Monday, November 6, 2006

CIW Teams with Faith-Based Organization to Prepare Female Offenders for Parole

Inmates spend final year of prison time preparing for release

Chino – Today the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s California Institution for Women (CIW), and the Prison Industry Authority, in cooperation with a nationally recognized faith-based prisoner reentry program, held an open house for a pilot program designed to prepare female offenders for reentry into society, and reunification with their families and children.

This reentry curriculum is being coordinated by a national organization, Alpha USA Divisions of Prisons & Re-Entry, which has conducted similar programs in two other states. The results of similar programs in other states have been encouraging and indicate a decrease in recidivism or return-to-prison rate for inmates. More than 200 faith-based volunteers from across the United States joined in a celebration and blessing of this open house today. Nearly 130 CIW female offenders are enrolled in this program.

"This department re-organized to begin preparing inmates for their eventual release back into the community the day they arrive to serve their prison time," said CIW Warden Dawn Davison. “I believe these type of partnerships will give inmates, such as the women at CIW, the best chance at success once they leave prison and return home. This program also has improved the security and safety within the prison, allowing other programming inmates the ability to be successful.”

The pilot program allows for CIW inmates to voluntarily participate in a curriculum of study based on Biblical principles prior to release and continue to be assisted in their transition back into the community after release. The state is not reimbursing the collaborators for curriculum delivery or post-release services.

CDCR has a long history of working with organizations of all denominations who serve as volunteers. CDCR welcomes organizations of all denominations to approach the department with proposals that assists inmates and parolees on services.

The Prison Industry Authority, the state organization that operates factories in California prisons and a co-sponsor of the program, has created additional jobs in its fabric enterprise at the institution to support this pilot program.

"The Prison Industry Authority is pleased to partner with the Alpha project in developing a new rehabilitation program at the California Institution for Women," said PIA General Manager Matt Powers. "The skills that these inmates learn while working in PIA and the life skills that are taught in the Alpha Project can greatly assist inmates in successfully transitioning back into society."

Administrators at other CDCR institutions are studying the CIW pilot in an effort to determine whether this program will work in their facility. Plans are already in place to initiate a second pilot at Folsom State Prison in 2007.

In nearly every community surrounding existing adult prisons and juvenile facilities, hundreds of faith-based volunteers serve as a critical community partner with inmates – often serving as the only visitor an inmate might have during their incarceration. The Alpha program is designed to channel those resources in a coordinated effort to deliver a variety of skills to inmates so they can best succeed once they return home.

"I was a prison warden for more than 20 years in Oklahoma," said Alpha National Director Jack Cowley. "I have been witness to a failed correctional system, both in California and on a national level. I am excited about the possibilities in this state for a meaningful transition for the inmates. This follows Governor Schwarzenegger's plan for reducing recidivism. This program is a first, and I believe it will serve as a significant step toward making those reductions in recidivism occur."

Female inmates with a minimum of nine months to a year of time before their parole date can be considered. Inmates can stay as long as a year. The program encompasses a single living unit in a general population area.

Inmates are housed within the same living unit of the facility to enhance an environment within the facility, which is supportive to their life-changing experiences. The curriculum is broken up into four quarters, like an educational curriculum. Thirty to forty inmates attend each part of the curriculum as they move through the four quarters. The classes are taught in the evenings, while inmates are at jobs during the day.

News Fact Sheet: CIW Faith-Based Initiative (pdf)