From inmate to productive citizen

Wadena County's Release Action Plan team has developed release plans for eight Wadena County Jail inmates since serving its first client in February this year, according to the RAP team.

Wadena County's Release Action Plan team has developed release plans for eight Wadena County Jail inmates since serving its first client in February this year, according to the RAP team.

Lori Miller, a social services supervisor who leads the RAP program, presented a report to the Social Services Board in June about the first five months of the program. RAP is designed to create plans to meet the immediate needs of released inmates with the goal of improving their health status and reducing recidivism.

The team has discovered that the inmates in the voluntary program primarily need help with child support, employment, housing and Medical Assistance, Miller said.

"We have been pretty surprised at the number of clients that we have RAPped who don't understand all of their child support obligations or the fact that child support can be reduced or stopped while you're unemployed," she said.

A typical inmate in the program is a white male in his late 20s who is unemployed, Miller said. He probably lost his job due to drinking or because he lost his license after failing to pay child support. There is usually a domestic problem involved that prevents him from going home, she said.


The RAP team includes Miller, the jail administrator, a chemical dependency assessor, a social services child support officer, a social services financial worker as well as people from Public Health, community corrections and jail ministries. The team meets with inmates who have volunteered for the program two weeks prior to their release, Miller said. That way they know what the inmate's immediate needs are.

The RAP team's child support officer assists inmates by providing them with the appropriate forms and contact information to help them get control of that issue, Miller said.

A financial worker helps inmates apply up for Medical Assistance so when they are released they are on MA and can continue to get their medication, she said. MA does not cover inmates during the time they are incarcerated.

The RAP team has also brought in David Anderson, the county's veterans service officer, to provide information about a veterans housing program.

A $20,000 grant from South Country Health Alliance provided the funds to start the program. The Wadena County RAP team has used the funds to pay per diems to the departments of RAP team members, and to purchase a lap top computer to assist with developing plans for inmates during RAP meetings, Miller said. They have also used funds for short term emergency housing and to buy Friendly Rider tickets to make sure clients get to their appointments.

The county won't need to put any money into the program until 2010, said Paul Sailer, social services director. Then it will probably only need about $5,000 to cover staff per diems. The county should easily get that money back in savings in jail costs, he said.

The Wadena County RAP program is modeled after the Stearns County program, Miller said. And Stearns County saved $250,000 in one year on jail costs due to a decrease in recidivism resulting from the program.

Of the eight inmates involved in RAP as of May 8, one has returned jail, Miller said, although she would like to point out that it was not related to any chemical dependency or health issues.


"We have had seven that have been quite successful," she said.

They will continue to track the inmates that participate to keep a tally on how the program is going, Miller said. The RAP program has not been operating long enough to determine its success. It will be reevaluated in February 2009.

Public Health Director Karen Nelson said she has been a big advocate of the program.

"It's just wonderful work the team's doing," Nelson said. "It's a captive audience, and it's a good time to reach them."

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