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]

Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center (WCC)

The Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center (WCC), which opened in September 2007 and is located in Chicopee Mass., is a regional, multilevel security facility for women. The center provides for public safety by applying best practices, using criminogenic principles, gender-specific programs and operations in a humane, safe, and secure environment. As a full partner in the criminal justice system, we seek to be a leader in the evolving model of women’s corrections. As a member of the Western Massachusetts community, the center strives to be a good neighbor, responding to the needs of the community by providing public information and community service. In collaboration with the community, the center offers a multi-disciplinary approach that is trauma-informed, gender-responsive, family-focused, and culturally aware. The mission of WCC is to empower women to reclaim their liberty through informed and responsive choices. This is accomplished through a professional, well-trained and dedicated staff, committed to the goals of the facility. The continuum of care, from entry to post release, is designed to promote successful offender re-entry as socially and civically responsible citizens.

Western Massachusetts Correctional Addiction Center (WMCA)

The Western Massachusetts Correctional Addiction Center (known as “Howard Street”), a component of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, is a minimum security, community based, residential treatment facility. This co-ed regional facility is currently located in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and is designed to provide for the custody, care and treatment of addicted offenders from Hampden, Franklin, Berkshire, Hampshire and Worcester counties.

The philosophy of the Center staff incorporates an integrated model of education, treatment and recovery to address addiction. We subscribe to the disease concept, with abstinence as an avenue to recovery. The program combines confinement with substance abuse treatment to help addicted offenders develop the discipline they need to live a chemically free, productive, and law abiding lifestyle. The intensity of the program is demanding. One among many of the recovery opportunities we offer is the Escort Program. This program allows residents to attend community AA or NA meetings with a fellowship member (i.e. “Escort”). We believe that an active participation in a community-based fellowship is the bridge between treatment, recovery, and successful reintegration.

Text-A-Tip

Program Helps Police Fight Crime

Patrick Johnson, The Republican
December 6, 2009

SPRINGFIELD—In the three months since local law enforcement launched a text-messaging system for anonymous tips, the system has shown it can be an effective tool to fight crime.

Officials say the challenge now is to persuade the public to use that tool more often.

Text-A-Tip, a joint operation of the Hampden district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department and the Springfield and Holyoke police, allows people to send in anonymous tips via the text-message function on their cell phones.

Officials say that in its first three months, Text-A-Tip has generated about 50 legitimate tips. That works out to an average of about four per week.

“They come in spurts,” said Sgt. John M. Delaney, aide to Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet.

When a high-profile crime is in the news, the flow of tips is pretty steady, but when times are quiet, the flow drops off to a trickle, he said. “It’s not on people’s minds.”

Raymond F. Feyre, director of operations for Hampden District Attorney William M. Bennett, said that technically and logistically, Text-A-Tip has lived up to its promise.

“It is a very effective tool for law enforcement,” he said.

The biggest challenge has been spreading the word among the general public about what Text-A-Tip is and how it works, he said.

“The long-term goal is to have it marketed so that it is a fixture in everyday life, so the general public becomes really aware of its function and use,” Feyre said.

Text-A-Tip allows people to send text messages via their cell phones to police. The prime selling point is the tipster can remain anonymous, the police cannot trace the message back to the sender, and there is no fear of anyone finding out.

In an age where “no snitching” is the code on the street, Text-A-Tip allows people to do the right thing without sticking their necks out.

Delaney said police routinely go through the crowd at crime scenes looking for witnesses, and just as routinely the majority of people in the crowd will say they did not see anything.

“People don’t help us not because they don’t want to, but because they fear retribution or being labeled a rat,” Delaney said.

“With Text-A-Tip, someone could be in the crowd texting us and no one is the wiser because it is so commonplace to see young people texting each other,” he said.

Sheriff Michael J. Ashe said Text-A-Tip is not only a good example of collaboration between his department and police, it is also a simple and effective way for the public to take back neighborhoods from lawbreakers.

Text-A-Tip was first promoted by Bennett’s office last winter. It cost $2,600 to launch and another $400 per year to run. The system is in use by 600 law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada.

Text Box: See Text-A-Tip video at the Springfield Police Department link:
http://www.springfieldpolice.net/police/index.php

Text-A-Tip messages originating in Springfield or Holyoke are sent to a site in Canada where the tipster’s identity is scrambled. It is then routed to the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, where a corrections officer will read it and forward it to Springfield, Holyoke or state police.

“Once you send it, they see it in seconds,” said Tony Bryant, director of information systems and technology at the jail.

Once the tipster’s identity is scrambled in Canada, it cannot be unscrambled, according to John Kenney, assistant superintendent of special operations for the sheriff’s department. “The anonymity is everything,” he said.

A call to 911 may be faster, but those calls are easily traced, Kenney said.

The long-term goal is to find funding to market Text-A-Tip, according to Feyre. But in the era of budget cuts, reduced resources and possible layoffs, marketing is not on the front burner, he said.

Kenney said he’d like to see Text-A-Tip advertised on the sides of PVTA buses or on billboards, but he concedes the money to do that may not be available.

For now, it is being publicized by word of mouth, in presentations at schools or neighborhood watch meetings.

There are plans to reach out to area high schools to promote Text-A-Tip, Delaney said. “That’s our age group that is going to be texting the most,” he said. “We’re trying to get the word out to them.”

How it works:

Text-A-Tip allows people to send anonymous tips to police over any cell phone that allows text messaging.

Text Box: TEXT TO:

Crimes
(that’s 274637)

Start your message with “Solve”

Here’s how it works:

· To send a text, messages should be addressed to “Crimes” or 274637, and should begin with the word “Solve”. This guarantees it will be routed to the Hampden County House of Correction in Ludlow and forwarded to the local police department.

· When sending in a tip, the sender should include the name of the community where the tip is relevant.

· Police recommend that people store the Text-A-Tip number in their cell phone contacts to keep it handy in the event it is needed.

· For now, only Springfield, Holyoke and the state police are participating, but Text-A-Tip is open for expansion to include other communities.

Sheriff’s Statement on Offender Re-entry

Several bills are before the state legislature which relate to the re-entry of offenders into the community. I wanted to take the opportunity to convey to the citizens that I serve my vision as regards the best way that we can seek to accomplish offenders re-entering our communities as law-abiding, productive citizens.

I am in favor of the Sheriff’s Department of each county being the mechanism of prisoner re-entry into local communities, including state-sentenced prisoners who are returning to that locale, and I am in favor of re-entry being a gradual “step down” through lesser levels of security.

The Sheriffs’ Departments of our fourteen counties are the proven avenues for prisoners to return to the population centers from which they come. Because of the local and regional nature of Sheriffs’ Departments, no Sheriff’s Department facility or satellite facility is remote from our urban centers.

In addition to this geographic logic, all Sheriffs are constantly building upon literally hundreds of years of community partnerships. I have, for instance, at this present moment nearly 300 working partnerships with community agencies, organizations and institutions, all of which I utilize to help effect the successful re-integration of offenders into our local communities. In addition, my department is working daily with all the members of the public safety/criminal justice team in my region. These longstanding community relationships and partnerships are in some sense intangibles that one cannot replicate or replace by building a physical structure, or a system, or a bureaucracy. As I’ve said, the roots of these partnerships go back literally hundreds of years to the beginnings of our department in our county.

Sheriffs are experts at re-entry because they do so much of it. I am just one of fourteen county Sheriffs, and I supervised the re-entry of 2,362 sentenced offenders last year. The average time served in my institution is only 8 months, so I’m constantly working on offenders’ re-entry. Because we deal with offenders with shorter sentences, Sheriffs, more than any other correctional practitioners, live the expression that “Re-entry begins on day one of incarceration”.

The best way for our local Sheriffs to re-enter offenders is through gradually lessening levels of security, also known as community corrections/intermediate sanctions. Because there is a misconception that these community corrections/intermediate sanctions programs are soft on crime, I would like to address the efficacy, indeed the necessity, of community corrections/intermediate sanctions as part of a continuum of levels of incarceration in corrections. The truth is that, quite the opposite of being soft on crime, operations such as Pre-Release and Day Reporting are indeed crime-fighting tools. It is common sense that an individual who progresses through the system by productive and disciplined behavior and graduates to lesser levels of security, where he can be closely supervised for community re-entry, is less likely to return to crime and jail.

If common sense is not enough, I offer you the following statistics: In a study of releases from the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department in 2007, in the twelve months after release, 12.6% of those released from Day Reporting were re- incarcerated for a new crime, as were 14% of those from our Pre-Release/Minimum Security Center, and 14.7% of those from our Correctional Alcohol Center. Fully 20.7% of those who were released from our higher security main institution were re-incarcerated for a new crime. That means that those who were released from our higher security level, those who did not go through step-down lesser levels of security for re-entry, were re-incarcerated for new crimes at a rate 64% higher than those released from Day Reporting, 48% higher than those released from Pre-Release/Minimum Security, and 41% higher than those released from the Correctional Alcohol Center. How’s that for a testimony to the effectiveness of step-down levels of security in re-entry.

Each Sheriff should have the statutory authority to place each prisoner in his custody in the level of security that best serves both the short term and long term needs of the community. The long term safety of the community is best served by offenders’ going through the gauntlet of a continuum of lesser security levels, all the while closely supervised and supported in a gradual re-entry. That’s what works best and that’s what Sheriffs are trying to do on a daily basis.

Beyond the fact that we know that community corrections/intermediate sanctions fight crime, they are also extremely cost effective. Our Pre-Release program, because of its lesser level of security, costs less per prisoner than medium security, and our Day Reporting program costs one-fourth of medium security per prisoner.

As someone who has been a criminal justice practitioner for over 34 years, but also someone elected to office, I am no stranger to, nor opponent of, the rightful place of our political system in shaping criminal justice policy. Through their elected leaders and representatives, the public is able to infuse our laws with sound fiscal practices, to assure that we have the resources to back up our laws.

It costs in excess of $120,000 to build each hard cell, and $30,000-$40,000 a year to operate it. I believe that we should do all in our power to assure that these hard cells are occupied by individuals who require them.

We as a commonwealth have got to utilize demanding, smart community corrections/intermediate sanctions programs whenever we can or all our efforts at prison and jail construction will be as building sand castles against an incoming tide.

As in so much of life, the answers in criminal justice do not lie at the extremes, nor will they fit on a bumper sticker. We have to seek both common sense and balance in structuring a prisoner re-entry system that best serves the public safety in a real and sustained way.

Michael J. Ashe, Jr.
Sheriff of Hampden County

Sheriff’s Statement to National Commission

OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN CORRECTIONS COMMISSION ON SAFETY AND ABUSE IN AMERICA ‘S PRISONS

MICHAEL J. ASHE, JR.

SHERIFF OF HAMPDEN COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS

As Sheriff of Hampden County, Massachusetts, I am primarily a correctional administrator. In Massachusetts, Sheriffs do not have patrol duties, and our major responsibility is to administrate the county’s jail for those awaiting trial and the county’s house of correction for those sentenced to 2 1/2 years or less.

Please note that in many, if not most, states, everyone sentenced to one year or more is sent to state prison, so that a Massachusetts Sheriff has in his custody many sentenced inmates who in other states would be in state prison. I therefore believe that a Massachusetts Sheriff is a “hybrid”, so to speak, whose experience is applicable to, and replicable by, both county jails and state prisons.

I have approximately 2000 inmates in my custody. Approximately 1500 of these individuals are behind our medium security fences, including 700 detainees awaiting trial and 800 individuals sentenced to 2 1/2 years or less. The other 500 sentenced individuals are in lesser levels of security, including a minimum security pre-release center; a regional correctional alcohol center, originally founded for Driving Under The Influence offenders, but now extending to other substance abusers; a day reporting center, the first in the nation, founded in 1986, whereby offenders live at home at the end of their sentence while being supervised and supported in their efforts to participate in positive community activities; and a community corrections center that serves as a locus point both for those given alternative, intermediate sanctions and for those seeking to successfully re-enter the community after serving their sentences. To be technically accurate, a very small number (approximately 10) of pre-trial individuals are in either pre-release or day reporting.

I have been Sheriff of Hampden County for over 31 years and herein hope to share my experience on the topic of oversight and accountability.

First let me point out that although we often hear that all the high-sounding vision statements in the world are just empty chatter without organizational follow through, it is also true that any successful correctional organization must be infused with, and guided by, a vision of what it seeks to be and, indeed, what it seeks not to be.

It is also important to state my belief that what ultimately makes a correctional institution work has to do with the hearts and minds and spirits of those who people it, not with bricks and mortar, shatterproof glass, pre-fab cells or organizational charts.

I am reminded of the old western movie wherein some cowboys are sitting by a campfire waxing philosophical, and one of them says, “The way I see it, what matters about a man is whether he keeps his promise.” Another cowboy says, “Well, that’s partly it, but it’s more than that: it’s who he makes his promise to.” So before I detail how we as an organization seek to fulfill our promise, I want to offer what, indeed, our promise is.

There are seven underlying principles of our vision of excellence in corrections at Hampden County that I would cite:

The first of these is “BALANCE”

Our motto of correctional supervision is “Firmness dignified with fairness; strength reinforced with decency.”

As with any correctional facility, our foundation is a safe, secure, orderly facility, but that is only our foundation, not the whole edifice. If you stop there, you miss a great deal of the challenge and energy and good efforts of corrections. The house that we build on that foundation, our daily operational practice, has to be humane, positive, productive, and permeated with a respect for the worth of every staff member and every inmate.

Like most of life, the answers in corrections will not fit on a bumper sticker and they do not lie at the extremes. We do not want to run hotels, but we also don’t want to run cesspools of stagnation, frustration and new crime.

Our second underlying principle is WE ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF NOT JUST INCARCERATION, BUT CORRECTIONS.

My average inmate is in his twenties; is a substance abuser; has dropped out of school before completing the 10th grade, and has a fifth grade reading level; has never lived a year of his life in a home with a middle class income; and does not own a motor vehicle. In short, an addicted, poor, undereducated, unemployed, unskilled young person.

Incarceration is about keeping that person in a holding pattern for a length of time, incapacitating him. Corrections, on the other hand, is about also giving that person the opportunity, the challenge and the responsibility to pick up the tools and directions to build a law-abiding life.

Our third underlying principle is that INMATES SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE TO BE POSITIVE AND PRODUCTIVE.

This paper addresses the subject of oversight and accountability, and I think there is always the premise that one cannot expect inmates to be held accountable if staff are not held accountable. I would like to submit that the converse is also true.

If you want to pay staff to supervise inmates who sit around all day watching Jerry Springer, don’t expect them to act like professionals.

The lives of those incarcerated are really the basic “product”, if you will, of a correctional facility, and unless one has an institution wherein the basic ethos is the betterment of that product, the whole enterprise has little meaning for its employees. Without that, they look to find their meaning in “us versus them” hostility, anger, abuse and violence.

At Hampden County, we expect inmates to be at work assignments or at programs like Substance Abuse Education and Treatment, GED Preparation, English as a Second Language, Victim Impact, Anger Management etc. for at least 40 hours per week.

In essence, we expect inmates to “answer the bell” for a productive day, just like we the staff are seeking to do, and just like they will have to do if they are to be productive citizens.

We have over 104 programs available to the 2000 people in our custody, and we make them accountable to utilize these programs to change their lives.

But more than that, we have in the last several years developed what we call a “Basic Intensive Regimen.”

The premise behind this “Basic Intensive Regimen” is solid, the logistic is simple, and it is, I believe, adoptable and adaptable to any correctional operation seeking to impact those in its custody.

The premise that we founded the inmate Basic Intensive Regimen on is that the time that inmates are most susceptible to change is when they first come into an institution and the full impact of their situation hits them. They are, for the first time perhaps in a long while, without chemicals to rely upon, street companions, and the “amenities” of their criminal lives. At this vulnerable and crucial time, their chief orientation can be to the informal inmate culture or it can be to the culture of life-change of the institution. Often the long-term programs that these inmates sign up for in substance abuse, education, work assignment etc. have waiting lists, and valuable and crucial time is lost.

Our Basic Intensive Regimen assures that offenders receive mandatory basic core programs for 5 weeks at the beginning of their incarceration. Core Programming classes focus intensely on substance abuse, anger management, cognitive thinking, victim impact, “Learn to Earn”, “Why School”, and beginning release planning etc. Uniform and non-uniform staff step up to lead these classes. In terms of deployment of staff, let us remember that someone conducting a class for these people is also supervising these people. Motivated uniform staff on the living units themselves can conduct these classes. Those inmates who refuse this mandatory core programming, or are disruptive to it, are assigned to our “Accountability Pod” as a consequence. This is a stark living unit with no amenities. It is not a disciplinary unit, and inmates can earn their way off this pod only by successfully participating in its program, geared toward life change.

The fourth underlying principle of our correctional operation is that WHETHER IT BE A STATE PRISON OR COUNTY FACILITY, URBAN, RURAL OR IN-BETWEEN, IT SHOULD BE PART OF THE COMMUNITY.

We have 500 volunteers representing 75 different organizations coming into our facilities. Many of these are faith-based.

For any given semester, we have 50-75 college interns representing up to a dozen colleges.

The idea is to bring the positive aspects and resources of the larger community behind these walls. We do not want to be a “fortress in the woods”.

We all know that beyond the assistance that this dedication and expertise gives to us in our good efforts, such openness to the community is a de-facto monitoring agent in oversight and accountability, adding 550 sets of eyes that those who would perpetrate violence and abuse must avoid; in a sense, 550 surveillance cameras from the larger community.

The fifth principle is that THOSE IN CUSTODY SHOULD BE KEPT AT THE LEAST LEVEL OF SECURITY THAT IS CONSISTENT WITH PUBLIC SAFETY.

We need a whole continuum of security levels.

We believe that the least level of security that an offender is on at the time of release, the better their chance to stay out of jail or prison. If this saves money that can thus be used to fight the sources of crime, and if this prevents crime because of the better chance at successful re-entry, then we must lead our public in seeing that lesser security is not a risk to safety but rather an effective public safety weapon. For every breach of trust or crime committed by someone in community corrections, a thousand crimes may have been prevented.

Release planning should begin on day one of incarceration and community re-entry must be gradual, supervised and supported. Networks must be established consisting of partnerships of criminal justice, social service, housing providers, employers, and other community resources to assist in re-entry. All that we do inside our fences and in our continuum of custody is geared toward successful community re-entry.

We began an “After Incarceration Support Systems” program, located in our Community Corrections Center, through which offenders can voluntarily stay involved with us for support during the crucial first months of re-entry.

The sixth principle is that CORRECTIONS SHOULD NOT ALLOW ITSELF TO BE A SCAPEGOAT FOR THE FAILURES OF THE LARGER SOCIETY.

Every correctional institution has a 100% failure rate coming through the front door.

Every other societal system – familial, educational, economic, religious etc, – has failed to successfully socialize the individual by the time that they are brought to our front door in shackles and handcuffs. I don’t recruit, and I don’t know any correctional institution that does.

Correctional institutions should be seen by the community in the same way that hospitals are. We want a hospital to be as effective as possible in treating illness and accidents, but we don’t blame hospitals for the illness and accidents they treat. If we want to seek to prevent those illnesses and accidents we do so in the larger community. By the same token, we shouldn’t blame correctional institutions for the social maladjustment and crime of the larger society that correctional institutions seek to address.

If we want staff to respect themselves as professional, we must insist that the community respect us for what we are, not blame us for its own failures.

Corrections is a “game of inches” that addresses damage already done. The ultimate answers to crime lie outside the fences, and when we pretend that they lie inside the fences, we avoid facing the real truths and finding the real answers.

The seventh underlying principle is RESPECT.

Not the misplaced and misused “respect” that inmates and staff confuse with machoism and pridefulness, but a respect by staff and inmates for the professionalism of the role of correctional worker; a respect for the humanity of all within the fences; a respect for the physical surroundings of the facility (ours has green grass and flowers wherever we can put them); and a respect, again by inmates and staff, for the authority invested in staff in the name of the people.

Having offered seven of the underlying principles that should, I believe, inspire a correctional operation, I would like to now offer systemic and replicable aspects of our operation that help us make these underlying principles part of our daily operations.

The first is that we have lessened, if not totally eliminated, the traditional chasm between security and human services in corrections.

Someone hired by us as a correctional officer can pursue two tracks in a work career: first) they can seek to stay in uniform and rise through the ranks from Officer to Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Primary Captain and Major; second) after serving as an Officer for a time, they can seek to become a Correctional Case Worker. These Correctional Case Worker positions are bridge positions that we’ve created. Correctional Case Workers join Officers and Counselors on 3 person teams in our living units. Correctional Case Workers are still in uniform, but their duties are partly officer and partly counselor duties, assisting both their team members. Our Counselor ranks are filled from these Correctional Case Worker ranks.

This career path from Correctional Officer to Correctional Case Worker to Counselor serves us in a number of ways. Since anyone interested in human service work must begin as an Officer, it expands the traditional correctional hiring pool beyond “law enforcement types”, if you will.” We hardly hire anyone anymore directly into counseling positions. Rather we tell would be counselors that they must start as officers. Fully 41.7% of our uniform staff now possess a degree in higher education. This expansion of the hiring pool has two advantageous results: first) the bigger the hiring pool, the better the caliber of people that are hired; second) the infusion of “human service types” into our officer corps mitigates the tough-guy, “us versus them”, one dimensional mentality that can support violence and abuse by staff.

Since most counselors now have gone through the academy with, and served as officers with, security people, the gap and animosity between security and human services is reduced, dramatically in our case, if not eliminated. Thus an ethos of impacting offenders positively, not just controlling them, can thrive better in a facility.

Another systemic effort is that we have adapted some private sector type incentives and attitudes as regards the work force.

By contractual agreement with our union, we give annual job performance bonuses earned by superior job performance evaluation, attendance, training and disciplinary records. Last year 74% of our officers received these bonuses.

We also give an annual bonus for passing a physical fitness test. Failure to pass this fitness test, which is scaled to age, can result in job termination. Will this work? Last year a total of 425 staff with inmate supervisory responsibilities were required to pass this test. 12 staff received medical accommodations; 3 suspensions were issued, and employees were reinstated after they passed the test; there were 0 terminations necessary.

What this bonus system works against is the stereotypical “gone to seed”, indolent, “keeper of the keys” correctional officer with no stake in his job performance or fitness.

We have a very extensive system of honors and accolades for officers, complete with a system of different colored ribbons to be worn on uniforms consistent with awards such as Officer Of The Year, Professional Excellence, Employee of the Quarter, Distinguished Service etc..

We also have a great emphasis on initial and on-going training. After a seven week training academy which emphasizes body, mind and spirit, new officers are assigned “mentors”, experienced staff that exemplify the modern professional correctional officer. Our belief is that, just as with inmates, if we do not seek to orientate them to our ethos of striving for excellence, they will soon enough be indoctrinated by our less inspired officers to an informal system of, at best, mediocrity. New officers meet with mentors on a monthly basis for the first six months of employment. After the initial six months, the mentor will then meet and check with their protégé every other month for the length of their first year of work. Our facility has a Direct Supervision/Unit Management mode of supervision, which, as I am sure you are aware, emphasizes interpersonal and communication skills for officers rather than physical force. I am sure that the Commission is aware of the benefits of Direct Supervision/Unit Management, and if you are not, the National Institute of Corrections in Longmont, Colorado is a good resource on this subject.

New officers (all officers for that matter) have a “Best Correctional Practices” manual at each officer’s station detailing how to handle their post and situations they might face. This manual was written by 64 of our newly promoted corporals.

After that, we, again by contract, have 55 hours of mandatory training for officers per year, much of which is accomplished in 26 bi-weekly one hour trainings that cover the whole gamut of our operations, not just those aspects that officers see as directly involving them. One example of the kind of creativity we put into these trainings is when we had former inmates who’d “made it” successfully on the outside, come back and speak to staff about how they continued a process began in the institution in successful community re-entry. The purpose of this training was to combat the phenomenon that officers often only get to see the failures, inmates who recidivate and return. We felt they needed to see and hear from some of the majority who don’t return.

To foster and encourage professionalism in our staff, we have also instituted written exams for employment (involving multiple choice answers to video correctional scenarios) and for promotion.

I really don’t know how an administrator could hope to oversee the troops and expect them to be accountable unless he had a “walking and talking” leadership style. I, as Sheriff, and thus Chief Executive Officer, if you will, of my institution, make regularly scheduled, pre-announced visits to living units where any inmate can meet privately with me to discuss grievances, concerns, requests whatever. I also do the same with line staff, whereby I regularly schedule appointments to meet privately with staff to discuss their career at the facility.

It is also frankly a fact that we have 24 hour digital video camera surveillance throughout the institution. Even with all the very human efforts that we can make, we should utilize modern technology in this very difficult business of corrections to have a video observation of conduct within the institution. As regards every forced inmate move, part of the special operations move team is a videographer who is expected to record every moment of the move in its entirety.

We also have an Inmate Grievance Procedure, carefully detailed to staff in policy and procedure and pro-actively communicated to inmates in their handbook. This is not an inmate protection in name only, but one that is written and observed, avoiding disregard and loopholes. If inmates want to make the case that they are being abused by staff, there should be a policy and procedure that treats such grievances with neither fear nor favor, seeking neither to give credence to unfounded claims or to sweep under the rug that which should be legimately and objectively heard.

I should at this time say that we have a very simple policy of longstanding at our institution that assists, we believe, tremendously in preventing inmate on inmate violence, and which is certainly replicable at any correctional institution in the land: We do not allow inmates to be in other inmate’s cells, no exceptions. Only inmates who reside in a cell can be in the cell, at any time. Being in another inmate’s cell is a major violation of disciplinary rules, treated accordingly. We cannot help but believe that this cuts down on inmate on inmate violence.

At our institution we have a system of rotation for officers’ assignments to post. Officers spend 6 to 9 months on a living unit assignment and one year on a non-living unit assignment, such as special operations, kitchen, medical, transportation etc.. We believe that this length of time accomplishes two things: It is long enough for a staff member to be part of a team, invested in a particular post, having a sense of continuity and ownership; but it is short enough so that particularly senior officers do not monopolize posts, establish “little fiefdoms” throughout the institution, if you will.

Finally, we are believers in, and practitioners of, utilizing the standards of the American Correctional Association and of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations in our daily practice. Adherence to, and auditing of, these standards help assure safety and fight unprofessionalism.

What has hopefully come forth in this paper is that an institution that has dedicated itself to the respect and humanity of all within its fences, inmates or staff, and which strives to infuse and implement daily organizational practice with that dedication can indeed greater serve the common good.

I look forward to broadening and deepening a discussion of these principles and implementations at our upcoming hearing.

Thank you for the opportunity and challenge to pursue excellence in the very difficult and very vital field of corrections.

PreRelease Minimum Center

PreRelease Minimum Center is a residential facility, which focuses on vocational educational training/employment, education, treatment programs and community re-entry for all residents. Simultaneously we promote resident accountability and at the forefront consider public safety a priority. The goal of the program is successful reintegration of residents back into the community. As residents prepare for community re-integration they are encouraged to examine past maladaptive behaviors and work towards positive changes to avoid prior lifestyles of criminal behavior, which has previously resulted in criminal recidivism. Residents are classified, screened and through an assessment process are tracked to attend the Re-Entry Program.

The Center requires the residents on a continuum to address their criminal factors, which originally brought them into the correctional center.

The program averages 207 inmates in its residential setting on any given day. About 747 inmates successfully complete the facilities program in a year.

Last year our Community Service Program amassed over 85,000 hours of work dedicated to assisting community projects such as Habitat for Humanity, Springfield Housing, and many others. Since the Community Service Programs inception in April of 1993, over 1 millions hours of restitution have been given back to the citizens of Hampden County. Thus contributing to the stabilization of our communities.

Hampden Medium Security Facility (Main Institution) – Ludlow, Massachusetts

The Hampden Medium Security Facility, also known as the “Main Institution”, is located in Ludlow, Massachusetts. An average inmate count is 1,350 (1,220 men, 130 women).

It is composed of seven buildings, three of which are housing towers for pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates. The facility is divided into 24 living units under a Unit Management/Direct Supervision mode of operation.

Sentenced inmates are expected to maintain a 40-hour work week of participation in productive activities within the facility that include both job assignments and programs. All sentenced inmates go through a Basic Inmates’ Intensive Regimen, and continue with programs that address their deficits in substance abuse, education, employment, anger management, victim awareness, etc.

The Sheriff’s philosophy is that re-entry into the community begins on day one of incarceration, and the intent of the medium security facility is to begin a continuum of return to the community as law-abiding, productive citizens.

Department Implements Innovative Improvements to Disciplinary Segregation Unit

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department serves the urban area of Springfield/Chicopee/Holyoke in the western part of Massachusetts and is part of the Large Jail Network. Although the count has gone over 2000 in the past, there are currently 1600 individuals in the custody of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, including both sentenced offenders and pre-trial detainees. In Massachusetts’s county correctional facilities, sentenced individuals are usually serving time for drug offences, burglary, larceny, driving under the influence, domestic violence, assault, etc., with sentences of 2 1/2 years or less. Those awaiting trial are often charged with more major felonies, such as murder, rape, armed robbery, etc.. In many states, everyone sentenced to one year or more is sent to state prison, so Massachusetts Sheriffs have in their sentenced population many inmates who would in other states be sent to state prison. In that sense, Massachusetts Sheriffs are “hybrids”, so to speak, whose experience is applicable to both county jails and state prisons throughout the country.

Up until January of 2008, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department maintained a Special Management Unit (aka Disciplinary Unit or Segregation Unit) that was similar in many ways to the 23-hour-a-day lockdown units in jails and prisons throughout the country.

Although its segregation unit had never been intended to be a long term, filled to capacity and beyond, major housing unit, it had become one over the years. It had become a repository for inmates who were difficult to manage in regular housing units, an out-of-sight, out-of-mind, jail within a jail.

We looked around and saw that while our philosophy of corrections was to “challenge” inmates to build a law-abiding life in a safe, secure, orderly, lawful and productive environment and to reward inmates for positive behavior, this philosophy seemed to stop at the door of our segregation unit where we had only “sticks”, so to speak, and no “carrots”. We saw that while our operational philosophy as a whole institution was not to hold people for the most amount of time in the grimmest possible conditions, with no immediate and accessible avenues to better their lot, an argument could be made that our segregation unit was operating on that premise.

It was also known that there is a concern that segregation’s isolated, stark environment may worsen the mental health of some inmates, exacerbating or precipitating mental illnesses in a process know as “decompensation”. We knew that any mental deterioration of an incarcerant takes not only a dire toll on the individual involved, but extracts a cost from those who work in our facility, as well as from the community when the individual is released.

In January of 2008, Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr. formed a working staff committee with representatives from every security level and satellite facility
throughout the department, and from various areas of operations such as security, classification, human services and forensics, uniform and non-uniform, to thrash out proposed changes to the unit that would enable the Special Management Unit to be what it was meant to be: a place to address and improve problematic behavior, rather than a place to give it a home.

Ten months later the staff committee presented its hard-worked-to proposals to the Sheriff.

The first change put in place on the unit itself was to institute a behavioral program through which inmates can earn privileges in segregation and shorten their stay.

An evaluation system was established, based on inmate cooperation with unit staff and procedures, cleanliness and orderliness of cells, personal hygiene, and avoidance of actions or noise assaultive of others.

Segregation inmates who consistently achieve a positive evaluation are given extra time out of their cell, one at a time, in a cell that has been converted into a “wellness area”. This wellness cell was designed and created to best meet budget restrictions and pay close attention to the safety and security of staff and inmates. Exercise equipment in the cell includes a stability ball, medicine balls varying in weight and size, a foam roller, a stationary bike, and a mini-stepper. Free weights or a chin-up bar are not considered as feasible because of risks associated with the safety of officers or risks of injury to an inmate.

Segregation inmates with positive evaluations earn 1/2-hour stays alone in this wellness cell. 50% of segregation inmates achieve consistent positive evaluations to qualify for time in this cell and utilize the privilege.

Those who demonstrate sustained good behavior also have a chance for once-a-week group exercise in the facility’s exercise area when the area is not utilized by general population inmates.

Consistent positive evaluations can also translate into time off the inmate’s stay on the Special Management Unit. This bears some resemblance to the earned good time system in the larger jail, with the differences that there are no fixed amounts of time earned; time earned is obviously less because it is proportionate to the length of time in segregation; and early release is not to the general population,

but to a completion of the lockdown situation in a regular living unit until the full lockdown time is served.

We also decided to attempt to introduce some basic programs in segregation, and 70% of inmates receive consistent positive evaluations to qualify for these programs and utilize the opportunity. These programs include gang deprogramming, mental health, substance abuse, vocational counseling, employment and housing preparedness, and education. Inmates literally attend these programs in shackles and cuffs to assure the safety of staff, but they attend them nonetheless and are not disruptive. Although the content of the programming may not be as important to them as the time out of their cells, their attendance at these programs at least gives them an opportunity to spend time exposed to the solutions rather than the problems. In addition, the existence of such programs provides one more “carrot” of time out of their cells for inmates to earn through positive evaluations.

The weekly Treatment Staff meeting, attended by clinical, program and counseling staff, systematically reviews inmates to determine which inmates would be appropriate for Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse Programming.

We also utilize our mental health vendor for triage on the unit.

To counter the mental deterioration that can take place in lockdown units, inmates have access to in-cell programming for one hour, twice a week, through the use of an MP3 Headset System.

These headphones are best conceptualized as electronic books, and are programmed to offer inmates programs such as: “Alcoholism and Addiction Care”; “Surviving in an Angry World”; “Conquering Fears and Anxiety”; “Bridging Differences/Dealing with Transition/Avoiding Stress”; “Chicken Soup for the Father’s Soul”; “Family First”; and “Healing Anger and Depression”.

Also offered in these headphones are soundscapes from nature; “Introduction to Meditation”; “The Power of Simple Prayer”; “Relax Rx”; and classical and contemporary music, all of which can work against any possible mental deterioration.

These headphones were especially selected for their durability and the
fact that they did not lend themselves to be used or fashioned as weapons, in whole or in part.

The headphones cost only $33.25 per unit.

Headphones are offered twice-a-week, not only to those who consistently receive positive evaluations, but also to inmates who are struggling with mental health issues. Fully 80% of segregation inmates utilize MP3-headphones, and there has been absolutely no problem with their destroying or purposely damaging them. Inmates obviously value this privilege and are not looking to lose it by purposely mistreating the headphones.

In addition to the changes in the unit, efforts have been made in classification to hold down the numbers in segregation.

The uniform Captains of each housing unit meet weekly to develop a corrective action plan for each inmate in the Special Management Unit, which may include their early re-entry into lockdown in a general population unit.

The corrective action plan is continued once the inmate steps down to general housing from segregation, whether through early release or not, by staff holding a re-entry session with the inmate to discuss the inmate’s plan, expectations of the inmate, and support services available for transition to general housing. It cannot be overemphasized how essential face-to-face contact with the inmate is to establish their “buy-in” and to enhance their chances for successful avoidance of segregation in the future. Indeed, a lack of this connectedness to others is a primary reason why so many failed to get out, and stay out, of segregation in the past.

Step-down units are available in general population to allow inmates, based upon their classification and behavior, to move from Segregation to a general population pod, where follow-up in regards to behavioral compliance and program needs and expectations is monitored, including planning for After Incarceration Support Services.

Individual and group meetings with the inmates are sometimes necessary in order to cajole those who are appropriate to classify to general population to make the transition to move out of Segregation and inform them that staff support is available for this process. It is possible, as unlikely as it seems, for Segregation inmates to become “institutionalized” to the unit.

The above changes have resulted in considerably less inmates being held in the segregation unit, with no concomitant rise in assaults in the general population. In other words, our institution has evidenced itself to be capable of keeping more

inmates in the general population without making the facility and its staff less safe. Incidents in the segregation unit have decreased. Staff attitudes about working in the special management unit have decidedly become more positive.

We are satisfied that the changes we have instituted have resulted in our Special Management Unit being a place where we address and correct pathology, rather than a place to give it a home where it can fester and grow, breeding only frustration, stagnation and new crime.

These changes were broad and deep and consistent with the department’s philosophy of always striving for a positive, productive environment in the inherently negative business of corrections. We realize that not every institution seeking to improve its segregation unit would want to embrace and implement all the changes that we put in place. By the same token, we believe that any facility or department might consider some of the general and specific ways that we sought to make our segregation unit consistent with our overall effort to challenge inmates with the tools and directions to build a law-abiding life in an atmosphere as free from violence as we can possibly make it.

Anyone wishing to learn more about changes to the Hampden County Special Management Unit, can contact Public Information Officer Rich McCarthy at (413) 858-0126 or e-mail [email protected]

Community Safety Center (CSC) – Hampden County Sheriff

The Community Safety Center, located in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, hosts the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department’s community corrections programs, including the Hampden County Day Reporting Center and the After Incarceration Support Systems program.

The Community Safety Center contributes to Public Safety by jail diversion, leaving hard cells and expensive incarceration resources for those who must be removed from society in the interest of community safety.

This Center provides the last two components in a continuum of Sheriff’s Department levels of security that range from medium security, to community supervision, to post-release services. Carefully blending custody and treatment, we support and challenge offenders to live in the community, where they can access wrap-around services and put into practice the skills and lessons learned in the rich programming they have participated in as they have moved through our system. The years have shown that this careful and gradual release of offenders has been of great benefit to protect our communities and do it in a cost-effective manner.

All You Need To Know About Filing A Long Island Lawsuit

You do not remember the accident or the treatment, but the doctor at the hospital said this lack of memory is common after a concussion. Trusting a medical professional and being appreciative of the treatment, you leave the facility and are pleased to return to the comfort of your home. However, as the days progress you find your headache returning and, in fact, becoming worse. This is not what you expected, and you visit a doctor to discuss the situation.

Waiting for a similar response as your initial consultant, you are not too concerned. Unfortunately, the attending professional is worried and after examining the x-rays informs you that something is amiss. It seems that hematomas are pressing against the brain and surgery is required to remedy the problem. How did this happen if you were in the hands of a qualified doctor? This article will discuss issues similar to this example and how to go about pursuing cases of medical malpractice in Long Island. Here you could get info for medical malpractice lawsuits.

What Is A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

The majority of medical malpractice lawsuits are legal battles based on the medical negligence theory. You need the help of an experience Lawyers in Suffolk County.Negligence refers to a responsible party’s carelessness or failure to take care of a person or entity in certain situations. According to medical negligence theory, the medical professional is responsible for injuries experienced by the patient due to negligence. For example, the doctor did not diagnose the patient correctly, did not provide the correct treatment, or delayed the treatment offered.

The proof of medical negligence is comprised of two elements. The first part is the demonstration of the expected standard of care by the doctor. This means that the medical professional should have acted in a competent and professional manner. For example, recommending and performing treatments adequate to the injury presented.

The second element contributing to proof of medical negligence is the doctor’s actual conduct and how it did not meet the expectations. As you may imagine, the medical knowledge of jurors and judges is limited; therefore, the expert witness in the applicable medical field will be necessary for the team to understand the situation. When an expert analyzes a case, he or she should be able to testify to the standard expected of medical professionals and detail how the doctor’s actions did not meet the expectations.

What Needs To Be Considered In The Statute Of Limitations?

It is important to note that even if these factors are proven, the New York statute of limitations provides restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits. According to the statute of limitations, if the claim is not made within two years of the case it is not possible to file a lawsuit. Furthermore, if the case involves foreign objects in the patient’s body, the lawsuit must commence within one year from the day it was found or reasonably discovered. If the lawsuit is not initiated in the mentioned time periods, the plaintiff may forfeit his or her right to compensation completely.

Who Can Be Sued In A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

According to New York legislation, the defendant can sue all medical professionals whose actions contributed to the case of medical malpractice. This can include the doctor who committed the malpractice and the hospital where the malpractice took place.

When pursuing a claim against the hospital or clinic, it is important to consider the two theories involved in the type of claim being made. Firstly, a claim can be made using the doctrine of respondent superior. Respondent superior refers to the assumption that the employer (hospital or clinic) is responsible for the negligent actions of the medical professional who works as an employee. This means that the hospital is to be held liable for all medical negligence performed by the doctors or nurses.

The second claim is suing the hospital independently for corporate negligence. This refers to the situation where a hospital or clinic fails to maintain sanitary conditions, screen employees, or discharge patients correctly.

When choosing to pursue a claim for medical malpractice, regardless of whether it is a doctor or facility, it is important that the plaintiff completes a certificate of merit. According to New York law, the certificate of merit must be completed and signed within 90 days of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. This certificate indicates that the case has been analyzed by at least one medical professional who has concluded that there is a reasonable course of a lawsuit.

What Is Informed Consent?

A different form of malpractice occurred when the treatment performed was conducted without the patient’s consent or warning of the risks involved. According to New York legislation, medical professionals cannot treat patients without obtaining informed consent first unless the patient is unable to consent to emergency treatment. Law requires the doctor to disclose all risks, have the patient comprehend the disclosure, and have the patient execute a waiver consenting to the treatment. If these factors are ignored, a case of medical malpractice can be assumed.