By Dr. Tim Cayton, Former Assistant Administrator
Gary was getting out after 28 years- over half his life- behind bars. He had no relatives, no friends, no job and nowhere to live. From his prison counselor’s office he called the DOC Re-entry Chaplain. Three phone calls later Gary had housing, job training and a community of support ready to receive him upon release.
The Community and Faith-based Re-entry program called, "Home for Good in Oregon" (HGO), has setup a statewide program that is working with hundreds of volunteers and faith and community-based organizations to assist communities to more safely reintegrate offenders into their communities. The re-entry program helps community members to provide offenders with a pro-social support system that helps them to develop their spirituality and learn new pro-social attitudes and ways of behaving without crime. Developing such pro-social networks, associates and skills are key components of evidenced-based practices for reducing recidivism.
We know from research that having non-criminal or pro-social friends and associates and non-criminal or pro-social attitudes, values and beliefs are two of the most important factors that help offenders to successfully reintegrate upon their release. Based on this research HGO provides releasing offenders with opportunities to develop a pro-social support system for their release as well as a strong set of pro-social attitudes, beliefs and values. Recently the American Correctional Chaplains Association gave its 2005 annual national award for religious program excellence to Oregon's HGO re-entry partnership.
HGO has created a model re-entry program that is structured on three organizational and programmatic building blocks that are described below. In each of these three blocks there are opportunities for volunteers to help reduce Oregon's rate of recidivism and make Oregon's communities both safer and more compassionate.
1. Transition Focused Prison Chapel Programs
The first foundation block in HGO is transition-focused chapel programs in the ODOC institutions. Re-entry Coordinators work with institutional chaplains to assist offenders prepare for the challenges of returning to their family and community. Activities in the prison include spiritual-based transition classes, pre-release counseling and help to link inmates to community and faith-based supports and services that will compliment the inmate's approved release plan. This one-on-one work with inmates helps them prepare for and work on the issues they will face upon release. We are also working with the faith-based volunteers who are conducting services in the prisons that are releasing inmates to help them focus some of their services around transition issues.
2. Volunteer Community Chaplains
The second foundation block is a statewide network of trained and experienced volunteer Community Chaplains committed to helping releasing offenders reconnect in healthy and supportive ways with families, community organizations and faith communities. This ever-growing network of 30-35 Community Chaplains works closely with and supports Community Correction’s Probation and Parole Officers. Community Chaplains provide offenders with needed social support, guidance and direction and also hold them accountable for unhealthy, unsafe or illegal behaviors. The Community Chaplains are divided into six statewide regions under the direction of Regional Community Chaplains. To date, we have been able to recruit a Community Chaplain for most of the 36 counties.
Corrections Today -October 2004
Home for Good in Oregon Feature Article