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By Monica E. Oss

November 15, 2009

Behavioral health and social service organizations are facing an unexpected challenge—providing service for hundreds (if not thousands) of state prisoners that will soon be given early release due to state budget crunches.

In August, a panel of federal judges ordered the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce its inmate population of 150,000 by 40,000 within two years. Inmates with mental illness must be included in the prison population reduction plan with the understanding that these offenders and technical parole violators would be diverted to community mental health programs. For more on this, access “California Prisons Must Cut Inmate Population,” PREMIUM.

To cut recidivism rates in Illinois, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has plans for its six-prison pilot program to create transition preparation units to provide intensive reentry services for inmates at the last three to six months of their prison terms. In partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services, DOC will develop more community-based programs to offer post-release support and job training. For more, access “Illinois to Launch Intensive Prisoner Reentry Pilot in Six Prisons,” PREMIUM.

The New Jersey attorney general recently announced $3.2 million in grant funding for state and county prisoner reentry programs, backed by federal economic recovery funds and state money. The funding is earmarked for county jail reentry programs; mental health discharge screenings; counseling; and crisis intervention training.

Many management teams of organizations serving the corrections population often struggle with the need to educate the team about additional care coordination. Collaboration requirements may (and often do) include additional reports and calls to correctional agencies; synergizing services with housing, employment, schools, and other community health agencies and supports integral to the success of the program. Keep in mind the importance of community coordination and collaboration before you consider expanding your service reach to this unique consumer population.

Read my colleague Dee Brown’s recent article, “Change in Community Correctional Reentry Programs: Leaders Must Forward Teamwork, Collaboration, & Specialized Education” PREMIUM, from the October issue of OPEN MINDS. To share your strategies for success in this service realm, send a message to

Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS

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Check out “The Effectiveness of Prisoner Reentry Services as Crime Control: The Fortune Society” PREMIUM.

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