Magazine article Corrections Forum

Reentry Specialist Profile

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Reentry Specialist Profile

Article excerpt

Kathy Jett was appointed as undersecretary of programs by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the CDCR in September 2007. In this role, Jett is responsible for evaluating existing education, training and substance abuse programs, and restoring rehabilitation program services to inmates and parolees in the California system.

Jett comes to corrections-based services from a unique background: she began her career 30 years ago in alcohol and drug counseling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and later served as director of the California Dept. of Alcohol and Drug Programs (between November 2000 and February 2007). In May 2007, she was appointed by the governor as Chair of the Rehabilitation Strike Team, an ad hoc committee put in place to help expedite implementation of the state's Assembly Bill 900, which was signed into law that month. Today she is charged with carrying out that historic statute, which is designed to help reform California's overburdened correctional system. Here are some of her thoughts.

CF: HOW DOES COMING FROM YOUR BACKGROUND IN PUBLIC HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT PROGRAMS PREPARE YOU FOR THIS JOB?

KJ: The opportunity is intriguing. I understand treatment in the community; it's helped me to connect our offenders to the community.

Data and research tells us that [offenders] can have all treatment in the world in our prison, but the outcomes will not be promising. The chances of our success will be 50% higher - and that's a low number, the success rate ranges from 50% to 80% higher if we connect them with the proper services in community. Successful outcomes double, at minimum, just by transitioning them from institution programs to community programs. [In the end], if you can't connect them to like services outside it's all for naught.

CF: WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM CHAIRING THE FIRST PHASE OF GOVERNOR'S REHABILITATION STRIKE TEAM?

KJ: In helping to sift out which were the most important and vital recommendations - and it was an overwhelming amount of recommendations we were sifting through - we learned the most fertile ground is in parole. This program puts every person on parole upon departure.

CF: WHAT HAVE YOU ACCOMPLISHED THUS FAR?

KJ: We have implemented several reforms. If an offender is clean and has no violation on parole - the law allows us to recommend that they be released from parole in their first year of parole. …

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