THE LONDER CENTER AND ITS PARTNERS
The Londer Center is only one program in a system of services set up by DCJ to ensure that offenders out of jail or in drug or alcohol abuse treatment can successfully rejoin society. These services are more effective when they are coordinated. The Londer Center, for example, has found that adult learners' abilities to maintain their focus and to work are improved when their needs for housing, food, and counseling or substance abuse treatment are being addressed. The success of the Londer Center, therefore, is contingent upon other DCJ services falling into place when an offender is released from incarceration.
Six months before inmates are released, staff with DCJ's Transitional Services Unit (TSU) develop a transition and release plan for inmates and help them find long-term housing and apply for Social Security or disability benefits, if they are eligible. Once inmates are released into community supervision, the TSU assesses their needs in light of their criminal history and risk of recidivism. Based on this assessment, the TSU can immediately refer offenders to various DCJ and community services—such as the Londer Center, counseling, social service agencies, and assistance with housing, clothing, meals, and transportation—rather than wait for parole officers, who have heavy caseloads, to do the referrals. DCJ has found that the abscond rate (the rate at which offenders flee community supervision before completing their sentence) declines substantially when they are provided with such services immediately upon release.
Parole and probation officers are also responsible for making and tracking referrals to services using an electronic database. To improve this process, DCJ has instituted a "Duty Officer Pager" that gives POs a direct link to any DCJ program. By contacting programs directly, POs can reduce the time between detecting a need and connecting an offender with the appropriate service.
To ensure that staff know how to make referrals to the various services available to offenders, DCJ provides extensive professional development. Staff at the Londer Center, along with all other DCJ staff, are trained by the same office within DCJ. New staff receive 40 hours of orientation to help them understand DCJ and its various programs and services. The professional development activities also give employees a chance to network and learn from one another or, as DCJ's training coordinator calls it, "to cross-pollinate." In one recent department-wide effort, Londer Center instructors helped develop the curriculum and facilitate the training of other DCJ staff in "motivational interviewing," techniques designed to help staff overcome offenders' resistance to change.