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Critical time intervention (CTI) has been recognized as best practice in medical fields for decades.
More recently, CTI’s have been designed to reduce homelessness among people suffering from severe mental illness . In restorative justice practices it is less well defined. CTI can make a significant difference in gender-responsive reentry policy. What is the critical time for females leaving prison? The first 72 hours is the most critical for them. Women typically are rearrested and re-incarcerated faster than men in the state. Their success depends largely on the support they get from the gate of the prison to a safe environment in the community of their return. The obvious, yet profound statement,
“You will wind up in the direction you’re going,”
is applicable here. How they overcome the challenges of the first days out of prison sets the course for their success or failure. Portal Houston Reentry Coaches develop relationships with women while they are still in prison, meet them on the day of release, and facilitate their homecoming in a welcoming, safe, and stable environment.
For people who want to change their life course after prison, there is a very different focus for men than for women. The differences have to do with how people identify their gender roles. Men typically look for work first. Women typically look for connectedness. They have to have safe shelter before they can start to think about showing up for work. When there is no plan for a smooth transition to safe housing, women become vulnerable to predators. Feminist criminology has produced a plethora of research on the likelihood of a history of victimization in this most vulnerable population. This history increases the risk of revictimization post release. Predators lurk at the bus stations and on the internet, seeking females who are being released without any connections to a positive social support network.
CTI for females reentering the community requires
- Connectedness to someone they trust
- Immediate and consistent safe housing
- A pro-active focus on goals
A Portal Houston Reentry Coach spends a minimum of six sessions with her mentee before her release, coming to understand her history and her goals for the future. Coaches collaborate with the mentee to help her to make a plan for the first year of release. The plan is broken down into timely objectives, starting with the first 30 days. This ensures a safe landing and the stability the returning citizen needs to achieve her goals. A 2014 study showed that women who were involved in their own pre-release case planning were more successful in avoiding reoffending or returning to prison . Collaborative case planning is a cornerstone of the Portal Houston model of reentry care. It empowers the women to make decisions for their future based on current accurate information.
The Reentry Coach also acts as an advocate in the community, providing emotional support and consistent focus for her mentee, starting before her release and continuing until she lays her head on her pillow her first night out. The second day, the Coach accompanies her mentee to her first parole visit to ensure compliance, and advocate for the removal of discretionary barriers. The Coach may act as a mediator in family reconciliations. She may be the liaison to a transitional home. In cases where eligibility barriers exist to direct housing from prison, the Coach arranges the transition from shelter to residential treatment to supportive housing. The woman is never left wanting for positive people around her to acknowledge her strengths and support her growth toward independent purposeful living.
Portal Houston Reentry Coaches are the key human element to critical time interventions that are female-specific restorative justice practice.
They are the link between the transformation that happens in the prison, and the restoration that takes place in the communities of release.
They are there for her – right on time.