Transition doesn’t happen overnight. It is time to let them demonstrate that they can maintain their new habits without your constant support and guidance. They will make mistakes. Help them get back on track and provide hope.
Thoughtful planning, basic skills training and the freedom to make some mistakes are vital aspects of a good transition for community corrections offenders. In fact, it can be argued that the lack of such a process is largely to blame for our unacceptably high recidivism rate. When an offender leaves prison with a bus ticket and good advice, but little structure and less feedback, the consequences are predictable. Certainly some people can learn to swim by being thrown in the deep end, but most learn better, and with fewer bad mistakes and habits, with a little direction and a lot of support.
Recognizing the importance of such a process offenders who move from prison to a community corrections program prior to being placed on parole are actually referred to as “transition” clients in Colorado. Most similar programs have a level system in which the more engagement in the process you demonstrate, the greater freedom you earn. Unfortunately, the emphasis on support and feedback often decreases more quickly than the need for structure and support does when an offender is transferred to a lower level of supervision. The point of transition is less about pushing for major change and more about attempting to maintain the gains already realized.
Not that we ever have control over another person’s behavior, but during the transition period, the amount of time and influence you have with them decreases substantially – by design.
Allowing them to struggle but ask for help is part of the plan, not a failure to plan.
Encouraging them to think for themselves rather than just comply with rules by definition comes with some antisocial and impulsive choices. While some addicts go cold turkey and never relapse they are the exception to the rule. Children fall down when they are learning to walk… their legs and brains are not mature enough to handle more than a few steps without giving way to exhaustion or imbalance. Appropriately, our response usually includes some combination of positive reinforcement for attempting the move to greater independence and encouragement to try again, with a pinch of advice or guidance. Ultimately, the message is, “You can do this!”
While the focus on and treatment of criminogenic needs certainly continues, the stability factors that indirectly influence criminal behavior become even more important during the transition period. Without the daily structure and support coming from their case manager or P.O., offenders will be looking for it elsewhere. Offenders, particularly stimulant abusers, are prone to boredom. With the decrease in the amount and frequency of treatment and professional contact, they often start to notice environmental influences that they had been successful at blocking out for several months. Environment is always a powerful influence on behavior, but during a period of uncertainty, its power increases substantially. While we have little direct control over another person’s environment, keep in mind their identified criminogenic needs and stability factors.
The following stability factors play a large part in determining who an offender spends time with and where. Emphasize these factors when developing a transition plan with and for your client:
Employment: While not a primary criminogenic need, a sense of purpose and a structured day makes most people more satisfied with their life. Being unemployed does not lead directly to crime but so goes the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.”
Financial Stability: When people are not constantly struggling to survive, they are better able to focus on the future. While the presence of money will not make someone less prone to crime, when it isn’t there, “easy money” becomes a unique temptation. It is much easier to avoid temptation when you don’t have to worry about your next meal or shoes for your children.
Leisure and Recreation: Desistance from crime usually includes changing your playgrounds and playmates. Boredom breeds a sense of nostalgia for “the good ole days.” Like an alcoholic who believes he can hang out in a bar without drinking (some can!), the desire to see old friends and old places tends to increase over time. Without a prosocial network of friends and activities, the desire to be “where everybody knows your name” often wins.
Housing: While linked to financial stability, adequate housing is not just about money. There are a variety of reasons individuals choose to live in what we call “bad neighborhoods.” Familiarity, cost of living, and being close to family are all good reasons to choose a residential location. Unfortunately, high crime neighborhoods mean increased exposure to antisocial associates and antisocial attitudes, the real drivers of criminal behavior.
Emotional and Personal Wellbeing: Most people function better emotionally and mentally when they are surrounded by social opportunities, even when those connections are superficial. Often, the transition to a lower level of supervision includes increased social isolation unless the offender is motivated to participate in various social activities. Social isolation, for most people, is a risk factor for depression and/or anxiety or any other emotional/mental disorder. Unlike antisocial relationships, prosocial relationships rather just happen by chance.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
For sure, even the best transition plans will be met with hiccups, mountains, and unforeseen curves, but the lack of a transition plan will almost certainly create a path that, in time, leads directly back to incarceration.
We've developed our technology to help you monitor each client’s transition plan. Click on our software icons below to see how we've implemented the transition principle in our software.It is time to let them demonstrate that they can maintain their new habits without your constant support and guidance. They will make mistakes. Help them get back on track and provide hope.