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Second chance for inmates

Inmates moving toward release from the Franklin County House of Correction will be getting a range of counseling, educational and vocational training services with help from a $600,000, two-year federal “Second Chance Act” grant announced this week.

The funding, announced by Sheriff Christopher Donelan and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., will pay for a range of services to transition inmates back to the community prepared to be productive, law abiding citizens, Donelan said.

While the Greenfield facility, which houses an average daily population of 216 inmates and releases more than a dozen a week, had funded such release programs from within its own operating budget, the Second Chance grant provides dedicated funding.

“This gives us an opportunity to really dig in a lot deeper to real treatment, real therapy and real vocational programs,” said Donelan. “We will now enhance our counseling and vocational programs, improve our transition and re-entry relationships and connect inmates with community resources that will ensure their success upon release,” Donelan said. “This grant is very competitive, and I view the award as validation of the great work we are all doing here.”

The county House of Correction was selected in 2008 and 2009, and again last year, by the Urban Institute’s Nonpartisan Economic and Social Policy Research as a training and technical assistance site for its Transition from Jail to Community Initiative. One of six correctional facilities selected, it received training in models for providing services to reduce recidivism and help inmates succeed as citizens returned to the community.

At the time, Donelan said, “This is about what the community has at stake in the successful reintegration of inmates.”

Under the transition concept, the Sheriff’s Office partners with the community to help released inmates find jobs, housing, counseling and support around substance abuse, and it gets the community more involved with the Sheriff’s Office in direct re-entry work.

Donelan said his office has contracted with ServiceNet to run programs at the facility, and the new grant will allow for those services to be expanded.

The transition model used by the Franklin County correctional facility calls for inmate re-entry to start “the day he arrives in the jail, with a formal assessment of what his needs are and a comprehensive program for time he’s with us to meet those needs.”

Donelan said he’s been moving the facility toward a more therapeutic direction, and the grant will help with that.

In announcing the grant, McGovern said, “The innovative programs offered by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office go a long way to keeping our streets safe while ensuring that released prisoners can transition into being productive members of our community.”

The Second Chance Act of 2007 provides a comprehensive response to the increasing number of inmates who return to their communities.

The House of Correction’s re-entry system includes in-jail and transitional programs, including a 28-bed minimum security center in the old jail building and a 15-bed re-entry house, for a total of 43 community transition beds. The sheriff has also coordinated efforts with the drug court program and allows those in need of intervention to participate in the re-entry system at Elm Street facility and transition back to the community under the supervision of drug court.

The program is aimed at providing offenders who have substance abuse and mental health issues to receive treatment in the jail, recovery support services, re-entry planning and programming and post-release treatment in the community under supervision of parole or the courts.

“A small percentage of offenders commit the lion’s share of crimes in our community,” Donelan said. “If we are successful in turning those offenders away from crime with the skills and support to succeed with a job and a strong family, we make all of our citizens safer and we save a lot of time and money throughout the criminal justice system.”

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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