Webster County Detention Center will be one of the first jails in Kentucky to implement a new experimental reentry program aimed at helping inmates successful reenter society.

Founded in 2018 by Leadership Louisville, the Opportunity Network was designed to remove barriers from incarcerated individuals looking to successfully return to the community, and hopefully lower recidivism in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Jefferson County Jail began a three year test of the program in 2019.

Beginning in 2021, Opportunity Network is rolling out a new initiative known as the Opportunity Network Reentry Workbook, and it is offering to allow jails around the Commonwealth to take part in the test.

“The workbooks are designed for individuals who will soon be exiting a supervised facility and reintegrating back into the community.,” stated Tyler Dennison, Public Protection Coordinator for the Kentucky Criminal Justice Commission. “The workbooks include basic information and how-to instructions regarding a variety of topics such as obtaining identification, securing employment, finding housing, managing money, dealing with day-to-day stressors, etc.”

Many of these factors are considered reasons why many inmates are rearrested after being released.

“Many of those incarcerated who end up be rearrested with six months are charged with crimes that reflect a lack of preparation for getting back to normal life,” said Webster County Jailer Morgan McKinley. “Whether that is not getting a license and insurance for their car, or dealing with situations that got them in trouble the first time.”

Although these books are designed specifically for inmates in Kentucky, they were created using similar books in use across the United States.

“With the workbooks in hand, individuals can begin to think critically about their impending release and plan for the inevitable hurdles they will face post-release,” Dennison added.

Louisville Metro Corrections was the first facility to put the workbooks into use. On site, Opportunity Network personnel are working with corrections staff to identify individuals who have no pre-trial holds and who will be released within the coming 30-60 days. The program has also partnered with two Criminology professors at Indiana University Southeast, who will follow up with those individuals utilizing the workbooks and determine the efficacy of the project.

“This research offers a variety of scenarios offenders may face in the first three to six months after parole, probation, or outright release,” said McKinley. “It is essentially a self-guided checklist that gives them a chance to set goals for those first months.”

Webster County Jail officials spent the first half of this week assessing eligible inmates in the Dixon-based facility. The workbooks are expected to be handed out by the end of the week.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069