Helping Repeat Offenders to Stay Out of Jail
There's been more traffic coming through the Catholic Social Service office in Garden City KS these days. "It's been wonderful!" exclaims Brooke Lopez, Family Support Specialist at Catholic Social Service. "We haven't been all that busy, so this is helping us to showcase some of the things we do."
It's all part of a new program called SCRIMP (Second Chance Reentry Initiative Mentoring Program) that is set to start in December. SCRIMP, funded by a two-year $298,849 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, is a grass-roots effort, initiated by volunteers from the Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry, to help repeat offenders stay out of jail through education, mentoring, and case management.
In addition to providing staff to teach the education classes, Catholic Social Service is also providing office space for Becky Upshaw who manages the program, and Becky Patterson who will provide case management that is strengths-based and family-centered.
The goal of the program is to reduce the revocation rate (offenders who don't complete their probation successfully) by 20%.
For Lopez, the program is a natural extension of the relationship skills classes that she already teaches at the Finney County Jail.
"We were trying to reach the low-income population," Lopez explains. "Strengthening marriages and families is one of the ways to break the cycle of poverty. We knew that there was a strong correlation between low income and incarceration. So our idea was that by teaching relationship skills in jail, offenders would be ready to transition into a Marriage for Keeps class with their wives when they got out of jail. The classes in jail help them to focus on themselves; the classes with their wives help them to focus on their relationship together."
The SCRIMP education classes include relationship building skills, but the focus is on moral development. The idea behind the Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) used in SCRIMP classes is that "as long as clients' judgments about right and wrong are made from low levels of moral reasoning, counseling them, training them in job skills, and even punishing them will have little long-lasting impact on their behavior. They must be confronted with the consequence of their behavior and the effect that it has had on their family, friends and community." Participants depend on peer assessments to pass through the steps of the program.
MRT has a proven success rate. Published reports show that offenders who have gone through the program have rearrest and re-incarceration rates 25% to 75% lower than expected. For Lopez, however, the success of the program extends well beyond the offenders to their children, and their children's success.