this the model for the state of Virginia and broaden the re-entry services that can make or break an offender’s ability to succeed. As abstinence does nothing to break the cycle of addiction, there is a parallel with incarceration. There is an abundance of empirical research that proves that incarceration alone does nothing to impact recidivism, practitioners must provide the knowledge, skills and abilities to those who are criminal justice involved which requires addressing all criminogenic risk factors, thinking, behaviors and treatment of disorders that contribute to their criminality.

Karl S. Leonard – Sheriff, Chesterfield County Jail

karl leonardAt the Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office we have taken on the task of doing all we can for those being released to best position them for success once they are back in the community as we feel this has been the single area where traditionally jails and prisons have failed and only added to the frustrating cycle of recidivism. In the past we have simply released them without investing in their success. Now, with our recently created pre-release center in our jail, we are providing them with the tools need to become a productive member of society upon their release.

The addition of a “reentry-coordinator”, a full-time position to the Sheriff’s Office staff greatly assisted in our abilities to integrate those leaving the jail back into the community. This individual is solely tasked with focusing on helping those leaving best prepare for reentry.

In our pre-release center, where we will typically send those within a 60-day window of serving their sentence, we work to get them a Virginia identification card though DMV, a copy of their birth certificate, and a copy of the Social Security Card at no cost. We have started a clothing closet so they can leave with appropriate clothing not only for the weather but also to allow them to present themselves in a professional manner.

We work with them to create some form of a resume to use when looking for employment and assist them with job placement at a few of the locations where we have created partnerships with local employers. To help with this the Sherriff’s Office conducts continuous fork lift operator training where the participants receive actual certification as a fork lift operator, and also import and fund Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services (DBHDS) Peer Recovery Specialist training where upon successful completion of the course and required 500 hours of actual facilitation they receive State Certification as a Peer Recovery Specialist a very highly sought after skill once released.

We also know that aftercare of health and mental well-being is critical to their success on the outside so we work with them to set up their first few appointments with either their local Mental Health Services, Medial Services, and/or Social Services Departments. They are also provided a 30-45 day supply of prescribed medications they are on upon release to allow them the time needed to establish a prescription protocol on the outside to so they can continue to have access to the medications they require. In the past they would leave with no medications in their possession and within days of being off of whatever medications they were on quickly fell into mental health crisis and in turn criminal activity. We also help those who are eligible apply for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act just prior to release.

This is not an all-inclusive list however, we believe that by taking the extra effort in these various areas we are best positioning the individual being released for success on the outside so they can become the productive members of society they strive to be. And by doing so we not only reduce the rate of recidivism, which reduces crime and saves the taxpayers a lot of money, it also creates individuals who are gainfully employed and no longer dependent on local and State government for assistance.

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