Thursday, July 28, 2011

(Day 46) On volunteers, statistics and HGO...

Another early morning.  Breakfast and then off to a series of meetings in Salem at the "Dome" where the headquarters of Oregon Department of Corrections is located.  My first meeting was with Les.  Les is a member of the Religious Services Administrative Team and is responsible for all things volunteer.  He tracks volunteer data, trains volunteers and is responsible for communicating with volunteers.  It is a huge job as there are over 3000 volunteers with the DOC statewide.

Recruitment is done at the local level by Chaplains and all volunteers must be affiliated with a faith community or community organization.  This is their "first level of screening" and if a volunteer ceases to be affiliated, their role as a volunteer with DOC is terminated.  Volunteers may enter the institution to whuch they are assigned for up to three months under escort.  These are called un-carded volunteers.  During this time they are expected to take the volunteer training modules and course.

The training modules are offered online and participants complete the modules at their own pace and send them into the office when completed.  Once the modules are completed the volunteer takes part int he training course which is offered once per month by video conference.  The volunteer would go to their institution and it would be arranged for them to take part in the training by video link up.  Upon successful completion of the course and final approval by the head of the institution the invidual becomes a carded-volunteer and is able to enter the institution unescorted and escort other un-carded volunteers.  Volunteers may volunteer in more than one program and at more than one institution - but - all of their data is available to the staff at the principal entrance of each institution and, if a volunteer tries to enter an institution for which they are not approved their status is immediately suspended and their volunteer card taken from them.  Note to self: front gate staff track the volunteers coming in and leaving with a simple click of a button and have available to them all the information about that volunteer!  How awesome would this be where I work!!

Wishing Les every good wish for his pending retirement to Arizona, I made my way up to Tim's office. Tim is in charge of the Home for Good in Oregon program.  Tim, in the presence of two of the Religious Services interns, provided me with an overview of the HGO program.  By all accounts this is an ambitious project.  Providing a couple of different entry points the program offers the possibility of mentorship to released inmates to support them as they get their feet under themselves in the community.  The magnitude of the program is further amplified when one takes into account that the program draws upon 300+ volunteers statewide.  Modeled somewhat under the Canadian M2W2 program this program demands a higher degree of professionalism and accountability of its volunteers and shares much more information about the inmate with the volunteer.  The one drawback for us in Canada is lack of population density and the location of our prisons.

It is important to note that the poplulation of Oregon is almost 4 million.  Of which 14,000 are incarcerated.  The population of Canada is almost 34 million of which 22,000 are in the custody of the Correctional Service of Canada.  Hmmmmm.  But that is soon to change.

As I consider the HGO program within the Canadian context I see a lot of potential hurdles some of which include: lack of volunteers, difficulty in co-ordination with Case Management staff, distance and geography.  Further, I am reminded that we do have such program in M2W2 and Pathways to Freedom.  Maybe there is a way that we can enhance their impact?

Finishing my meeting with Tim I arrange to take Jeff to lunch where we would continue our conversation about tracking effectiveness of interventions from the day before.  In addition, Tim helped me arrange for Tommy Hover, one of the volunteer Regional Chaplains who is part of the HGO to join us.

We ended up at the same place as Monday: Hometown Buffet and their $4.49 soup and salad buffet.  Within forty minutes or so Tommy and his wife arrived and joined us.  It was a great conversation.  Jeff is very knowlegble about statistical tracking and analysis and it was great to pick his brain.  What are the most accurate measures of intervention effectiveness when it comes to religious services?  How does one measure those things?  We also talked about there the possible gaps are in religious programming.  We agreed that there is a need upon intake to provide some intensive support in regard to grief and loss, shame and guilt.  Hmmm.... with this Tommy told me about a resource he was passing out and I have something tangible to take home and explore and modify and build to meet our needs.

Eventually Jeff had to return to the office and Tommy and I took some more time time to explore the HGO program, his role and what it provides to the men it serves.  In addition I was humbled in being able to hear Tommy's story and his journey from a life of addiction and crime to a life of community and service.  Thanks for all that you shared with me Tommy and Jeff.  Much food for thought.

With the work day done I needed some fresh air so I headed downtown to Riverfront Park which winds along the Williamette River.  What a delightful park.  Fountains for the kids to play in, a sternwheeler called the Williamette Queen that gives tours of the river and a restored carousel.  It was a relaxing way to end the day... but was it ever hot.

Tomorrow is a bit of a down day.  I have arranged an appointment with a Spiritual Director at 1PM and later in the afternoon I hope to get over to Silverton and Silver Falls to have a look around.

On Saturday I will head northeast toward Mt. Hood where I will check into the Alton L. Collins Retreat Centre on Sunday for a Taize' Prayer Retreat which will run through until the morning of August 3rd.  I will return to Salem for meetings on the 3rd and 4th and then I begin the long trek eastward...

I guess what I am saying is this... the blog entries from here on out will be sporadic... as I travel the Sabbath Road...

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