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Division of Rehabilitative Programs announces positive changes

By Krissi Khokhobashvili, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photos courtesy CDCR Division of Rehabilitative Programs

It’s an exciting time for CDCR, as the department is placing even more emphasis on preparing offenders for success after prison, recognizing that reentry begins long before an inmate paroles.

“It is my firm desire to create an environment in which inmates are encouraged to program,” said CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan. “Think of the victimization we are reducing as a result of those efforts.”

Jay Virbel, director of the Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP), has been at the helm of some major changes in the way the department provides programming. However, he’s not in it alone, and is the first to point out CDCR will only succeed if its many divisions work together toward a common goal: public safety.

To that end, DRP has hosted several meetings recently, inviting institution staff, CDCR administration, community service providers and public stakeholders to learn about the changes taking place. At a recent meeting of the Director’s Stakeholders Advisory Group (DSAG), representatives from DRP, the Division of Adult Parole Operations, Office of Research, Office of Correctional Education (OCE) and several reentry service providers came to the table to discuss best practices.

“If they are going to go out into the community in six months, one year, or two years, depending on what their need or level is, we have to forecast what services they need to receive inside the institution and at what time,” Virbel said. “Offenders will start receiving services earlier as they come into the institution to allow for completion of services before they parole.”

One of the biggest changes will be the expansion of the Reentry Hub model to every adult institution. Previously, inmates within four years of release had the opportunity to transfer to a Reentry Hub, which was a facility inside a state prison focusing on enhanced academic education, Career Technical Education programs, Substance Use Disorder treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs, transitional programs including job readiness and financial literacy skills.

While the program has obvious benefits, a challenge staff and offenders had faced was that inmates approaching their release dates previously had to transfer to one of the 13 institutions offering Reentry Hub programming, in turn giving up their jobs, friends and community they had formed at their institution.

“Offenders will be able to continue the medical care and mental health services they’ve received at the institution,” said Virbel. “Where a move might have had to happen previously, they will now be able to receive those same services at their current institution. This will allow for stability in the offender’s programs.”

It also allows for decreased transportation and reduced costs for families who previously may have had to move, travel longer distances or forego visitation when their loved ones transferred.

This expansion includes the hiring of 53 teachers, who will facilitate the successful Transitions program at each prison. This successful program provides offenders with employment skills, job search tools and other skills necessary to find stable employment upon release, a key factor in securing housing and reducing the chance an offender will return to prison. The program links offenders to One-Stop Career Centers and social service agencies in their home counties for a smooth transition from incarceration to community.

“Providing the skills and resources to offenders prior to release is essential to their successful community reentry,” stated Dr. Brant Choate, superintendent of the Office of Correctional Education.

In addition to the new Transitions program, DRP was funded to increase the number of Career Technical Education (CTE) classes by adding 12 teachers.  Additional programs will be added to previously underserved institutions.

Face-to-face college programs have expanded to 30 prisons with over 3,500 students. All programs provide fully transferrable credits and lead to an associates of arts degree.

Additional funding was provided to expand technology resources inside the prisons.  Currently, DRP has partnered with EIS to install secure web-based access for CTE certifications.

Cynthia Florez-DeLyon, deputy director of Community Reentry Services and Program Support for CDCR, pointed out the more programs offenders participate in while in prison, the better prepared they will be when they return home.

The governor’s 2016-17 budget included funding for expansion of the Male Community and Reentry Program (MCRP). There are currently five operating MCRPs activated, providing a range of community-based rehabilitative services for offenders with 180 days left to serve.

The MCRPs assist with linkages to SUDT, mental health care and medical care treatment, as well as employment, education, housing, family reunification and social support. Counties where sites are activated include Los Angeles (two sites), Kern, Butte and San Diego. Two additional MCRPs are pending activation in January 2017.

“We have been very fortunate with this current administration to provide the funding to expand re-entry services into all 35 prisons and for the expansion of the MCRP program,” Florez-DeLyon said. “We have lots of work to do.”

These changes continue CDCR’s approach of expanding programs with a track record of success. In addition to Reentry Hub programming, the state has also increased funding for Arts-in-Corrections, in which CDCR partners with the California Arts Council to provide structured, rehabilitative arts programming in state institutions.

What began as a 14-prison, $1 million pilot program in 2014 is now funded at $6 million for fiscal year 2016-17, which will allow the programs to expand into every adult institution. In addition, CDCR’s Innovative Grant Program now provides $3 million in grants that will be awarded for a three-year period.

The target for these grants will be institutions that are underserved by volunteers and not-for-profit organizations. An additional $5.5 million in grants will be awarded for one year. The focus of these grants will be on programs that have proven successful in serving long-term or life-term inmates. These grants will be awarded through a request for application.

The Innovative Grant Program has seen expansion of the Insight Garden Program, Canine Companions for Independence service dog-training program and the Buddhist Pathways Prison Project, among many others.

In addition to DRP-funded programs, staff took on the massive task of assembling a comprehensive inventory of programming offered at each institution. The inventory  encompassed not only DRP and OCE programs, but also California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) vocational and technical programs, and Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group (ILTAG) programs.

Correctional counselors, assignment lieutenants and those overseeing inmate programming will also have access to individualized program plans. The program plans will list which programs an offender has completed and which he or she is recommended to complete based on their criminogenic needs, criminal history and release date.

These big changes will require complex coordination of time, space and resources. A Correctional Counselor III at each institution will coordinate new and existing programming.

The counselor will work with inmates, staff and service providers to determine which programs will operate where and when inside the institution. This will include finding creative ways to provide programs, including working with educational staff to schedule programs for unused classroom and library space.

CALPIA and DRP are also working together to offer job-splitting options. Under this job option, an inmate can work certain days at his or her job and have other days or times off to attend programs. Previously they may have had to choose between a job or a program.

“We are offering the opportunity to bring programming to the offender that we didn’t have before,” Virbel said, summing up the monumental changes DRP is implementing. “We want to make the most out of it.”

By the Numbers

Rehabilitative and reentry programs are key to reducing recidivism and increasing offender success. Anticipated for fiscal year 2016-17 in California’s 35 adult institutions is the following:

  • 35 California prisons (all adult institutions) will offer reentry programming and treatment services.
  • 11,500+ estimated Substance Use Disorder Treatment (SUDT) annual programming slots  available statewide.
  • 17,500+ Cognitive Behavioral Treatment annual programming slots statewide made up of individual programming components, including anger management, criminal thinking and family relationships.
  • 7 institutions will offer half-day SUDT/half-time California Prison Industry Authority programs, allowing inmates to fully participate in SUDT programming at their part-time work assignments.
  • 3,600+ Long Term Offender Program annual slots statewide made up of individual programming components, including SUDT, anger management, criminal thinking, family relations, denial management, employment readiness and victim impact.
  • 17,000+ daily classroom correctional education slots covering adult basic education, high school and high school equivalency.
  • 20 Career Technical Education programs spread across all adult facilities, providing industry-recognized certification in building trade and construction, energy and utilities, finance and business, public service, manufacturing and product development, and transportation.
  • 25,000+ Voluntary Education Program slots located across all adult facilities, offering inmates access to educational programming to supplement traditional classroom work or when an educational assignment is not available.
  • 20,500+ Transitions reentry programming slots across all adult institutions.
  • 30 community colleges partnering with CDCR provide face-to-face instruction and college courses.
  • 3,500+ face-to-face college students
  • 31 adult institutions utilizing Internet Protocol Television Programming (IPTV), enhancing access to rehabilitative programming opportunities to classrooms, cells and dayrooms.
  • 15 IPTV courses will meet the requirements for Milestone credits.
  • 20 institutions offering Arts-in-Corrections programs taught by professional artists, soon expanding to all 35 adult institutions.
  • 74 Innovative Grant Programs funded at 20 adult facilities, including programs designed specifically for long-term inmates.
  • 250+ Inmate Leisure Time Activity Groups (ILTAG) programming statewide.
  • 10,000+ volunteers facilitating ILTAG programming.
  • 12,000 valid California state identification cards issued statewide annually through CAL-ID program.
  • 7 Male Community Reentry Programs operating in Los Angeles, Kern, Butte and San Diego Counties and in San Francisco County in January 2017 .
  • 680 beds will be provided for eligible MCRP participants in 2016-17.
  • 130 Parolee Service Center beds dedicated to paroling Long Term Offenders.
  • 300 beds dedicated to Long Term Offender Transitional Housing in 2017-18.