“Thinking For A Change” in Reentry Court

March 25th/ Part 4

The information found in the previous article is important and can be read in full through their links. They are well-written descriptions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. (see also; Cognitive Behavioral Treatment: A Review and Discussion for Corrections Professionals, Harvey Milkman, Kenneth Wanberg, NIC 2007 ). In this short description of one “Thinking for a Change” training (T4C), they provide a backdrop for my reentry court team’s four day  training (taught by Juliana Taymans, one of the co-authors of T4C )

I wasn’t one of the trainees, but audited most of the training for twelve San Francisco case managers held in my courtroom.. I can say that it was well worth the time, effort, and resources involved. My impression was that the trainees thoroughly enjoyed the material and mastering the skills involved, which included problem-solving in their own lives. While the curriculum could not be used for everyone (as it appeared to require some level of introspection and sophistication), it certainly could be effective with a large cohort of parolees.
The lessons were formal (often read verbatim from a training manual), emersing participants in role playing, film  and other engaging techniques. It should be noted that the number of trainers required (initially 2 per group), the number of group participants (10-12), the number of sessions required (20-22), and  the length of sessions (1 hour or more) make delivery of this therapy somewhat problematic. But I found the techniques taught  grow on me (surprisingly finding myself using them in my everyday life). We intend to begin at least three group sessions for parole reentry participants in April. We’ll let you know how it  all works out.
Thinking for a Change (T4C) is an integrated, cognitive behavior change program for offenders that includes cognitive restructuring, social skills development, and development of problem solving skills. NIC makes available the T4C offender program materials plus a curriculum for training program facilitators. NIC also can assist agencies in training staff to facilitate the program ( National Institiute of Corrections on Thinking for a Change)

NIC: An Important Reentry Court Resource

The dilemma for the Reentry Court field is that there is a relative dearth of specific information and scientific literature on Reentry Courts. Some are so disheartened, that they are prepared to put off developing a Reentry Court till research based guidance is provided. I would suggest that it’s far better to make use of relevant research materials and evidence based practices available to the reentry court field now, than wait for specific reentry court publications that may arrive too late to be of use. This is especially true, as the “drug court” that reentry court is modeled after has already been intensely evaluated and shown to be the most effective modality, in dealing with the high-risk offenders, those offenders who are overwhelmingly  leaving our jails and prisons.

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) has been an important resource for correctional reform information since 1977. Over the past decade, the NIC has dedicated itself to providing state of the art tools for jurisdictions interested in improving  ” offender reentry” from jails and prisons into their communities. While it’s publications and web-based tools are rarely reentry court specific, they  do provide important and relevant research based information that can be applied to your reentry court program. Importantly, the NIC has adopted an early intervention model, that focuses on the offender’s seamless reentry from the time of sentence (and by inference, the time of arraignment).

The NIC “ TPC Reentry Handbook (Transition from Prison to Community) was developed  [in 2008] as a resource for a broad range of stakeholders involved in improving transition and reentry practices (p.3)”. The National Institute of Corrections and project partner the Urban Institute developed its “Transition from Jail to Community” project (TJC) with a similar purpose, with its  TJC Implementation Toolkit coming on line just last month.  According to the NIC blurb, “This web-based learning resource guides local criminal justice agencies and community-based organizations through implementation of the TJC model, in whole or in part.”  It would appear these publications and web-based tools ought to be part of every reentry court’s library.

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