Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
David A. Paterson, Governor
Brian Fischer, Commissioner

Contact: Erik Kriss
Office of Public Information
(518) 457-8182
ejkriss@doccs.ny.gov
www.doccs.ny.gov

For immediate release:

May 22, 2008

AmeriCorps*VISTA and Community Volunteers Teach Parenting to Incarcerated Offenders; DOCS Seeking VISTA Volunteers at Additional Prisons

The Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) is bringing AmericCorps*VISTA Volunteers into its correctional facilities to coordinate parenting programs for inmates under a grant from VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), and DOCS is looking for additional VISTA members to expand the program to other prisons.

One VISTA member each at three men’s prisons - Auburn (Cayuga County), Mohawk (Oneida County) and Watertown (Jefferson County) Correctional Facilities - is learning to recruit, train and supervise community volunteers to deliver inmate parenting education programs, activities for children and visitors’ resource information as part of the Parenting Project.

DOCS is looking for additional VISTA members for Adirondack (Essex County), Albion (Orleans County), Coxsackie, Greene (both in Greene County), Eastern (Ulster County), Green Haven (Dutchess County) and Sullivan (Sullivan County) Correctional Facilities. Albion is a women’s medium security prison; the others are men’s prisons. If you are interested in applying or would like more information on AmeriCorps*VISTA, contact Terry Richey at (315) 339-6880 (ext. 4620) or by e-mail at tarichey@doccs.state.ny.us. You can also visit the AmericCorps*VISTA website at www.americorps.org.

Federal funding through the Corporation for National and Community Service, the parent of AmeriCorps*VISTA and other groups, provides a living allowance of $10,380, medical benefits and child care for each participating VISTA member, who spends 40 hours per week for a year and then has a choice of a $1,200 post-service stipend or a $4,725 education award. DOCS expects funding for three years. The Parenting Project, converted for the incarcerated population from a program developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension for U.S. Army soldiers, involves encouraging incarcerated fathers to correspond with their children and urge them to visit, as well as making prison visiting areas more child-friendly.

DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer said: “This program fits perfectly with our re-entry efforts, whose ultimate goal is to make society safer by preparing inmates for a successful return to the community. Improving relationships with their children through developing better parenting skills helps offenders both during and after prison. We as an agency greatly appreciate VISTA members’ and community volunteers’ critical assistance in these efforts. I encourage all to consider the rewards of becoming a VISTA member or volunteer at one of our facilities for yourselves, offenders and society.”

For more than 35 years, AmeriCorps*VISTA members have been helping bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Members serve full-time for a year in nonprofits, public agencies, and faith-based groups throughout the country, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, increase housing opportunities and provide programs that strengthen family relationships.

VISTA Member Calvin Green at Auburn Correctional Facility, commenting on the importance of the Parenting Project, said: “The father may be away from home, but the fact is he still has a role. This program will help them to better understand their role in the family and see that they can still have an impact in their child’s life even when they are incarcerated. Having the opportunity to serve such a great cause has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and one that I will never forget.”

If you’re 21 or older, have an interest in developing programs for those incarcerated and their families and want to get real experience while making a real difference in someone’s life, consider becoming a VISTA Member today.