What Are Prison Rehabilitation Programs?

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 How Can I Avoid Serving a Prison Sentence?

A person may be able to avoid serving a jail or prison sentence by participating in a diversionary program instead. Pre-trial diversionary programs are available to some people who have not yet had a trial and been convicted of a crime.

Sometimes, however, the offender must plead guilty before they are allowed to participate in diversion. Other programs may allow specific offenders to avoid a criminal conviction, if they complete a rehabilitation program.

The programs are usually administered by a state’s criminal court system or a law enforcement agency. It is offered instead of a criminal sentence in order to help remedy the behavior that lead to the offender being arrested and charged with a crime. The opportunity to be diverted to a program such as this is usually only available for first-time offenders who committed nonviolent crimes.

A criminal offender might be able to avoid being convicted of a crime. They might also be helped to avoid continuing involvement in criminal conduct. Whether such programs are available and how they operate would depend on the state and locality in which they are located.

Generally, the offender must engage in the following activities as part of their participation in a pre-trial diversion program:

  • Education aimed at preventing future criminal conduct by the offender;
  • Making restitution to the victims of their offense;
  • Completing community service hours;
  • For a specified period of time, avoiding situations that may lead to committing; another offense, such as contact with certain people who may have been the offender’s partners in crime, e.g. fellow gang members.

Generally, if the offender successfully completes the requirements of the program, then the criminal charge may be dismissed. Or the charge may be reduced in seriousness. Failure to complete the program successfully, however, may result in a harsher sentence, if the offender ends up going to trial, is found guilty and sentenced.

In the federal criminal justice system, even if charges are dismissed because the offender successfully completes a diversion program, the offender still gains additional criminal history points under the federal U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. This is the case if a court finds the offender guilty or the offender pleads guilty.

What Kind of Pretrial Diversion Programs Exist?

The state of California has three pretrial diversion programs. Offenders who are eligible can avoid going to jail by completing treatment or education programs. If they complete pretrial diversion successfully, the charges against them are dismissed. The record of their arrest is sealed as well. So it is as though the offender was never arrested and charged.

The three main types of pretrial diversion programs are as follows:

  • Drug diversion;
  • Mental health diversion;
  • Military diversion or veterans diversion.

In California, an offender can participate in a diversion program without entering a guilty or no contest plea. However, if the defendant fails to complete the program or is charged with another crime before the program ends, the offender does not avoid the existing charge that sent them to diversion. The offender would have to either plead guilty or plead innocent and go to trial. Of course, a trial can end in a conviction.

California’s diversion programs are for offenders who are afflicted with addiction, mental illness or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The offenders receive the help the treatment they need for their affliction and possibly avoid jail time and a criminal record. The state and the public benefit from diversion as well.

A prosecutor’s caseload is lighter and the jail population is lowered. The general welfare is served if people are helped with their illnesses and do not populate the criminal justice system.

What Are Prison Rehabilitation Programs?

Offenders who are already in prison may be eligible to participate in a prison rehabilitation program. Prison rehabilitation programs are used to help offenders re-enter society, live normal lives and avoid engaging in criminal activity after they complete their prison sentences.

There are generally four distinct kinds of prison rehabilitation programs as follows:

  • Educational: Educational programs offer classes to help inmates get a GED or a high school diploma. They may offer college level courses as well. Many inmates need to learn English or engage in activities within a library. Reportedly, research shows that Inmates who acquire skills in these areas have a better chance of reentering society and avoiding criminal behavior. These programs also may make prison time more tolerable for the inmate;
  • Spiritual: Prisons hire prison chaplains to offer ministry and other support to the spiritual interests of inmates. Of course, prison inmates may affiliate with any religion they choose. Or, they may practice no religion at all.
    • Organized religious groups may provide volunteers who help inmates study sacred texts, attend worship services and engage in other other aspects of religious practice. Such groups may also offer self-help programs, such as classes in life-building and communication skill-building;
  • Work Programs: Working inside a prison gives inmates several benefits, including a day that has structure, work experience, the opportunity to gain marketable skills and pay they can use to purchase items in prison. Inmates may work as part of day-labor crews in the prison, or they may do work involving state or federal roads and highways.
    • After an inmate is released, this work experience can help them find employment. It can also help them provide paperwork to the court for gaining custody of children from foster care;
  • Transitional Programs: Transitional rehabilitation programs help the inmate make the transition from prison life to life in society. These programs may offer counseling to help inmates deal with the emotional issues that they may have when they think about being released, e.g. anxiety.
    • They may also offer sessions that provide inmates with information about local resources that help with free clothing, housing assistance and more. Some inmates may be required to stay in a halfway house for a period of time after they are released. In a halfway house, an inmate may be given help in finding employment, required to save money, obey a curfew and abstain from alcohol and drug use.

Who Offers These Programs?

Religious and social organizations offer programs for counseling and religious teaching. Social organizations often specialize in offering work-related skills and job training. Agencies of state governments may sponsor many of the programs in state prisons. Federal government agencies may offer programs in federal prisons.

In What Other Ways Do Prison Rehabilitation Programs Help Offenders?

There are many programs that encourage offenders to get a basic education. Education is key to helping inmates avoid returning to a life of crime when they are released. It helps them by making them better qualified to enter the job market and earn a living. This is key to avoiding a return to a life of crime. The education may be vocational in nature or it may offer literacy education to inmates who may not have mastered language, reading and writing skills.

These programs also help inmates deal with drug and alcohol addiction. For many offenders, addiction is what led them to criminal activity and incarceration.

Is Accelerated Rehabilitation a Typical Prison Rehabilitation Program?

Accelerated rehabilitation is generally considered to be yet another type of diversionary program. It is available for some offenders in some state prison systems as a second chance to avoid serving lengthy prison sentences.

Offenders in this program may have their criminal charges dismissed after a one to two years of probation. Generally, access to this type of program is offered to offenders who do not have prior convictions.

Should I Contact an Attorney about Prison Rehabilitation Programs?

If you want to understand more about prison rehabilitation programs or want to know how to participate in one, you should consult a criminal defense attorney. The attorney who represented you when you were charged with a criminal offense may be able to help you or refer you to someone who can offer assistance.

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