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Western Kentucky reentry resource providers help the justice-involved population

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Advocates say jail discharge planning for the justice-involved population is necessary for successful reentry and low recidivism rates.

In an ACLU-KY Smart Justice Advocate op-ed published on June 10, Marcus Jackson wrote, “When the government chooses to incarcerate a person, they also assume the responsibility of caring for that person.”

According to Challenges of Reentry, a Human Toll of Jail publication, “Prior to the late 1990s, jail reentry and jail discharge planning were virtually unheard of, and few jails provided services to support people as they left custody. In the past decade, however, jails have begun to implement new service models with the aim of reducing recidivism.”

In Jackson’s op-ed, he presents arguments surrounding institutional disregard.

“I have spoken with numerous Kentuckians who were incarcerated during the pandemic or are currently incarcerated,” Jackson wrote. “They report an institutional disregard of their physical and mental health and inadequate access to rehabilitative services.”

Jackson said suspending operations and refusing to reinstate critical programs and services is detrimental to public health.

“Evidence-based rehabilitative programs and services — including educational classes, family visitation, phone and written correspondence, and social/recreational activities — are necessary for successful rehabilitation and reentry into life after incarceration.”

The Western Kentucky Correctional Complex is located near Fredonia in Caldwell County, and like many other facilities, services and programs were modified to adapt to COVID-19 pandemic conditions.

Visitations were canceled, programs were disrupted, and isolation was amplified, however, WKCC visitations resumed on June 26 and most programs have returned to full capacity.

In 2011, Kentucky established a criminal justice reform policy that aimed to support and reinforce the criminal justice system. It was called the Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act of 2011.

With the passage of House Bill 463, the piece of legislation is reviewed and reported on annually.

According to the 2020 annual report, “The legislation was the first major criminal justice reform policy in the state in over thirty years.”

Included in the report are accomplishments since the establishment of HB463, 2021 Kentucky Department of Corrections recommendations, strategies for the 2021 fiscal year, and a multitude of data and figures.

“Recidivism is beginning to decline in the state due to reentry efforts from the Department of Corrections and measures put into place like HB463 which provide services and additional opportunities to the justice-involved population,” according to the report.

Katherine Williams is the public information officer and open records coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

“The division [of Reentry Services] has partnered with other agencies to increase services to veterans, help inmates obtain state IDs before release, and increase virtual programs to inmates and those on supervised release in the community,” she said.

Evidence-based practices available at WKCC include Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT), Program Good Time Credit, virtual mental health services, quality assurance assessment tools, substance abuse programs, among others.

“DOC is collaborating with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and Office of Drug Control Policy, among others, to improve access and provide critical services to offenders,” Williams said.

Caldwell and Lyon County justice-involved populations can participate in Western Kentucky Reentry Council meetings, where stakeholders act as reentry resource providers.

Their meetings remain virtual, but in-person sessions will return to the Lyon County Public Library soon, Williams said.

“The councils have assisted in hosting expungement workshops, resource and job fairs, and family group sessions for the justice-involved population,” according to the report.

A reentry resource provider, Goodwill KY, plans to achieve 1,500 expungements every year for the next three years. They are also working to establish same-day expungements.

The conclusion of the report recommends using faith-based groups to assist offender populations, expand virtual services, facilitate identification efforts to remove employment barriers and several other DOC strategies that intend to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

In 2020, WKCC’s cost to incarcerate (per inmate) was $88.47 per day and $32,292.83 per year, according to HB463 2020 annual report.