How to Run a Prison Transitional Program

By Elizabeth (Lisa)Thompson
Prison transitional programs help inmates readjust to the community.

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Most prison inmates eventually will be released back into the community. Prison transitional programs, also called residential reentry centers, bridge the gap from prison to the community. They offer a supervised residence so that adjustment to life on the outside will flow more smoothly. The 2008 Second Chance Act, signed by President George W. Bush, provides for a maximum of a 12 month term to adjust to community reentry.

Visit one or more prison transitional programs to get an overview of what you need to do. Learn much from those who are already running successful programs.

Recruit financial support. Government funding is a good source. Look into grants, both public and private. Talk to companies in the community and see if private donors may want to help.

Find a location. Look into community needs and concerns. Check into zoning issues and any housing association restrictions in the area. Avoid areas close to schools or daycare centers due to restrictions some inmates may have regarding living near children. Look for a location that has access to public transportation and job opportunities for residents.

Incorporate a policy and procedures manual. Adapt one that already exists or write your own. The policy and procedures manual covers everything from staffing to the removal of residents from the program. A strong organizational structure will help the program run more smoothly. Decide whether inmates will be required to work and, if so, how much. Federal standards require offenders to pay 25 percent of their income to help defray program costs. State programs may charge a different rate. Determine standards for eviction from the program.

Hire a director, then hire an assistant director. The director may assist in hiring the assistant, depending on your philosophy. These two can then hire additional personnel as needed.

Create the programs and curriculum for all in-house services, such as education, housing assistance, financial management, medical, anger control, religious services and substance abuse treatment. These services provide crucial information to the transitioning offender.

Monitor the residents' location 24 hours a day. Approved outside activities include job search, employment, counseling and possible visiting or recreation. Visit the residents at work and conduct random phone contacts and drug tests. Inmates will most likely test the boundaries and rules at the transitional program. These need to be firmly adhered to, so that the program maintains its credibility.

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