Thursday, December 13, 2012

Washington state nonprofit that helps felons re-enter society is facing cuts, might have to close

In recent years, prisons have been built en masse in rural areas, heralded as economic beacons for local communities that needed jobs and local economic growth. But, what happens when the prisoners housed in those facilities re-enter society, perhaps in the locality? In Washington state, a local program in the big prison county has been helping prisoners assimilate into local society. It provides a valuable service, even with its small staff and budget, Sheila Hagar of the Walla Walla Union Bulletin reports.

The Successful Transition And Reentry organization was founded in 2005, and helps newly released felons who are mandated by law to return to Walla Walla County find housing, jobs and social services. It is the only such program in the state, according to its organization's board president, Chuck Hindman. The program has served 91 clients so far in 2012 on "the tightest of shoestrings," Hagar reports. Glenna Awbrey is the only paid staff, and she runs classes, therapy sessions, mentoring, landlord intervention and case management.

STAR's annual budget is $133,000. That could be cut by $40,000 if the county's Department of Human Services goes through with announced cuts. Awbrey said the budget cuts would end up costing the county in the long run. STAR prevents about half of former felons from re-entering the prison system, saving the county about $45,000 a year per inmate. "If statistics hold, a $40,000 cut in housing funds will cost the public at least $20,000 to incarcerate such people again," Hagar reports. (Read more)

No comments: