THE LONDER CENTER AND ITS PARTNERS
Based on the success of the One-Stop partnerships, the Londer Center began looking for a partner open to the idea of creating a similar program inside a correctional institution. The idea was to help prepare inmates to be job-ready by the time they are released, rather than waiting until after their release to start developing the critical literacy, behavioral, and job skills necessary for sustained employment. They found a receptive audience at Inverness Jail.
Inverness Jail is a medium-security facility in northeast Portland that generally houses men and women awaiting trial or serving a sentence of less than one year. Inverness was founded on the idea that a combination of supervision, programs, and support services can prepare inmates for successful reintegration into the community. In support of this concept, the Londer Center and other DCJ staff have collaborated with Worksystems, Inc. to develop a One-Stop Resource Center in the jail.
At the Resource Center, a jobs lab is open for individual work-search projects, and inmates can use specialized software to develop a rZsumZ. They can also view state employment listings via a kiosk provided by the Oregon Employment Department, check listings of local union shops and apprenticeship programs, and obtain information about One-Stop services available to them upon release. More intensive support is available through employment workshops. The Jobs Now curriculum developed by Londer and its partners is offered by Inverness and One-Stop staff and serves as a framework for the workshop.
The National Institute of Correction's (NIC) curriculum, Thinking for a Change (http://community.nicic.gov/blogs/training/archive/2006/11/17/T4C_2D00_Part1.aspx) also is offered, as are courses on domestic violence, anger management, parenting, drug and alcohol addiction, and other topics. Literacy services include computer-based instruction in adult basic education, GED preparation, and English language. Mt. Hood Community College provides on-site tutors, and inmates who need further literacy instruction upon release are referred to the Londer Center. To ensure a smooth transition, Inverness and the Londer Center use similar adult literacy curricula and have developed a referral process so that inmates know they can get help at the Londer Center once they are released.The Going Home Initiative
Hoping to build on what has been learned at Inverness, the Londer Center, Worksystems, Inc., and Portland Community College's Workforce Network have been working to develop a reach-in employment transition program within the Columbia River Correctional Institution (CRCI.). The effort is part of Oregon's Going Home Initiative, a federally funded re-entry program focusing on gang-affiliated inmates with a high risk of recidivism (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/reentry/). The initiative, coordinated by Oregon's Department of Corrections (DOC), draws together DOC and DCJ inmate transition efforts, enriching them with program resources provided by community-based workforce development, education, and social service organizations.
Inmates moving out of state prisons generally have served much longer sentences than those at county jails such as Inverness; this extended time provides more opportunity for program interventions aimed at reducing criminal risk factors. During the first phase of the initiative, gang-affiliated inmates will be assessed for criminal risk factors and given access to education and life skills programs, drug and alcohol treatment, and work assignments. Six months before their release, offenders will be transferred to a "transition facility," such as CRCI, where a carefully staged series of re-entry programs (Phase Two) occurs, including a street survival life skills program, cognitive behavioral change groups, and employment preparation. A multidisciplinary team, including staff from DOC, DCJ, and community-based organizations, will meet to develop a transition plan with each offender.
Upon release (Phase Three), offenders will report not only to their POs at DCJ's Gang Unit for community supervision, but also will participate in a transition support group and continue job search efforts at the One-Stop Center with the career placement specialists they worked with inside the institution. After release from CRCI, offenders can find post-GED services at Portland Community College or pre-GED services at the Londer Center.
PUTTING EXPERIENCE TO WORK FOR OTHERS
One of the career placement specialists with the Going Home Initiative is John Frazier, an offender who cycled in and out of prison for nearly 20 years. When asked what made him finally decide to leave his criminal life behind, he responded, "People who believed in me, despite the mistakes I have made," including his parole officer and his pastor. He also credits programs offered by DCJ, such as cognitive skills classes, parenting classes, drug treatment, and a program for African American males that cultivates a relationship between inmates and their parole officers prior to release. He became a career placement specialist because he feels he has the responsibility to share what he has learned with people just like him: "I want to tell them that crime doesn't pay." He also wants to encourage them to get engaged in life and build the skills they need for employment. As he pointed out, "Just because you are locked up, doesn't mean you have to be locked down."