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Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Programs Ease Inmates Back Into Work Force

This is what I've been talking about. Giving people an opportunity to get some stability and a foundation under their feet is going to go a lot further than dumping them out on Smith Road. If re-entry starts the day you go to prison, then this is how it should end. This also gives the Department of Corrections a chance to get involved with re-entry. You can reduce expensive prison bed space by providing a place where people can help to pay for their incarceration and put real money into a bank account so that when they get released they have a foundation to start from.

Well-groomed and wearing shorts and a T-shirt, Alan Hammett doesn't fit the cinematic description of a jail inmate as he pushes a paintbrush.

But at the Bossier Parish prison facility, he is one of 113 "clients" working off the last years or months of their sentences.

Clients are how inmates who are employed as part of the jail's work release program are described. The center, just north of Bossier Maximum Security Facility, opened in 2006, and the first inmate began working outside the facility at an independent employer almost immediately.

Hammett was convicted of possession of methamphetamine Sept. 7, and a Bossier judge sentenced him to five years in prison at hard labor, with special conditions.

"Assuming he does everything he is supposed to do and doesn't violate any rules or regulations, his projected release date is Sept. 22, 2009," said Ed Baswell, spokesman for Bossier sheriff's office.

So Hammett will work off the rest of his suspended sentence doing maintenance work for Landmark Realty, living a mostly normal life with the exception of spending the night in a bunk with more than dozens others behind concrete walls.

"This beats sitting around a table at the main jail," Hammett, 45, said. "This gives me something to look forward to when I'm released. I'll have money and hope."

The work-release program is offered to nonviolent offenders completing the last three years of their sentence or, in some cases, serving sentences for offenses with shorter jail terms.

Participants' charges range from failure to pay child support to repeat driving while intoxicated arrests, drug possession and issuing worthless checks. Most inmates in the program come from Bossier Parish.

The work-release center also houses state inmates, as Hammett is a Louisiana Department of Corrections inmate. "We have more people applying for it than we can accommodate," Baswell said. "It has become a popular thing and word has spread."

An alternative to a traditional jail sentence, work-release programs allow inmates a much greater measure of freedom than they would have in the typical jail cell. They are taken to and from work by jail transportation, and they are monitored by the employer but not like the tight security in the prison facility. There are no handcuffs, shackles or surveillance cameras.

"This man (Alan), knows exactly what he is supposed to do and he wants to do it," said T.W. Alley Jr., owner of Landmark Realty. "Alan is a good guy, and he has made a mistake, but who hasn't? I trust him, and I trust him to go into my house by himself."

Alley applauds the program for providing good, dependable workers. He has hired at least six inmates.

"It's just a good source of finding people and everyone, no matter what mistakes they've made, are due an opportunity," he said.

Caddo Parish sheriff's office also has a work-release program. Sheriff Steve Prator initiated the program about two years ago for inmates at Caddo Correctional Center that are assigned to the Lousisiana Department of Corrections.

The program is of no cost to the parish. Inmates pay for their own upkeep, room and board and transportation, Prator said.

"It's really good for employers because they get dependable, drug- and alcohol-free workers," Prator said. "These are people who are going to be in our community very soon and this allows them to prepare for the transition."

The inmates in Caddo's program keep half of their money, and out of that the parish assures they take care of any child support and restitution obligations.

"We've had people get out of the facility who literally had thousands of dollars saved up," Prator said. "The inmates save money, and then the employers get tax breaks. It's just wonderful."

The program allows a way to slowly and cautiously place prisoners back into society, giving them an opportunity to re-enter the work force under supervision before reaching the point of full freedom of release.

"It allows you to ease in, instead of getting out of a cell and being thrown back into it," Hammett said. "I will have money and a job when I'm released."

Alley promised Hammett a job after his release. With jobs secured before their release, prisoners like Hammett have a more steady footing in adapting back into everyday life.

Hammett makes more than minimum wage, Alley said. But the pay scale is adjusted depending on the individual employer. Work-release inmates work, on average, 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, Baswell said.

However the hours vary, according to the type of work they do.

Construction is under way for a new work-release facility at Caddo Correctional Center that will hold 240 inmates. It's set to open in nine months.

Bossier has plans under way to expand it's facility to provide space for an additional 100 inmates.

Shreveport Times


Anonymous said...

c'mon Colorado...c'mon !

Anonymous said...

This wouldnt work in Colorado because, anytime CDOC has people working and paying them money they will never let them go. Here in Colorado its all about money.
Take a look at the way a parole hearing is run. Nothing fair about it. djw

Anonymous said...

I think djw makes a valid point, but; given the alternative of simply sitting in lock up... looks like a little something positive to me...

at least I might could send my wife some $... (after the State and it's Rx/ etoh 'rehab' contractors get their cut off the top...)

these programs should ensure no loss of 'good time' for participants.

The payoff should prove out to be some real kind of reduction in recidivism.. ie, if the individual actually performs without infraction, they should be allowed to return to life.. some reduction in the length of time (to be) served

just my $0.02 worth

Anonymous said...

Other states have had work release programs for decades.
It is very obvious that Ritter was a DA who appointed Zavaras, an ex-police chief who has already done the same job for years, and another Denver ex Police Chief Michaud to head the parole board who lacks any leadership skills.

Ritter only pays lip service to reform. He appoints a "committee" of mostly judicial system lifers to "study" the issues. He knows that the Republicans will not pass anything that the committee recommends.

Meanwhile the corporate political contributors build more private prison beds, the state builds a supermax prison that is totally unneeded and Zavaras counts beds. 6500 voting state workers employed by DOC, thousands more judges and attorneys all feed off this system.

Colorado lawmakers lack any guts to change this system or even enforce the 180 limit parole laws that are already on the books!!
The only thing they can do is call for an audit of why the parole board's discretionary releases are up...duh...the prisons are full!

DOC staff needs intermediate facilities like these; however, the classification and parole system is in need of a total reform. The parole board kept my friend in prison for an extra 6 months because he snapped a dish rag!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #4 makes points in a very articulate manner.

Although I have not had the experience with the parole rules yet, I have heard that the so-called guidelines are an absolute failure. Some of this information comes from people who are in law or law enforcement.

Who the hell are these parole officers??? They are, for the most part, sadistic and dictatorial.

I empathize with each person who voices their opinion with disdain on any article. It is not my place to judge what they are going through. I believe them, and this is a healthy place to vent as well as let those who claim to *care* to read and take heed!

One factor I fully agree with is the money / greed. Colorado DOC and most (if not all) involved with DOC are mostly concerned about their own welfare and the $$$ it brings to them and their own families. It would take a saintly heart to truly give a damn about helping an ex-felon and reforming the lawless laws.

Why is there blatant discrimination regarding rent for an individual with a criminal history? Answer: DOC doesn't care. Live in a homeless shelter, live in the streets or go back to the pri$on$.

Why is there blatant discrimination regarding availability of jobs that pay well and for self? Answer: DOC doesn't care. Live in a homeless shelter, live in the streets or go back to the pri$on$.

These people (ex-felons - EX!!!) are tagged for the rest of their lives.

None of us have lived impeccable lives. NONE. Those who continue to dismiss compassion and continue to judge will be judged. It's karmic. Sanctimonious attitudes will need to answer someday. Just because YOU got away with juvenile misdemeanors and felonies (sometime in your history), somehow gives you the haughty in-your-face crucifying personality.

(Shortest sentence in the Christian bible: "Jesus wept.")

Colorado is a pathetic state. Those given 'authority' lack empathy and compassion. The people who comment on this blog have legitimate issues. Their anger is sincere and with merit.

Meanwhile, the EX-felons and their families (nasty, nasty criminals all ???) who love and support them must submit to carrying the Cross for the rest of their lives.

Thanks for nothing.

Anonymous said...