DOJ Grant Aims to Reduce Recidivism by Strengthening Families

The goal of the Virginia Department of Corrections' Building Family Bridges program is to strengthen a prisoner's family bonds before reentry into society.

RICHMOND – The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) is launching a new project aimed at improving services for incarcerated parents and their minor children. The Building Family Bridges project involves a number of pre- and post-release strategies and fosters positive parent-child engagement, thereby strengthening relationships and reducing recidivism.

The project is made possible by a recently awarded $667,829 grant issued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

The collateral damage of incarceration is significant and I am grateful we can dedicate additional resources to this challenge,” says Jessica Lee, cognitive programs manager. “The Building Family Bridges grant will afford the VADOC an opportunity to enhance our family reunification services, along with direct parenting needs.”

Building Family Bridges will include two levels of facility involvement.

  • One level will pilot a comprehensive, wrap around approach in at least three VADOC facilities.
  • The second level will provide training designed to reach all facilities, potentially benefitting all offenders with minor children and visiting families.

Virginia’s recidivism rate is currently 22.4 percent, the lowest in the country among the 45 states that produce three-year recidivism rates for felons.

Performance measure data for Building Family Bridges will be gathered from VADOC’s data management system, surveys, new data collection tools specific to the project, and/or pre/post testing and/or participant evaluations to determine progress.

“Successful reentry and strong family bonds go hand in hand. This grant gives us the opportunity to help grow and strengthen those bonds before returning citizens reenter society, thus improving our communities and reducing recidivism,” adds Scott Richeson, deputy director of programs, education and reentry. “Our staff worked hard to obtain this grant and we’re excited to put these resources to work.”

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