Monday, March 21, 2011

Child Support Obligations Education Begins for California Inmates

Effort to educate inmates on their rights, intended to reduce recidivism

SACRAMENTO – A unique partnership of child support organizations has resulted in a comprehensive educational effort to inform state prison inmates of their rights under child support collection laws.

Beginning this month, a video entitled, “Working with the Child Support Program: What You Need to Do” will be shown on inmate television at all 30 state male institutions, educating inmates who have active or pending child support orders on how to handle this obligation while incarcerated.

“Consistent payment of child support is our primary objective.” said Jan Sturla, Director, California Department of Child Support Services. “The child support program will work with obligors to address their child support while incarcerated. It is our objective to educate incarcerated obligors about the child support process, so they can get back on track in meeting their obligations to their children.”

Nationally, about half of incarcerated parents have open child support cases. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) inmate population is approximately 162,000.

“Today our child support obligation does not end because a parent is incarcerated. Many inmates have a limited ability to modify, suspend or even make efforts to pay toward their child support orders or realize they have options,” said Elizabeth Siggins, Chief Deputy Secretary of Adult Programs for CDCR. “We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with the Department of Child Support Services and their partners to educate incarcerated fathers on their rights and obligations.”

Several counties, including Solano County, conducted successful outreach efforts at prisons and jails in their areas to educate inmates and assist them with complying with child support obligations if the inmates had no money to pay. The group worked closely with the CDCR Office of Public and Employee Communications to develop an effective video product that is being broadcast in both English and Spanish and offers open caption in both languages for the hearing impaired.

“Our agencies believe that by educating inmates and offering them options, including how to modify their child support order while incarcerated, we are helping them take responsibility,” said Dave Oppenheim, Executive Director with the Child Support Directors’ Association. “It is important to provide these services to offenders in order to reduce the risk of recidivism.”

The project has also generated a video to be distributed to the 58 California counties to be shown in county jails that offer closed circuit televisions similar to those utilized in the state prison system. By providing information to offenders, child support advocates are striving to mitigate negative impacts to felons upon their release, including license revocation and garnishment of wages, giving them the platform to successfully reintegrate into society.

In addition to California Department of Child Support Services and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, other partners on this project include: the Child Support Directors Association, El Dorado County Department of Child Support Services, Marin County Department of Child Support Services, and Solano County Department of Child Support Services.

View different versions of the video:

View a page with collateral documents on child support collection efforts: http://www.csdaca.org/incarcerated_obligor.aspx

CDCR oversees 33 adult state prisons ranging from minimum- to maximum-custody, 44 conservation camps, 10 community correctional facilities and four facilities designed for inmate mothers and their children. For offenders released to parole, four parole regions oversee 190 parole units and sub-units in 84 separate locations. CDCR also oversees four facilities for juvenile offenders and regional parole offices for youths on parole.

The Child Support Program is administered by California Department of Child Support Services with services being delivered through 51 local and regional child support agencies. The Child Support Program provides paternity and court order establishment services as well as a range of child support enforcement services including wage withholding, license revocation and state and federal tax intercept. Last year the Child Support Program collected more than $2.2 billion in child support for California’s families and for the State general fund.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
CASSANDRA HOCKENSON, CDCR, (916) 445-4950
CONNIE DAMANT, DCSS, (916)464-5184