Reentry Discussion: Overcoming Challenges When Leaving Incarceration
Alix McLearen, Ph.D., acting assistant director, Reentry Services Division, Federal Bureau of Prisons and John Wetzel, secretary of corrections, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections discuss programs and services that their agencies offer to help individuals overcome the challenges encountered when leaving incarceration. These various programs and services address the individuals’ needs in areas such as physical and mental health, addiction, education, vocation, and life skills.
ALIX MCLEAREN: Going to prison, all by itself, is a big challenge. You lose freedom, and privileges, and the ability to be in contact with your family. Reentry, the entire process is difficult. There are lots of barriers that are put in place so that when somebody’s coming out of prison, there may be restrictions on what they can do job-wise. They may have certain conditions that are stringent that they have to adhere to that are designed to help keep them out of trouble but also may make their life a little bit tougher.
JOHN WETZEL: Preparing inmates for release is not like paint by numbers, it’s really individualizing it and we start at commitment. We do a series of assessments looking at addiction and education levels, and those kinds of things. Then we put them on a course an individualized course to address both criminogenic needs and other needs.
ALIX MCLEAREN: In the Bureau of Prisons, we offer individualized services so everybody comes in and makes their own set of goals based on their own needs and then picks programs or other activities accordingly. We have knowledgeable and skilled mental health and medical professionals. We have self-help resource libraries. We have a whole range of mental health treatment programs that treat not only the seriously mentally ill individuals in Bureau custody, but also address trauma, adjustment, and severe-entrenched personality disorders. We have educational programs, which, again, very broad in scope, so not just literacy which of course is a huge focus, but recreation and leisure time management skills programs, as well as vocational and occupational programs that help people. We also have life skills programs, resume writing, or criminal thinking elimination. And finally we have services that are specific to certain high-need groups within the population, such as gender responsive programs for women and disability support groups or other supportive services for people that may face some specific reentry challenges.
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