Shannon Murphy received some good news this month. The re-entry program that she heads up at the Douglas County jail has received a substantial boost. The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the Douglas County Correctional Facility’s re-entry program two grants that total $374,000.
“If we can target that small group of high-risk folks that return frequently, we can really make a big impact,” Murphy said.
The first grant of $144,268, called the Second Chance Act Prisoner Re-entry Initiative grant, will be used to hire two full-time case managers, who will begin assessing inmates 90 days before they’re released. The case managers will develop plans to help inmates re-enter the community and then assist them up to 180 days post-release.
“Our goal is to develop successful plans so they remain out in the community successfully,” Murphy said.
The second grant totals $229,945. The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grant will fund a two-year Assess, Intervene, Mobilize and Succeed Initiative. The money will pay for a contracted case manager at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, which will help ex-convicts receive mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
“I think that’s a great idea; probably something they needed for a long time,” said Patti Back, Lawrence resident. “The mental health thing is also a good thing; a lot of them (inmates) may have problems or circumstances that they could use those kinds of services.”
According to a news release regarding the grants awarded this month, the Douglas County Correctional Facility was selected in 2008 by the National Institute of Corrections as one of two jails nationally to serve as a pilot site for the Transition from Jail to Community project. The project is designed to prevent recidivism.
Murphy said in 2007 the Douglas County jail reached capacity at 185 inmates. Since that time, she has worked to ensure that inmates remain out of the jail and lead productive lives. She said since 2008, the population at the jail has steadily decreased year after year.
Murphy hopes with the new grants, she will be able to do even more to keep the community safe and prevent recidivism.
“This will make a significant impact, especially for us to go out into the community and case manage the inmates out into the community,” Murphy said.
Murphy said she expects the three case managers to be hired by the first of the year.