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McDonnell visits Greensville Correctional Center to review prisoner reentry programs

bob-mcdonnell-linksGov. Bob McDonnell visited the Greensville Correctional Center today to review prisoner reentry programs, including the Cognitive Community Program, Campus Within Walls Program, Animal Assisted Compassionate Activities and the DMV Connect program.

He was joined by Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker, Chief of Staff Martin Kent and Delegate Beverly Sherwood (R-Winchester).

“There is no greater role for state government than to ensure the safety of the public. As a prosecutor, state delegate and attorney general, I worked tirelessly to help make Virginia’s streets safer. I have long-believed that effective re-entry policies can improve public safety, reduce victimization, improve outcomes for offenders returning to their communities, and reduce recidivism,” McDonnell said.

Both as a delegate for 14 years and as attorney general, McDonnell has been a champion for public safety and the rehabilitation of offenders before and after their release.  He was a patron or co-patron of several pieces of legislation to improve the likelihood of offenders becoming productive members of society.

The governor, through Executive Order No. 11 to establish the Prisoner and Juvenile Offender Re-Entry Council, which promotes collaborative reentry strategies for adult and juvenile offenders.  In 2011, the governor signed legislation that increased to 90 days the amount of time in which the juvenile court services unit must consult with the local department of social services before a juvenile is released from juvenile facility to allow for a seamless re-entry process for juveniles, and requiring the Department of Corrections (DOC) to establish a personal trust account for every inmate.

Cognitive Community Program

A key initiative of Gov. McDonnell’s administration involves improving public safety by preparing prisoners for successful transition back into their communities at completion of their sentences so they become productive members of society, thereby reducing the number of future crime victims.  Offender preparation for reentry includes equipping offenders to find employment; addressing basic educational deficits; ensuring treatment for substance abuse; and instilling acceptable values.

The Department of Corrections has implemented an Intensive Reentry Cognitive Community program at Greensville Correctional Center and 13 other prisons across the state. Cognitive Community programs are structured living environments in which participants live together within the same prison housing unit and are held accountable 24 hours per day for practicing pro-social ways of interacting. Participants attend activities that help them overcome criminal thinking habits, learn how to apply for jobs, and practice personal responsibility and self-discipline. Probation officers visit the programs to provide participants with seminars in how to comply with the expectations of probation supervision upon release.

Offenders participate in the Cognitive Community program in the last 6 months of their prisons sentences so that the benefits of treatment are strongest at the time of release.

Campus Within Walls

This is a cooperative effort between Southside Virginia Community College and the Department of Corrections. The Campus Within Walls Program enables students to take college level courses at an accelerated rate. Students are able to earn a certificate which is the equivalent of one year of college, or they may earn an Associates Degree in two years. Tuition scholarship grants are available or students may use personal funds to pay tuition.

DMV Programs

·         The DMV Connect program helps prisoners preparing for release get identification cards before entering back into society.  By the end of today, DMV will have served 270 offenders through the program. At a visit last month to Greensville, 20 inmates preparing for release received ID cards.  DMV Connect will have a presence in 12 correctional facilities by the end of the year with plans to expand in 2013. It was decided that Coffeewood (Mitchells), St. Brides (Chesapeake), and Indian Creek (Chesapeake) will be the next three facilities to receive the DMV Connect service. The DMV Connect team will begin testing at the remaining 11 facilities to ensure they are prepared to deploy on an aggressive schedule this Fall.

·         The CDL Program has been up and running for several months.  The DMV has successfully completed issuing approximately 45 offenders with a Class A or B CDL license.  At Greensville Correction there have been 20 offenders that have taken the knowledge test and road skills test that have now received their CDL.  The DMV has also been engaged with the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Hopewell where it has licensed 25 individuals with Class A & B CDLs.  On August 22, 2012 DMV has been invited to participate in a graduation ceremony with 19 of the 25 offenders as they receive official recognition for successfully completing all their training and licensing.

·         Working with DJJ, the DMV has issued ID Cards and DL Learner’s Permits at four (4) different facilities.  In the past year it has made a total of 12 visits to four different locations.  Culpeper, Richmond, Beaumont, and Hanover have all had our Mobile Unit routinely schedule appointments to their facilities.  To date the DMV has served nearly 500 offenders with issuance of an ID cards or DL learner’s permits.

Animal Assisted Compassionate Activities (AACA)

The Animal Assisted Compassionate Activities (AACA) Program is a supportive, values-based program, designed to provide an opportunity for people to share and benefit from the warmth, empathy and affection given so freely and readily by the therapy animals in a soothing and positive setting. The dogs express and model the very traits that may be missing from a person’s experience in which they can emulate, incorporate and build on their own lives. The dogs benefit as well from the praise, attention, and appreciation heaped upon them by the grateful friends and beneficiaries. Greensville currently has eleven trained offender handlers and eleven certified therapy dogs.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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