Technology Brings Resources to Rivers Inmates
Submitted by Cedric R. Hendricks, Associate Director, Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs
(CSOSA Newslink, Fall 2004)
For over the past year CSOSA has been using its videoconference technology to deliver faith-based mentoring services to individual male offenders incarcerated at the Rivers Correctional Institution, in Winton, North Carolina. On October 12th, the technology was put to a new and broader use, delivering information on District-based resources and services to a group of 230 offenders scheduled to return home over the next few months. Presentations covering housing, health care, education and employment were made by representatives from CSOSA, the District of Columbia government, and several non-profit agencies. The offenders had the opportunity to ask the presenters questions, and were each provided with a packet of handouts on the topics covered.
This pioneering step was made possible when Rivers Warden George Snyder agreed to our request that the institution's visiting hall be wired for videoconference interactions. That step enabled us to start communicating with large groups of offenders from our Training Center, NW, rather than no more than a dozen at a time.
On three previous occasions, CSOSA transported teams of resource and service providers to Rivers to deliver "Community Resource Day" presentations onsite. We undertook this effort in response to a request from Rivers Assistant Warden for Programs, David Farmer. Mr. Farmer was seeking to enhance the institution's existing Release Preparation Program, which provides generic information to offenders about life skills, personal finance and job readiness. The information package we developed, built on that foundation by enabling the offenders at Rivers to meet and hear directly from the very providers they may need to turn to for assistance once they return home.
Conducting the Community Resource Day presentations by videoconference has enabled us to expand the number of providers able to participate. In the past, several were unable to commit staff for the two-day trip to Rivers. Now, it just takes two hours for each presenter to share his or her valuable information.
The daylong videoconference event began with a representative of the US Parole Commission covering frequently asked questions about Parole and Supervised Release. That speaker was followed by TIPS and General Supervision officers delivering a Pre-release Orientation to the offenders. After lunch, Job Training, Development and Placement were addressed. The presenters include the VOTEE Unit, DC Department of Employment Services, Jobs Partnership of Greater Washington, and the JOBS Coalition. Representatives from the DC State Education Office and the VOTEE Unit covered Education. Following that, Unity Health Care and the HIV Community Coalition covered their available Health Care services. We closed with Housing being addressed by representatives of the DC Housing Authority, the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness.
The University of the District of Columbia, which made one trip to Rivers in the past, was not able to participate in this videoconference. However, it is committed to join us again in the future.
The staff at Rivers has asked that we repeat the Community Resource Day videoconference on a bi-monthly basis. By doing so, each DC offender will be able to participate prior to their release.
A special thanks is due to CSOSA's Information Technology staff for overcoming several challenges and making this accomplishment possible.
For additional information on CSOSA media releases contact:
Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Senior Public Affairs Specialist
Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency
633 Indiana Avenue, NW Suite 1263
Washington, DC 20004