Thursday, May 9, 2013

Feedback On The 100-Hour Transition Program

This is a very unique program and I have enjoyed every minute of teaching and working with the inmates taking the class.  These are some of my observations and suggestions to the program.  When I refer to “students” I am speaking of the inmates:

It seems there’s a mandate that the students get exactly 100 hours of face-to-face instruction from the curriculum and approved DOC videos.  I think between facilitators, institution supervisors and administrators that could be defined differently.  There needs to be some flexibility there, in that some of the highest quality moments of instruction can come with one-to-one interviews with the instructor outside the formal classroom.  The institution as a whole can release (in my experience) up to a hundred inmates a month from all three units.  In cases such as this, a balance must be struck to get all these students trained and ready to leave.

The motion picture Antwone Fisher, 2002 with Denzel Washington needs to be on the approved video list.  It is riveting for the students, and it is a very good lead-in lesson to Anger Management, Decision Making, Problem Solving, Social Situations and Families.

I’d like to see a greater association with Chaplaincy services.  Perhaps some of the volunteers in that area could be trained to instruct parts of Transition, so as to free up time for the Facilitator to spend more time with individuals in and out of confinement.  I’d also like to see a Transition Volunteer program.  This would not only help his/her program, but could also serve the smaller work camps.

Facilitators need to become collaborators with the different learning areas of the institution.  This has been a true blessing to my program.  This can become necessary when students have special medical (physical and mental) needs or learning disabilities.  I had a hearing impaired (100% deaf) student who sat in my class for days not learning until I found some other inmates and staff who knew ASL (sign).  Is it possible to Close Caption our video series?

I want to encourage Facilitators to consider themselves Customer Service agents.  We serve the inmates.  Sure, the students are convicted felons, but in a very short time they will be “normal” citizens in our communities, shopping at Winn Dixie. Are we preparing them for that?  While in the Transition class, there needs to be a genuine attitude of transition, (i.e. a kind of metamorphosis) in that I don’t think there is harm in beginning to treat them as ladies and gentlemen with respect, honesty and candor that any person on the outside would expect and deserve.  Yes they’re inmates and some will still steal stapler springs, but we need to treat them with respect and let them know it is expected in return.

I have regularly used as a community information resource the University of Florida / IFAS Extension System, especially their Families and Consumer section, and their free publication through EDIS.  EDIS is the Electronic Data Information Source  of UF/IFAS Extension, a collection of information on topics relevant to consumers, especially Florida residents.    UFL/IFAS has an office in virtually every Florida county the students may visit for free or low cost information and services.

Is a graduate student somewhere surveying released felons on what helped or hindered their transition?

Should the Transition Facilitator take on part of the task of finding students leads for employment, identification, felon check-in locations and driver’s license issues?  I think the short answer is “no”, but with Classification and Release Officers being backed up with work, if Transition doesn’t assist, they will not get this information.  Learning the 14 Transition lessons is beneficial, but if an inmate can’t find necessary resources, it’s more probable he or she will return.  One small suggestion would be to verify possession of Social Security cards early in an inmate’s confinement.  Why wait until the end of a 10+ year sentence to apply for a SS card?

I have really appreciated the re-supply of classroom materials such as pencils, folders and paper.  Thank you.  I suggest an auto-resupply mechanism such as 1 new pencil for every pre/post test returned and 1 ream of paper for every 10 class evaluations, or something like that.  That is, if you’re having a hard time getting these critical documents returned.

I’d really like to see some interaction with other Transition Facilitators, even virtual such as a community blog, Skype or regular teleconference.  We need this for encouragement and idea and resource swapping.

Final note: I have thoroughly enjoyed this time as a facilitator of this program and working with you and the Classification staff.  Even though I am leaving for a different position with DOC, I hope our paths cross often.