Families behind bars: close to home initiative provides families of inmates with visitation opportunities.

Author:Ames, Jill A.
Position:Probation and Parole Forum
 
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The Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS), the juvenile correctional system for the state of Ohio, is statutorily mandated to confine felony offenders--age 10 to 21--who have been adjudicated and committed by one of Ohio's 88 county juvenile courts. During their stay with DYS, the youths are engaged in programming designed to address their criminological and behavioral needs. Each of the DYS facilities also operates a year-round school that offers general curriculum, as well as vocational opportunities.

Over the past several years, multiple reentry initiatives were introduced at DYS, focusing on family engagement, mentoring and volunteer services. Family engagement is an important goal as strengthened family connections better prepare youths for their return to the community upon release (most return home to family members), and also reduce repeat offenses. DYS continues to prioritize family engagement through the CLOSE (Connecting Loved Ones Sooner than Expected) to Home initiative. Initially introduced as a grant-funded program, CLOSE to Home allows DYS to provide family members struggling with reliable transportation a way to visit incarcerated children via community-based vendors. This transportation is provided with no out-of-pocket costs for the families.

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Within each of the five parole districts in the state of Ohio, one senior juvenile parole officer (SJPO) is designated to arrange a cadre of bus vendors, coordinate reservations with families and schedule quarterly bus trips to facilities. Either via mail or hand-delivery by a juvenile parole officer, a flyer is provided to families with pick-up locations, scheduled trip dates and contact information to make reservations. The facility staff members are also provided...

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