The "Getting Out and Staying Out" GuideAs a follow-on to yesterday's post, I want to mention the comprehensive guide provided to offenders who are being released from the San Francisco County jail system. It's an exemplary handbook now in its second edition (2008-2009).
Getting Out and Staying Out: A Guide to San Francisco Resources for People Leaving Jails and Prisons is a project of what is now the Reentry Council of the City & County of San Francisco.1 The guide has ten sections:
- First Things First helps the ex-offender get organized by identifying and prioritizing services he/she needs.
- Probation & Parole four pages on the basics of conforming to probation and parole requirements.
- Identification & Benefits covers such matters as how to get a copy of your birth certificate and how to apply for food stamps.
- Finances strongly encourages getting a bank account rather than dealing with check-cashing services; explains how to use the EARN program to get matching funds for education, buying a house or starting a business; provides help on setting up a budget.
- Legal a listing of providers of low-cost and free legal services.
- Housing covers permanent housing, emergency shelters, rental assistance, transitional housing, residential treatment facilities, and domestic violence shelters.
- Education & Employment lists educational opportunities and employment-related services.
- Information & Services a potpourri of information and service providers.
- Wellness a listing of resources for physical health, food, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, anger management, and case management (e.g., for problems with being violent).
- Families & Children a listing of services for parents and others involved in raising children.
It was interesting to me to note that non-US materials on restorative justice seem to be more heavily oriented toward victim and community restoration than the San Francisco RSVP materials. I take this as an indication that offender restoration is less of a departure from standard practice in countries like the UK, Australia, and New Zealand than it is in the US, which has a strong thread of retributive justice in its culture.
Nonetheless, professional attention to the restorative justice approach has a history in the US, with particularly deep roots in Minnesota. See, for example, the website of the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking, which is housed in the School of Social Work of the University of Minnesota.
Finally, I would note that John Braithwaite of Australia is a leader in the restorative justice field, with a considerable body of work to which you can refer for additional insight into how restorative justice is best implemented so that one maximizes the odds of achieving desired outcomes and of avoiding mistakes.
1 Thanks to my need to understand why the San Francisco Sheriff's Department runs county, rather than city, jails, I am now clued into the fact that San Francisco is actually both a city and a county an example of a consolidated city-county.