THE KEY INGREDIENTS IN WYOMING’S REENTRY EFFORTS
By Christy Hahn, Reentry Program Manager, Wyoming Department of Corrections
In my role as the Reentry Program Manager for the Prison Division of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, I have come to realize that an e ffective reentry e ffort in your system depends on the following key ingredients … partnerships, wraparound services, and consistency. When combined, these ingredients become the perfect blend of successful o ffender reentry that ultimately lead to the best possible environment for the offender’s successful transition to the community.
Partnerships are the first ingredient
Wyoming’s Department of Corrections’ Reentry e fforts closely involve Correctional Industries (CI) to enhance e fforts and strengthen the partnerships between both groups. What we feel is unique in Wyoming is that CI does not initiate reentry services for the Wyoming Department of Corrections, rather reentry services are fully integrated to all releasing o ffenders not just those involved in CI. However, it is critical to have a close partnership with CI to ensure reentry is supporting their efforts as well.
In Wyoming, a statewide task force has been in place since November 2011. From the task force, six work groups were formed to focus on the critical issues of offender release. These areas include housing, employment/education, treatment, positive support, jail transition to community or prison, and access to resources and information. When the groups were formed, it was critical to have Wyoming CI be a part of the employment/education work group as they are the key player in providing real-life work skills to o ffenders that can be immediately used upon release. This work group is currently working with the Wyoming Workforce Services and Community Colleges to achieve a lasting cohesive effort between all agencies to provide appropriate services to releasing offenders.
The Task Force incorporates over fifteen different agencies, non-profits, and community
organizations in Wyoming. This collaborated effort ensures all agencies understand the needs and benefits to supporting offender reentry.
The next ingredient is wrap-around service
As the task force continues to grow and e fforts expand, we often get asked the question, “When do offenders begin the reentry program?” This is an interesting question as we do not refer to our efforts in Wyoming as a “program.” Instead, it is an ongoing effort or service for the o ffender based on individual needs. We also require the offender to be a critical part of this reentry e ffort.
There are many ‘wrap-around’ methods supporting o
ffender transition to the community. Reviewing all of these concepts, Wyoming adopted the best parts and implemented them
as an overall approach to combating transitional issues. CI is part of the wraparound concept. Offenders who can be a part of CI opportunities will greatly benefit from the skills and earnings CI has to o ffer. One benefit is having real-life work opportunities for o ffenders through CI programs which then transfer to the out-of-prison experience, as well as complement any reentry effort and service the Wyoming Department of Correction can offer to the offender. Without CI, the releasing o ffenders would not have the opportunity to learn office skills, printing manufacturing, sewing, engraving, furniture building, transcription, braille, etc. O ffenders, who have the opportunity to learn any of these skill sets, increase their chances of being employed upon release.
Consistency is the final ingredient
Consistency in services is ultimately achieved when offenders receive reliable reentry case management services by well informed and trained staff from the moment they come to prison to the day they release. We begin the process for reintegration to the community at intake and evaluate the offender’s needs from intake to release and beyond. At intake the offender begins hearing about reentry through an introductory orientation class. From there, the offender is classified as low, medium, or high risk to allow for individualized services based on need. While incarcerated, the o ffender has opportunities to obtain their social security card, state ID, driver’s license or commercial driver’s license, and their birth certificate. O ffenders can also visit the facility Reentry Resource Center to research information about their transition needs. Once official transition planning begins, the offender is required to complete a Community Reentry Checklist to begin making tangible plans for release. The o ffender must take a part in their transition plan and be proactive in this planning e ffort. Staff play a supportive role to their transition planning and complete additional Community Reentry Checklist documents to assist in their successful transition to the community. This is only a quick snapshot of the reentry efforts in Wyoming.
Partnerships, wraparound services, and consistency are the key ingredients to Wyoming’s
success in reentry e fforts, and it takes time to blend these all together. Having full support from the top-down and having a team of dedicated staff who truly believe in the recipe for success increases the chances of these key ingredients creating the most successful outcome possible for the releasing offender.