You're still in prison if you do nothing better in freedom.
For communities, the return of released prisoners potentially poses problems for public safety and challenges for reintegrating people into society. The changes in the composition of returning prisoners outlined in various studies suggest that there is not a single type of reintegration problem. There are multiple offenders returning to communities, including more offenders coming back from their first experience with incarceration, and more offenders returning after a churning (repeat incarceration) experience. Offenders have been out of the community for longer periods and, even though they may have participated in education and training programs, still face challenges regarding reintegration into society. Communities, therefore, face a complicated set of problems related to reintegrating offenders.
The best way to promote public safety and prevent recidivism is to provide resources and guidance to individuals being released back into the community. The New River Valley Reentry Council was created to be a contributor to the goal of providing needed information, resources, and guidance in order to further that mission.
There are several programs and opportunities that have been established both during incarceration and while on supervision in the community to assist individuals in their successful reintegration into society. They include, but are not limited to:
Thinking for a Change (T4C)
Thinking for a Change (T4C) is a cognitive–behavioral curriculum developed by the National Institute of Corrections that concentrates on changing the criminogenic thinking of offenders. T4C is a cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) program that includes cognitive restructuring, social skills development, and the development of problem-solving skills.
The program may be delivered to a variety of offenders, including adults and juveniles, probationers, prison and jail inmates, and offenders in aftercare or on parole (however, studies that have examined program effectiveness of T4C so far have included only samples of adult probationers).
T4C combines cognitive restructuring theory and cognitive skills theory to help individuals take control of their lives by taking control of their thinking (Bush, et al. 2011). The foundation of T4C is the utilization of CBT principles throughout the group sessions. There is an extensive body of research that shows cognitive–behavioral programming significantly reduces recidivism of offenders (Landenberger and Lipsey 2005).
T4C stresses interpersonal communication skills development and confronts thought patterns that can lead to problematic behaviors. The program has three components: cognitive self-change, social skills, and problem-solving skills. Lessons on cognitive self-change provide participants with a thorough process for self-reflection concentrated on uncovering antisocial thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs. Social skills lessons prepare participants to engage in prosocial interactions based on self-understanding and awareness of the impact that their actions may have on others. Finally, problem-solving skills integrate the two other components and provide participants with a step-by-step process to address challenges and stressful situations they may encounter.
The program is divided into 25 lessons (each lasting approximately 1 to 2 hours), with the capacity to extend the program indefinitely. The curriculum is designed to be implemented with small groups of 8 to 12 offenders. Each lesson teaches offenders important social skills (such as active listening and asking appropriate questions) as well as more complex restructuring techniques (such as recognizing the types of thinking that get them into trouble and understanding the feelings of others). Most sessions include didactic instruction, role-play illustrations of concepts, a review of previous lessons, and homework assignments in which participants practice the skills learned in the group lesson.
Examples of some of the lessons are Active Listening Skill; Thinking Controls Our Behavior; Paying Attention to Our Thinking; Recognize Risk; Use New Thinking; Understanding the Feelings of Others; Apologizing; Responding to Anger; Introduction to Problem Solving; Stop and Think; and State the Problem.
Peer Support is a program designed to enhance and reinforce information and values received during an individual's participation in Thinking for a Change. It is required that individuals attend a minimum of six sessions of the program and their attendance is optional after that time. There is no maximum allowed attendance.
The Peer Support Program is attended by varying agencies and does enhance resources and assistance provided to individuals during their integration into society.
Reunification is the planned process of reconnecting an individual who has been incarcerated with their families by means variety of services and supports to the ex-offender, their children or other significant others. It aims to help each participant to achieve and maintain, at any given time, their optimal level of reconnection – from full reentry of the individual into the family system to other forms of contact that affirm the participant’s membership in the community and/or family.
Family Reunification events are held to enhance successful reintegration into society.
The mission of the FAST (Facilitating a Successful Transition) initiative is to connect returning citizens with people and programs to help them address the challenges of and learn new life skills for successful reintegration back into the community. The FAST initiative is a proactive model program developed by the New River Valley Re-entry Council’s Community Support Committee in collaboration with New River Community Action’s Virginia CARES.
The mission of the New River Valley Reentry Council Employment Committee is to provide returning citizens with the tools and connections for employment upon release. The NRV Reentry Council works in partnership with the Virginia CARES staff to provide returning citizens individualized job readiness training and resources to prepare them for job search and interviews. The individuals are then referred to local employment partners for job positions that fit their capabilities.
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The New River Reentry Council is part of the Virginia Community Reentry Approach (VCRA).