From prison to post-release, CDCR providing tools for success
By OPEC Staff
Illustrating the state’s commitment to preparing inmates for transitions back to their families and communities, the California Institution for Women (CIW) recently hosted a Providers Fair in which community organizations educated female inmates about services available to help them succeed.
Organized jointly by the Division of Adult Parole Operations’ (DAPO) Annette Foster, Parole Agent III, Southern Region Parole Unit, and the Division of Rehabilitative Programs’ Regina Banks, Staff Services Manager II, Employment Development Unit, Office of Offender Services, the event was the second of its kind held at CIW. Over 20 community providers were on hand at the event to present an overview of their programs and services to an audience of 204 female inmates.
The first Provider Fair at CIW took place in November 2014 and it was Foster who reached out to CIW to make it happen.
“I wanted to bridge the gap and start a conversation for a seamless transition for the inmates,” Foster said. “The inmates are leaving a structured environment inside the institution and going to an unstructured environment in the community. My goal and personal mission is to ensure that the criminogenic needs are met as early as possible and to empower the inmates by providing information that will assist them when released and [make sure] every inmate is transported from the institution to a program to increase success on parole and reduce recidivism.”
Provider Fairs help fulfill this need. With Provider Fairs, community programs are invited to come onto prison grounds to educate the inmates about services they provide. This helps to engage the women while they are still in prison so they are ready to transition when they parole.
“The importance of Provider Fairs at the institutions is to educate the general population of resources that are available to them, so that they start planning for the future,” said Foster. “Each program is given an opportunity to present to the inmate audience at large, and then after, inmates are able to visit with each of the programs they are interested in to ask questions and speak with the providers one-on-one.”
Foster underscores the importance of this one-on-one time with providers while inmates are still in prison because when they finally parole, they have already had the time to think about their next steps and what they want to do when they come home to be successful.
“My goal [is] to address the criminogenic needs early and to start conversations while in prison,” she said. “The key is to think outside the box, recognize the need and take responsibility to fill that need. Women have less resources and additional needs than male inmates; they have different needs to be addressed.”
Because the November 2014 fair elicited such positive responses from the female inmates, at their request, CIW staff is planning to host quarterly Provider Fairs on prison grounds.
The second Provider in May 2015 hosted community providers such as:
- National Crossroads Parole Service from San Diego
- Health Right 360, FOTEP, from El Monte
- Phoenix House from Santa Ana
- Time for Change from San Bernardino
- Santa Ana Day Reporting Center
- and many others
Representatives from county probation offices, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Social Security Administration were on hand as resources for the inmates as well.
Joyce Bean, Associate Warden for Health Care Operations and Special Programs at CIW, said she is pleased with the results of the first two Provider Fairs.
“(The first fair) was such a success that the inmates requested we have it again. Warden Kimberly Hughes has designated this event to be quarterly,” she said.
CIW continues to respond to the inmates’ interest and is doing what it can to continue increasing and enhancing opportunities for them to learn what help is available to them when they parole. It’s a responsibility that they take to with pride and in earnest.
“In order for these female offenders to be successful with their reintegration back into society, we have to prepare them and keep them abreast as to the resources that are available to them,” said Bean.
Because Provider Fairs have had positive reception from the inmates at California’s institutions, CDCR has responded accordingly: Since Jan. 1, 2015, CDCR has hosted seven Provider Fairs at institutions, with an additional 20 scheduled between now and the end of the calendar year. Banks lauds the inmates for their readiness and says the Department will continue having Provider Fairs to help women be successful.
“There is a number of our population who want to stop the revolving door of recidivism and are making the choice to successfully reintegrate and become productive member of society. With the ‘today’s inmate being tomorrow’s neighbor’ concept, the Provider Fairs bring the support and services to our inmate population in time to make the transition and decision-making process to commit to programming much easier,” said Banks.