What follows is a press release I just stumbled across - doesn't appear to have been picked up by mainstream media yet. If there's anyone out there with first-hand experience of this program, please leave your comment below. In the meantime, I think I'll drop them a line.
Arizona Department of Corrections Staff and Inmate Peer Mentors are Working Together to Battle Recidivism, Reports "FromHereToTheStreets"
Despite shocking conditions, inmate peer mentoring program succeeds
For Immediate Release
YUMA, Ariz./EWORLDWIRE/Sep. 8, 2010 --- The Prison Experience Workshop Program (P.E.W.P.) and its inmate peer mentors are taking their activities to greater heights with the help of the staff at the Cheyenne Unit at ASPC Yuma. Without any state funding and only small donations from an Arizona 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Gold Canyon Heart and Home, the Prison Experience Workshop Program is experiencing great success due to support it receives from the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) staff at Cheyenne Unit.
Since its inception in 2005, the Prison Experience Workshop Program has graduated hundreds of participants.
An updated evidence-based survey conducted on 211 graduates who took the classes - between 2006 and 2009 - has shown that 70 graduates were released from custody, with only 9 re-offending and returned to prison. This gives the program graduates an average recidivism rate of approximately 13 percent.
Graduates have little or no disciplinary issues and participate in many other self-help programs to aid in their successful return to the community.
The program claims its incredible 87 percent success rates result from the focus on developing life skills such as effective communication, integrity, work ethics, and community betterment.
Graduates of the program are also offered an opportunity to become peer mentors and facilitate future classes. This pay-it-forward approach allows inmates serving lengthy sentences to help communities by sending other inmates home with the tools they need to succeed rather than the same habits that caused them to victimize those communities in the first place.
The staff at Cheyenne Unit supports this program under the most difficult circumstances. Two of the Unit's primary buildings were condemned in May of 2009. These buildings housed the offices of the chief of security, the unit programs supervisor, yard offices, operations supervisors, the corrections industry facility, and several other areas supporting normal daily operations. The inmate chow hall is also condemned, and the feeding of inmates must take place in the unit visitation areas as a "carry-out" process that has already cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs to the department. Even with those obstacles, the staff at Cheyenne Unit is instrumental in the P.E.W. Program's continued success.
Deputy Warden Franco, Associate Deputy Warden Ayala, COP! Zaragoza, Captain Thompson, COIII Lien, COIII Trepanier, COIII Rodriguez, and most of the uniformed and non-uniformed staff make daily contributions to the inmate mentors by supporting their daily activities despite the lack of working space, difficult conditions, and continued financial constraints.
The program is constantly evolving and is currently incorporating pre-release/reentry materials, small business development, and health education into its curriculum.
Those interested in learning more about the Prison Experience Workshop Program may view or download the materials free of charge. The P.E.W. Program books are available in 6 PDF files on FromHereToTheStreets.com (http://www.fromheretothestreets.com).