Archive for Monday, February 25, 2008

New re-entry director aims to reduce recidivism

February 25, 2008


Shannon Murphy is the new director of transitional services at the Douglas County Jail.  Murphy will set up a system to help inmates re-enter society with the hope that they won't return to the jail.

Shannon Murphy is the new director of transitional services at the Douglas County Jail. Murphy will set up a system to help inmates re-enter society with the hope that they won't return to the jail.

If all goes as planned, more than a dozen inmates in Douglas County Jail will have an easier time adjusting to life on the outside when it comes time for their release.

Eighteen inmates are going through the last phase of eligibility assessments under a new transitional services and re-entry program launched last month. It's headed by Shannon Murphy, who is the re-entry director in her one-person department. Murphy spent the past 12 years working for Douglas County Community Corrections and left as the deputy director.

"I've got a big challenge ahead of me," Murphy said of the job she started Jan. 28.

Murphy was picked from among several candidates, Sheriff Ken McGovern said.

"She's worked with the courts and has the knowledge of working with attorneys and inmates that she's already dealt with," McGovern said.

The sheriff's office has been working on developing the re-entry program for more than a year. Its purpose is to identify gaps former inmates face when they are released. Examples of those gaps include an inability to find housing and jobs right away. There also are time lapses in how soon they can continue health, mental health and substance abuse treatments they may have started while in jail.

"Whatever services and appointments they need will be set up directly so there is not a gap, so they don't fall through before they start those services," Murphy said.

It is hoped that before they are released, inmates will have at least met the people they will be working with on the outside, Murphy said.

If former inmates get the services they need in a timely fashion, they will be less likely to revert to their old ways, Murphy and McGovern said.

The program's focus is on repeat offenders.

"We're looking for those who have been in (jail) several times and see if we can target some risks and needs that may have been overlooked," Murphy said.

The inmate's attitude is also important, she said.

"Thinking errors are always a huge issue, and I think it's been an overlooked aspect in general in the criminal justice arena," she said. "Do they have the tools to even handle their mental health and addiction issues? That's going to be important."

The long-range goal is to reduce recidivism - the tendency to repeat criminal behavior - and the growing number of offenders sent to jail. It could delay the need for expanding the jail.

It will take time to establish the re-entry program and change the attitudes of offenders, said Ken Massey, undersheriff in charge of the jail. It could be a year or more before real progress is seen, he said. But Massey said similar programs have worked elsewhere.

"It's going to be a slow process," he said.


Godfather94 10 years, 3 months ago

Eighteen inmates are going through there last fase which started January 28. I'm assuming it's this year. If that;s the case, I don't see them getting rehabilitated in a short period of time. We are dealing with Douglas County, so that means that some of these inmates could be murders. I would like to know where are they going to find jobs, with jobs being hard to find in this economy. Well you law biding citizens, prepare yourselves for more criminals in action.

geekin_topekan 10 years, 3 months ago

They will also get no support from their community either.Step up or shut up. The biggest hurdle to recidivism in coming years is going to be the corporate prison system.Using tax dollars to "correct" prisoners?No,they want their $$.Recidivism means $$.Lobbiest pushing for longer sentences and tougher parole standards are lobbying for your $$.(They call themselves citiizens rights activists)The giovernment is not going to pay a contractor any more $$ than they would spend if they were running the system themselves so the corporation needs to cut inmate services to make a profit.Do you really think they want to create non-criminals?Thatd be cutting their own throat. I am not saying that prisons are not needed.I am saying that privite prisons want criminals on the streets.Criminals commiting crime means $$$$!Criminals let back into the streets to commit more crimes against citizens means more $$$! So, as long as the community refuses to participate in the corrections process than they are leaving it up to the corporations and they are saying "show me the money".

Jackalope 10 years, 3 months ago

murders? prisons? Aaaa, you do know that they are talking about the county jail, don't you....? first and second DUI's, drunk in public, disorderly, etc....

monkeyspunk 10 years, 3 months ago

Any program that aims to decrease the recidivism rate in Douglas County should be supported. Though without some comprehensive changes to drug laws and punishments at higher levels, it will have trouble making a large dent in the problem.

Best of luck Smurphy.

yeah_right 10 years, 3 months ago

It reads that they are going through the last phase of eligibility assessments. The program will probably start several months before the jailmates release date.

justthefacts 10 years, 3 months ago

The current trend in Kansas and other states with "minor" offenders who WILL get out sooner then later is to try to get them job training while doing time.

There are a growing number of programs available for inmates, wherein they get technical eduation in areas of high demand (e.g. welding, plumbing, electricians, etc.). Some employers even take the risk of sponsoring a particular inmate, sharing in the cost of getting them properly trained and giving them a shot at a job (not a guaranteed job) when they get out; they then have a trained employee for a job and they know that person is not as likely to find work elsewhere! Hope for a better life has changed some people and their entire future. Plus, a "captive audience" sometimes means they're a good student for the first time ever. This kind of program has, when implemented, cut the recidivism rate in Kansas to 1 in every 3 (The national average is 2 in every 3 return to the system). Not only does such a sucess aid the inmate themself, but in many cases it means their families (in particular their minor children) get support and a better role model! So, if you are an employer who has a hard time finding qualified employees, contact KDOC (corrections dpt for the state) about helping a local technical school provide inmates (and society) with a better future; it has proven to be a good way for employers to get well trained and very grateful new employees! Of course it won't work for/with everyone or in every situation. But when it does work, it's a great idea and deal, for all concerned!

Jeff Kilgore 10 years, 3 months ago

Thanks justthefacts. All the inmates are going to be released, so, do we as citizens want to prepare them for release? Of course. I wish Ms. Murphy the best. She is doing the community a real service.

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