OVERVIEW OF THE AFTER INCARCERATION SUPPORT SYSTEMS PROGRAM (AISS)

The After Incarceration Support Systems Program (AISS) has been in existence since August 1996. There are two vital components to the AISS Program. Those components are comprised of working with offenders within the correctional center prior to their release and working with the offenders post release when they transition back to the community.

The AISS Program consists of nine Full Time staff; one part-time Faith Based Community Liaison; one part-time Contracted Employee; and six Senior Mentor positions (8 hours a week). All Senior Mentors are ex-offenders who have changed their lives around and are working, participating in programming and living a substance and criminal free life. They are individuals who instill hope and represent change is possible.

CORRECTIONAL CENTER COMPONENT OF AISS 

Goals of Correctional Center Component Of AISS

  • To ensure all offenders have the opportunity to create an individualized release plan prior to their release
  • To ensure all offenders are aware of AISS program, services the program offers and how to access program once released
  • To provide information on community resources to offenders as well as staff working with soon to be released
  • offenders
  • To consolidate release planning information from all departments
  • To work in collaboration with parole
  • To provide soon to be released offenders an opportunity to meet with AISS staff they would be working with in the community

 

Objectives To Accomplish Goals of Correctional Center Component Of AISS

Facilitate Release Planning I (RPI) and Release Planning II (RPII) Groups for offenders who have 90 days or less

  • RPI and RPII are two groups which run a week apart. The groups are for offenders who have 90 days or less to be released.
  • During RPI offenders are educated on the AISS program. We inform them the assistance we can provide in the community and how to access AISS when released.
  • During RPI each offender fills out a questionnaire which assists us as we are making recommendations for their individualized Release Plan.
  • Between RPI and RPII group, the Release Planning Coordinator utilizes information from various sources which will assist him as he makes release planning recommendations for each individual offender attending RPII.

Sources include:

* Information from Trax Casemanagement which includes recommendations from the offender’s counselor

* Information from other departments (mental health, vocations and education)

* Offenders’ completed questionnaire (self assessment)

  • During RPII each offender has an opportunity to complete an individualized release plan.
  • All offenders in RPII group have an opportunity to meet with the Education Reintegration Counselor
  • All offenders in RPII group meet with a community staff member from AISS to review their plan

 

Resource Room

  • Staff and Offenders can utilize all resources in the room
  • AISS provides open hours each week where we can assist both staff and offenders in accessing resources in room.
  • Resource Room contains:

* Hundreds of Brochures in English and Spanish on agencies and the services they provide in the community, residential programs, clothing, food, employment, vocational training, hotline numbers, etc.

* Brochures on AA and NA meetings in all the towns in Hampden County

* Computerized Resource Directory-allows user to find detailed information on hundreds of agencies, the services they provide and how an ex-offender or soon to be released offender can access the services. Agencies are categorized by zip code so the user can input zip code of where they will be moving back to and all agencies in that area will be displayed. Finally, the directory will allow the user to enter in what type of need they have (food, clothing, housing, etc) and the computer will list all agencies that can meet that need.

* Reference Information Books which include: First Call Books, Resource Catalogs and Halfway House Listings

  • Short Term Pod–provide informational groups on AISS to all offenders in the short-term pod. Provide each offender an opportunity to attend RPI and RPII ensuring each has an individualized release plan upon release
  • Accountability Pod— provide informational groups on AISS to all offenders in the accountability pod. Provide each offender an opportunity to attend RPI and RPII ensuring each has an individualized release plan upon release
  • Attend Parole Hearings—meet with each offender at the hearing who has been given parole. Inform them about the services AISS provides once they are on parole. Schedule an appointment with offender to go to Resource Room to develop a release plan.
  • Department of Corrections Offenders–work in collaboration with Judit Morales. AISS is notified as DOC offenders are close to release. Schedule an appointment and meet with each one to develop a release plan and inform on AISS services available in community.
  • BRING IN COMMUNITY STAFF TO MEET WITH SOON TO BE RELEASED OFFENDERS. Bring in staff and Senior Mentors Mentors to personally meet with offenders. This takes place during Release Planning II group, in the Accountability Pod, Responsibility Pod and in the Short-Term Pod.

 

AISS Correctional Center Staff

Release Planning Coordinator

Responsible for ensuring all goals and objectives of correctional center component of AISS are met.

 

CORRECTIONAL CENTER COMPONENT STATISTICAL DATA

INDIVIDUALIZED RELEASE PLANS COMPLETED   

Year Release Plans Completed

1996/1997

602

1998

1204

1999

1402

2000

1251

2001

896

2002

1031

2003

1121

2004

1002

 

Total Release Plans Completed Since AISS Program Began 8,509

Soon To be Released offenders we have met with from the following areas:

 

  • Open Resource Room Hours-Each week there are hours available for offenders who wish to utilize the various resources
  • Preparation for Parole Hearings-AISS staff meets with offenders who are interested in developing a release plan and bringing it to their parole hearing
  • Parole-Offenders granted parole, we meet with to develop a release plan
  • Department of Corrections Offenders-We meet with each one in medium custody to ensure they have a plan prior to release
  • Pre-Release-Previously, we brought in the AISS community staff to meet with soon to be released offenders and review their release plans with them
  • C1-C4-We meet with offenders who are in segregation, but request to be discharged with a release plan

 

OFFENDER QUESTIONNAIRE   

Offenders Who Are Interested In Participating In AISS After Release

During RPI group, which is for offenders who have 90 days or less on their sentence, we have the offender complete a questionnaire (self assessment). One of the questions is if they would be interested in participating in AISS once they are released. The statistics demonstrate that each year more and more offenders are expressing an interest in participating. We attribute this to the quality of services AISS provides. In addition, in 1999 there is a dramatic increase in interest; we attribute this to giving soon to be released offenders the opportunity to meet with the AISS staff they would be working with in the community.

 

  Yes – Interested No- Not Interested Not Sure
1997 40% 40% 20%
1998 40% 40% 20%
1999 70% 10% 20%
2000 70% 10% 20%
2001 76% 20% 4%
2002 78% 8% 14%
2003 78% 7% 15%

 

  • As interest increases while offenders are still incarcerated—the number of offenders who utilize program in community soars.

STRATEGIES IMPLEMENTED TO CONNECT WITH OFFENDER IN CORRECTIONAL CENTER PRIOR TO RELEASE  

We have found one of the most effective ways to have offenders still incarcerated understand the importance of participating in aftercare post release was to have them connect with the people they would be working with in the community prior to their release.

Strategies

  • Initially and presently, we brought the Community Aftercare Coordinators in to meet with offenders in medium and review their release plans during the Release Planning II group. We have also included the AISS Faith Based Community Liaison to meet with soon to be released offenders.
  • Next, we brought in our Senior Mentors to meet individually with offenders who were scheduled for release.

* Senior Mentors attend Release Planning II groups to meet with offenders before they are released. During Release Planning II group all soon to be released offenders meet with the AISS community staff and develop a personalized release plan to address the issues for which they are incarcerated.

  • In addition, they also go into the Accountability Pod, Responsibility Pod (Pre-Trial) and Short Term Pod to make a connection with the offenders, share their stories, experiences and offer support to the offender when they are released.

* Our goal is to have every offender being released from the main facility meet with either the Community Aftercare Coordinator and/or one of the AISS Paid Mentors.

  • We provide every offender the opportunity to leave the Correctional Center with a release plan that is designed especially to address the needs for which they were incarcerated. We review their release plan with them and encourage them to contact the AISS program when released.

Results

  • AISS provides every sentenced offender in the main facility the opportunity to be released with an individualized release plan. Since the program’s inception, 8,509 Release Plans have been developed.
  • Saw a dramatic increase in the level of interest of offenders to utilize program once released. Went from 40% to 70% between 1998 and 1999 and from 70% to 76% between 2000 and 2001. And 78% in 2002.
  • Saw a dramatic increase in offenders who are interested in continuing with their education. This is due in large part to our Education Reintegration Coordinator who began meeting in 1999 with offenders during RPII groups. This increase was from 38% in 1997 & 1998 to 68% in 1999 & 2000.
  • When we brought in our community staff, we went from servicing 284 ex-offenders in the community to servicing 465 ex-offenders in a one-year period (1998-1999).

 

COMMUNITY COMPONENT OF AISS  

The After Incarceration Support Systems Program assists ex-offenders in all aspects of their lives (depending on their needs) as they transition from incarceration to community. The majority of ex-offenders when released are faced with many problems ranging from lack of support, addiction, no place to live, no money, no job, no food, no clothes, no proper identification, no license, lack of confidence, fear of failure, inappropriate modeling by family/friends, constant temptation to return to criminal lifestyle, etc.

In order to meet the needs of the ex-offender population, there are three ways AISS provides services to ex-offenders in the community. An ex-offender can participate in one or all of those listed below.

  • An ex-offender can participate in the AISS community support groups. We offer groups for men and women. Groups for women are located in Springfield and are in English. Groups for men are offered in Springfield in English and in Holyoke in Spanish.

Group cycles go for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, the participant is given a certificate of completion. Even though a person completes 12 weeks, we encourage them to stay involved.

  • An ex-offender can utilize AISS for Case management. Case management includes referrals to community agencies, Lifeskills, Spectra, assisting with food, clothing, housing, identification, advocacy, employment, etc.
  • We would provide Outreach to an ex-offender. This involves providing them with support, empowering them, assisting with daily life, coping skills, decision making, etc.

 

AISS In The Community—What We Offer To The Ex-Offender

  • Mentoring
  • Advocacy
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Case management
  • Linkage and Referrals
  • Intensive Outreach
  • Support
  • Relationship Building
  • Role Modeling
  • Networking
  • Support Groups
  • Assistance with Daily Life
  • Empowerment
  • Education
  • Decision Making
  • Coping Skills
  • Accountability

 

COMMUNITY COMPONENT STATISTICAL DATA
INDIVIDUALS WHO ACCESSED COMMUNITY COMPONENT OF AISS PROGRAM (AFTER RELEASE)

Numbers represent all ex-offenders who either participated in AISS support groups, ex-offenders who were provided outreach/case management or those who both attended group and received case management/outreach services.

 

Year

Male

Female

Total # of AISS Participants

1996 & 1997

234

N/A

234

1998

236

48

284

1999

270

195

465

2000

298

207

505

2001

370

238

608

2002

383

246

629

2003

418

219

637

2004 (FY)

423

251

674

 

TOTAL NUMBER OF AISS PARTICIPANTS WHO RECEIVED AFTERCARE SERVICES SINCE PROGRAM’S INCEPTION IN 1996

4,036

The time the community AISS staff spend with an ex-offender varies. Depending on an ex-offender’s needs, the staff may only need to make a referral for food or on the other hand the staff may need to spend a great deal of time supporting, advocating and doing case management for the ex-offender. The majority of AISS participants require a great deal of our time and attention. Below is an example of the intense time and energy that goes into working with an ex-offender transitioning from incarceration back to the community.

 

A CASE STUDY-COMMUNITY AFTERCARE

RAY’S SITUATION

Ray is a 56-year-old male who was originally sentenced to serve 2 years mandatory for distributing drugs near a monument. After serving one year of his sentence, with the assistance of the Legal Services department, Ray was brought to court to address whether his sentence should be mandatory. There was a discrepancy whether the monument he was selling drugs near was a national site.

At court, the judge did not feel that the charge should be mandatory and ordered that Ray to be released and a follow-up hearing would be set to address sentencing. Ray was released in June 1998.

The HCSD legal department played an active role in getting Ray to court and contacted the AISS Program to inform the program of the status of Ray. In addition, Ray was given information on the AISS program. The legal department suggested to Ray that he attend an aftercare group and speak with either a Mentor or the Aftercare Support Coordinator (ASC).

Ray showed up at the Thursday evening aftercare group with the clothes on his back, a binder that held all of his legal paperwork he had accrued during his incarceration and many questions, concerns and issues.

At the meeting, the AISS staff wanted Ray to know that they would help and support him and that he was taking a step in the right direction by showing up to the meeting and asking for help.

Following the aftercare group, the Aftercare Support Coordinator set up an appointment to meet individually with Ray.

 

RAY’S ISSUES

The following is a list of some of the issues which needed to be addressed:

  • Ray was homeless.
  • Ray was residing at the local Open Bed Shelter.
  • Ray had issues with both alcohol and drugs.
  • Ray had health problems which included asthma and a previous heart attack.
  • Ray’s wallet and all the contents inside were being held by the local Police Department as evidence until his case was resolved. The contents include all of his pieces of identification.
  • Ray had no money
  • Ray had no clothes
  • The majority of Ray’s family was from Brooklyn and many of his family members are active users.
  • Ray was on probation for 2 years and therefore could not leave this area.
  • Ray felt very strongly about the need to stay clean and not use drugs or alcohol.
  • He felt that due to his health condition that if he began using again that he would end up dead.
  • Ray was residing at the local Open Bed Shelter. He wanted to find alternative housing because there were too many individuals who were staying at the shelter who were actively using. On a daily basis, many times throughout the day, Ray was being tempted to use drugs. With every day that Ray stayed at the shelter, the temptations got stronger and stronger to use drugs.

 

AISS HELPS RAY—INTERVENTION STRATEGIES

The Aftercare Support Coordinator and Ray decided they would try to get Ray into the Kendall House, a sober living environment. In order to get Ray into the Kendall he would need to fill out an application, get approval by the housing specialist at HAP (Housing Allowance Project) and give a $289.00 deposit.

Ray had a banking account with SIS. He originally had to cancel his debit card because at the time of his arrest his brother was withdrawing money from his account. His balance at the time of his release was $17.00. Due to Ray not having access to his identification, Ray could make deposits, but was not able to make any type of withdrawals.

Ray applied for emergency Medicare assistance that would give him a temporary script for his medication. He was told to expect his Medicare card in the mail within 7-10 days. Ray applied for SSI and was told he would get his first check within 7-10 days.

Ray was residing at the local shelter while waiting for his housing through HAP. The Aftercare Support Coordinator met with Ray daily to provide him support while he was living in an environment that could be a trigger for relapse.

In addition, during all this, Ray continued to attend the aftercare groups for support and meet every day with the Aftercare Support Coordinator to address his unresolved issues and assist him navigate systems that were very confusing to him.

Ray was connected with a Senior Mentor and was encouraged to call him when necessary. The Senior Mentor and Ray developed a positive relationship over a period of time.

The Aftercare Support Coordinator also encouraged Ray to attend as many AA and/or NA meetings that he could make. In addition, the Aftercare Support Coordinator went with Ray to sign up for Outpatient Substance Abuse counseling.

Ray had not changed his clothes since he was released from court. The Aftercare Support Coordinator (ASC) contacted the local thrift store to get approval for Ray to get a pair of pants, a shirt, and a pair of underwear from the thrift store. The ASC needed to be present when Ray purchased the clothes to vouch that Ray was homeless.

The housing specialist at HAP who makes the decisions on all applications for the Kendall was on vacation for a week. Her assistant did not feel she had the authority to approve Ray to move in because he did not have the deposit because his SSI check had not arrived.

After 10 days, Ray did not receive his SSI check and his Medicare card did not arrive. The Aftercare Support Coordinator spent the following week on the phone and faxing information in an effort to get Ray his check and Medicare card.

Ray finally received his SSI check, but only received a portion of what was owed to him. He would receive the rest of what was owed to him in two weeks. The Aftercare Support Coordinator had negotiated with the housing specialist at HAP that when Ray received his check would put a deposit down of $289.00. Ray did not have enough money for his deposit.

The Aftercare Support Coordinator contacted a representative from the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC). SMOC works with individuals at the shelter who are attempting to get into a stable living environment. SMOC provides landlords with a $200.00 voucher for providing housing to homeless individuals.

The Aftercare Support Coordinator re-negotiated with the housing specialist at HAP to allow Ray to utilize the $200.00 voucher from SMOC along with $150.00 from his SSI check to go towards the deposit and first months rent. Ray would agree to pay the balance when he received his second check.

Ray contacted his brother in New York and had him send him his old welfare identification card. Ray went to the Open Pantry and they assisted him in getting a copy of his birth certificate.

 

RAY’S PROGRESS

At the present, Ray is clean and sober and leading a criminal free and productive life. He lived at the Kendall House for two years. While residing at the Kendall House he was asked to be the evening Manager, monitoring The Kendall to ensure the proper running of the Apartment Building. Ray also was asked to take on Maintenance responsibilities and was given keys and access to many parts of the Apartment Building. In addition, while at the Kendall he attended daily NA meetings and was seeing a counselor for outpatient substance abuse counseling. Ray got access to his bank account. He received his Medicare card and is taking his medications on a regular basis. Throughout this whole time the AISS Aftercare Coordinator and Senior Mentor met with Ray for Casemanagement and Support.

After two years, Ray applied for housing through the local Housing Authority, he was initially denied due to his past criminal history. The Aftercare Support Coordinator assisted Ray in preparing to appeal the decision. Ray appealed the decision and gathered together information including: Certificates he received for successfully completing programming. He also got recommendations from many of the staff from the agencies he had accessed services through. Finally, on the day of Ray’s hearing, the Aftercare Support Coordinator attended the hearing with Ray to advocate on his behalf. Ray received housing through the local Housing Authority and moved into his one bedroom apartment. He has been living a drug/alcohol and criminal free life since his release from jail. He has mended the previously wounded relationships he had with his children who he had continuously let down in the past. He has daily communication with them and frequently takes the bus to New York to visit His goal is to move to New York to be closer to his children and grandchildren.

Almost seven years after his release, the Aftercare Support Coordinator periodically meets with Ray for issues that may arise and provide ongoing support.

As described in this scenario, a lot of time and energy goes into working with an individual who is trying to lead a substance and criminal free lifestyle. Not only does the person need support, they also need assistance dealing with a system that sometimes gets overwhelming. The Aftercare Program is a valuable resource for individuals who have been incarcerated.

 

OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES OF AISS COMMUNITY STAFF

  • Attend Release Planning II groups in Main Facility to meet with soon to be released offenders and review their release plan with them
  • Female Aftercare Support Coordinator facilitates a Pre-Aftercare Group at the Pre-Release Center. This is a support group which assists women who are preparing for release
  • Female Aftercare Support Coordinator facilitates a support group for women who have completed the 12-week group

OTHER AISS INITIATIVES

Residential Program for Men—Foundation House

In December of 2004, the Sheriff’s Department in collaboration with a non-profit organization opened up a 36 bed residential program for men. The Foundation House is a program that provides for a safe, stable environment for men working towards a clean and sober lifestyle. Our philosophy is based on a work-therapy and social model approach to changing addictive behaviors.

The program will impact many male offenders as they make the transition from incarceration to the community. One of the goals of the program is to have the participants graduate the program, move into their own stable living situation and return to the house to offer support and guidance to other Program Participants. We believe this type of informal mentoring will contribute significantly to the success of the program.

All potential program participants must complete an application and go through a thorough screening process including being interviewed by the Program’s Casemanager. The program’s casemanager is responsible for ensuring all men in the house are actively involved with work and treatment. He also handles any crisis situations that arise within the house or with the clients.

Mentorship Program

We are in the process of implementing a full scale Mentorship Program in the community. The Mentorship Program will provide additional support to ex-offenders who are re-integrating back to the community. An offender who is getting ready to be released will have an opportunity to meet with a Volunteer Mentor in a contact visit once a week prior to release. The goal is that a solid relationship will be established so that the Mentor and Mentee will continue to meet regularly once the offender is released. The Volunteer Mentor will be another support system in the community for the ex-offender.

We believe this program will get members from the community actively involved and not only improve the overall quality of life of those ex-offenders we are working with, but it will also promote Public Safety. To date, we have completed three trainings for individuals who are going to be Volunteer Mentors. Ten matches have been made.

Faith Based Initiative

The AISS Program brought on board Joe Nicholson to continue to develop and enhance the connections with the faith-based community. Our goal is to work with the pastors and lay people in an effort to give ex-offenders the opportunity to become a part a church within their community. Our hope is that the churches will offer support and spiritual guidance to ex-offenders and their families who desire to get involved. In addition, Joe will be actively working in collaboration with the Mentorship Coordinator to recruit Volunteer Mentors from the faith-based community. It will be an integral part of Mentorship, as we know there is a great deal of interest for individuals from the faith-based community to be mentors.

Oxford House for Men

On February 15th, 2003 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Sober Housing Corporation, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department opened up an Oxford House. The Oxford House Model is a self-run, self-supported recovery house that is patterned after the well-known self help principles of AA and NA to group supported living.

The implementation of the Oxford House is another piece of the continuum.

The Oxford House will be a good transition for men who have successfully completed the Honor Court Program and want to live in a sober community.

If you would like more information on our After Incarcerations Support Systems program, please contact Jen Sordi at 1-413-547-8000 x5201 or e-mail her at [email protected]