Parolee reentry, helping “lifers” become community members

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Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and an award-winning nonprofit, as well as staff from GEO Reentry Services will deliver a timely workshop at the International Community Corrections Association’s annual conference in Seattle on Nov. 1. The topic, parolee reentry, is one that many state department of corrections officials are grappling with: How to successfully reintegrate long-term offenders — those who have been locked up for 15 to 40 years — into local communities.

The panel will feature Jon Stern, chief deputy regional administrator for the CDCR’s Division of Adult Parole Operations Southern Region, Dwayne Cook, project director for Civic Pit Stop and Maria Richard, program director of GEO Care Parolee Services Center in San Francisco. GEO Reentry’s National Director Kathy Prizmich will moderate the panel.

As the panel will discuss, inmates who are released after being incarcerated for long periods face unique challenges. Not only have friends and family continued to live on the outside, technology changes, social norms change and even basic things like how to apply for jobs have changed. Often, it can be overwhelming.

In particular, this workshop will focus on an innovative public-private partnership in San Francisco, in which the state, GEO Reentry and the nonprofit Pit Stop is transforming neighborhoods while also providing gainful employment for long-term offenders who are bridging back to the workforce. For many of these program participants, the experience has been life-altering.

The key to the success of these individuals, according to Cook, the director of the nonprofit offering the jobs to participants, is the treatment and training they are receiving at the GEO Reentry Parolee Service Center in San Francisco, where residential housing and day reporting services are delivered. As Cook will suggest, GEO Reentry has prepared these individuals with the life skills and attitude to succeed in the program. GEO Reentry has created, in concert with CDCR, a curriculum specifically for these individuals called the Long-Term Offender program.

To help the residents in the program, the residential reentry center uses behavior change treatment, including life skills, substance abuse and cognitive behavioral therapy, which is supported by evidence-based practices. The program is also very active in local volunteer activities, from working with the city on beautification projects to working with a local non-profit involving safety and mentoring youth in the inner city.

Read more about GEO’s residential reentry programming and day reporting services.