Creating the Will To Do Right

Minnesota Department of Corrections — Creating the Will to do Right

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The Minnesota Department of Corrections is one of many government-created agencies that watches over the prisons and juvenile detention facilities located within their state.  Their primary purpose is to make sure that each correctional institution runs smoothly and to oversee the release of inmates in a timely manner so that the facilities do not become overcrowded.  One of the other major jobs of the DOC is to create and implement programs to help re-integrate former criminals and give them strategies that will prevent them from becoming repeat offenders.

The Minnesota Circle of Support and Accountability

Minnesota has probably had the most trouble with dealing with sex offenders, especially after a released sex offender killed a college student in 2003.  This has led to extensive and sometimes hostile changes to the legislation dealing with them.  However, a new program called the Minnesota Circle of Support and Accountability (MnCoSA) has opened new doors in helping rehabilitate sex offenders that have come to the end of their sentence.

MnCoSA was originally developed in Canada and is a nationally-recognized strategy.  With this program, once a sex offender is released from jail he becomes the core member of circle of supporters.  These supporters and mentors are all volunteers who have met strict guidelines.  Each circle is made up of 4~7 people.  The circle is meant to help out the core member in finding a job, housing and trying to get into a good daily routine.  The program usually lasts for one year with involvement slowly decreasing over time.  Studies so far have found that sex offenders that participate in this program are 84% less likely to repeat their offense.

The Challenge Incarceration Program

One of the biggest problems of any prison system is overcrowding.  Over the years the Minnesota Department of Correction has instituted many programs to help weed out the prisoners who are not a danger to society and worthy of being released.  The culmination of these projects is the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) that began in 1992.  It is a voluntary program for any inmate that meets the proper requirements.

However, it is by no means a cake walk.  The program can be grueling and take a very long time to complete, a minimum 18 months.  CIP operates in three phases.  The first involves a highly structured and surveyed camp.  Here a prisoner will have to deal with extreme physical challenges, basic education and rehabilitation for those that are drug addicts.  As you progress through the phase you will be put on work crews that help in basic labor around the area.  Once a prisoner is deemed ready, they enter phase two which puts them in a community area that is not as structured and allows them to have real jobs, but it is still has very high surveillance.  Finally, they enter phase three, which involves less surveillance.  Once a prisoner passes all three phases, they are released from prison, but continue to be under surveillance until the end of their sentence.

Besides the grueling work load and long period of time that the program takes to complete, there is one more danger for prisoners.  If they pass into the second and third phases and fail at either stage, they will be returned to prison with an extended sentence.

These are just a few of the programs that the Minnesota Department of Corrections is using to try and turn criminals into responsible citizens who can provide a real contribution to society, while keeping the truly bad offenders behind bars.

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