Located in western Michigan, Kent County is the fourth largest population center in Michigan. Covering 864 square miles, the County is home to 604,142 people. With a population of 201,835, the greater Grand Rapids area forms the urban center of the county. In 2011, the Kent County Correctional Facility processed 26,400 bookings. The average length of stay is 10.9 days, with approximately 45% of bookings staying less than 24 hours. The average daily population in 2011 was 1,093. The Kent County Correctional Facility, which houses all inmates committed to the custody of the Sheriff, ranks among the top 100 largest jails in the nation.
Kent County applied to be a TJC site hoping to reduce the obstacles formerly incarcerated persons face in transitioning away from a criminal lifestyle; to evaluate, select and implement a risk/needs assessment process for the Kent County Correctional Facility; to develop and implement programming in the jail to prepare clients for release; and to develop community ownership and collaboration to work with the reentry efforts in Kent County. With leadership from the Community Reentry Coordinating Council, including many community partners, Kent County made substantial progress in all these areas. In addition to implementing the Proxy screening instrument to allow for the reentry effort to target a high risk population, Kent County created a 32-bed reentry pod for men that includes a number of different courses and services designed to assist inmates in the reentry process. Examples of this programming include GED services as well as the Thinking for a Change cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program. In addition to the men’s pod, a 20 bed women’s pod was implemented in April of 2012 targeting the high risk female offender population. In addition to Thinking for a Change CBT programming, the women’s pod also features Seeking Safety, a CBT-based trauma-informed addictions program.
The TJC process in Kent County demonstrated that it is necessary for the sheriff and jail to have a shared vision and good collaboration with community treatment providers in order to competently implement reentry programs. “Without braided funding and significant collaboration between the Sheriff and other community agencies/funders, reentry services would not be as comprehensive as we have currently implemented or possible,” notes Ross Buitendorp of Network 180, a community agency that connects individuals and their families in Kent County to services for mental illness, substance use disorders, or developmental disabilities. Kent County continues to move in a positive direction after the conclusion of the TJC assistance period. Kent County initiated the Women's Reentry Pod within the Kent County Correctional Facility in addition to working to secure additional funding for continued reentry services through a variety of community partners such as Network180, the Kent County Sheriff's Department, and Kent County Office of Community Corrections. Kent County is continuing work to ensure that the offenders served through their jail-to-community transition services are provided evidence-based services within the jail and community settings.
For more information, please refer to the TJC Phase I Final Evaluation Report or contact Kent County Inmate Program Coordinator Rob Steele: Rob.Steele@kentcountymi.gov.