Dr. Regina Shearn, Co-Founder,
Corrections Transition Program
“MEN GOING HOME”
The Corrections Transition Program (CTP) is known state wide as the LIFER’S PROGRAM. Co-founded by Marta Villacorta, who served as Warden and Regional IV Director and Dr. Regina B. Shearn, Professor of Psychology, FIU, the CTP prepares inmates for re-entry who are parole eligible and have spent decades behind the wire. Housed at Everglades C. I., Miami, FL, this is not a program that a hopeful parole eligible inmate can self-select. Participation comes solely through direct recommendation from the Florida Parole Commission. This coveted Program is the exit door from state prison for enrollees who successfully complete.
There are approximately 5,000 offenders left in Florida who remain parole eligible. Most of these are geriatric inmates that have been incarcerated for decades and are the least likely to re-offend. Parole for most offenders ended in 1983 but offenders who committed first degree life and capital felonies remained parole eligible until 1995. Even though the sun has long set on Florida’s parole, courts today still hand out virtual life sentences for non-homicidal crimes. Why hasn’t someone informed the judiciary that there is no more parole? No wonder Florida suffers with mass incarceration and the astronomical expense to taxpayers. But let us not forget that there are parole eligible inmates that have committed heinous crimes who should never be paroled. However, those recommended for the CTP are considered salvageable.
CTP Total number of inmates paroled: 313 91.5%
Number of technical violations: 27 7.9%
Number of new felony offenses: 2 0.6%
The CTP boasts the nation’s lowest recidivism rates. It’s easy to understand why this program is the gateway to freedom in Florida. One of many contributing factors to the success of the CTP is the dedication of the director and her volunteers who are devoted to helping those men who made bad choices, based on flawed thinking, to change and become productive members of society. The CTP treats the men with dignity and respect and the FIU students provide a network of support. This is a model program that would benefit all inmates in all institutions who choose to change their way of life whether parole eligible or not.
This program is held in several phases and addresses behaviors that are learned and, therefore, can be unlearned. For example gender conditioning or sexism socializes men to occupy the role of perpetrator or agent of oppression where women are socialized to occupy the role of victim. Other workshops include Marriage and Relationships, Domestic Violence and Victim Awareness.
The Alternatives to Violence (ATV) program, sponsored by FIU professor Dr. Dawn Addy, provides the tools to prepare men to live nonviolently in society. This program consists of 22 hours of workshops, with a half dozen inmate facilitators, using experimental learning with a minimum of lecture. The workshops consist of a series of structured exercises and utilizes role play as a key feature to help participants discover new ways of dealing with conflict while affording them opportunity to practice new behaviors.
The Pro-social Awareness class helps men to practice living a pro-social lifestyle. They learn to seek interactive opportunities where they can relate positively to others. These men are most likely to succeed in society and not recidivate for they no longer operate on the concept of ‘What’s In It For Me’, they’ve left the anti-social label far behind.
Once a Parolee has been totally discharged from parole by the Parole Commission, he is given the status of Alumni – the ultimate achievement. This means that he has successfully graduated the CTP program and fulfilled all legal obligations and responsibilities to the Commission and the State.
Although CTP currently enrolls about 100 inmates, many have completed the phases but remain in a status of perpetual transition hoping for release at their next parole hearing or the next or the next. Sadly, the number of paroles granted annually in Florida has plummeted from 3,646 in 1983 to 18 total in 2013 and that number includes conditional and medical releases. For the past 15 years, Florida has, on annual average, paroled less than one percent (1%) of those eligible.
CTP men leave prison with this simple principle: BEFORE DOING SOMETHING, THINK ABOUT IT! That is an ageless, virtuous enhancement to anyone’s personal portfolio.