Graham Kilmer
MKE County

House of Correction Targets Recidivism

Program would begin preparing inmates for reentry into community on day one of their sentence.

By - Dec 8th, 2021 05:29 pm
House of Correction sign.

House of Correction sign.

The Milwaukee County House of Correction has developed a plan to prepare inmates to reenter their community as soon as their incarceration begins.

HOC Superintendent Chantell Jewell outlined the plan for the Milwaukee County Board Wednesday, finding support from the supervisors that were there. Now, all it needs is funding.

In September, Sup. Sequanna Taylor authored a resolution – which was passed by the county board and signed by the county executive – that asked the HOC to develop a pilot program in partnership with other county service providers like the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that would “begin the process of preparing individuals to return to their community on day one of admission into the facility and at least one year and six months post-incarceration.”

Taylor’s legislation noted that people who are or have been incarcerated face greater difficulties with securing housing and employment because of their convictions, which can also make it harder to gain public assistance. Therefore, time not spent on preparing them to re-enter the community is time lost.

Taylor’s legislation points to a publication by the American Psychological Association that reviewed the scholarship on the challenges of reentry and argued that it was critical to start that process as soon as possible.

Jewell returned before the board with plans for the new pilot program, which would be for people incarcerated at the HOC or jail for a violent or gun-related offense, that are at a medium or high risk to reoffend and that have a sentence of 120 days or more.

One of the goals of the program, Jewell said, beyond the larger goal of assisting incarcerated people returning to their community, is to “create safer communities by the reduction of recidivism.”

The HOC would partner with DHHS, the Behavioral Health Division and the Office of the Sheriff on this program, which would provide mental health and supportive services that address the behavioral roots of violent crime; it would build out a mentorship program similar to the county’s credible messengers program for young people and children; and, importantly, it would continue after someone is released for another year, connecting them with housing, employment transportation and human needs services.

The estimated cost for the program in the first year is approximately $734,000, with much of the money going toward building out the adult credible messenger program and a handful of full time staff.

“We don’t have anyone on our staff to complete risk assessment, or dedicated to specifically creating those release plans,” Jewell said. The program would provide new resources for the HOC dedicated solely to successful community reentry.

Under the program, the county would provide individualized case management and service coordination, daily programming and a dormitory specific to people in the program. The program will also have a housing navigator and an employment navigator.

Taylor’s resolution, co-sponsored by Supervisors Ryan Clancy and Felesia Martin, has made it the board’s official policy to support such a program. Now, the next step is funding it.

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