In Colorado, as in Texas state jails, many inmates are simply released after serving their terms without any supervision, tracking, or reentry guidance to obtain a job, housing, or solid plan for beginning a free life.
But one program in Colorado aims to change this approach—after seeing its success in Canada. The “Long-Term Offender Program” only is open to certain inmates in Colorado—those 45 and older, with a prison term of at least 15 years, and excluding sex offenders and arsonist. Inmates must have behaved well while in prison, acknowledged their crimes, and expressed remorse.
If accepted, inmates are first paired with a mentor—another former inmate who has already gone through the reentry experience and can provide first-hand guidance. The inmate then attends pre-release programming while in prison, which provides job training, develops technology skills, counseling, and seminars on families and victims. The program requires inmates to develop a “transition plan,” which specifically outlines their plans to get a job, housing, and financial issues.
At that point, a selection committee determines whether to approve the inmate to participate in a work release program, where the inmate works during the day and reports to a county jail in the evenings to sleep. If the inmate successfully completes the work release requirements, he can then transfer to a halfway house for a very small portion of the end of his or her term, a cheaper alternative to prison beds that still provide supervision. If that term is successful, the inmate can step down to an ankle monitoring system for one year, with additional parole supervision for five more years after that.
Such a gradual step-down provides intense supervision until corrections officials can have more assurance that ex-offenders are ready for a life beyond bars. In addition, the focus on gainful employment and steady housing can prevent two of the biggest predictors of recidivism (joblessness and homelessness) from affecting this class of offenders.
This program emerges as other states, and even the federal government, consider more intensive reentry programming as a way to reduce recidivism and put ex-offenders on the right track.