County grant aims to reduce number of repeat offenders

Jackson County will soon kick off a $442,000 program intended to reduce the number of repeat offenders returning to jail, paid for in full by federal grants from the U.S. Department of Justice. The Jackson County commissioners approved the receipt of the federal grant Wednesday at their morning public meeting.

Local officials involved in the program said they are confident they will get at least one year of grant funding, or $221,000, and hope for the full two-year amount, which is dependent on Washington, D.C., budget negotiations.

The grant will be used to fund the two-year Second Chance Family-Based Offender Program, which will target 60 families with individuals who have a high risk of returning to the Jackson County Jail soon after being released. The Family Nurturing Center, the Department of Community Justice and OnTrack Addiction Recovery will team up to carry out the program.

In addition to resources, the grant will pay for a part-time court clerk, a part-time mental health professional, and a full-time case manager, who will facilitate visits between children and their parents at a location outside the jailhouse setting.

The program is intended to provide services to the target families, including family counseling, meeting clinical needs, therapy, child development services and legal services, said County Administrator Danny Jordan.

"It's targeting a population of criminal offenders who are rated as high risk or medium risk to re-offend," Jordan said.

The program is on a two-year contract, beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2013.

Funds will be administered quarterly, in line with when participating organizations give their progress reports.

OnTrack Executive Director Rita Sullivan said the research supports programs such as Second Chance. She said children with parents who are sent to jail are five to six times more likely to be incarcerated themselves.

"The real issue is the whole community's efforts to reduce foster care and improve the strength of families," Sullivan said. "One of the most vulnerable groups of children are those (whose parents) are incarcerated. The same impacts befall them. It's a multi-pronged approach."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

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