Via Hope is pleased to announce the creation of a new Reentry Peer Specialist training and certification. The certification creates new professional opportunities for formerly incarcerated persons to use their lived experience to help others. The intent is to directly address the significant barriers to becoming a whole person; this includes employment and other reentry barriers that many people face after release from incarceration.
The United States overwhelmingly incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. According to the Bureau of Justice and Statistics (2019)1 there are over 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US and another 4.5 million being supervised in the community by a parole or probation agency.1 One in 38 US adults are under some form of correctional oversight. Given these numbers, Reentry Peer Support has the potential to dramatically transform the mental health workforce.
Unlike other reentry training models, the Via Hope training emphasizes the trauma individuals experience before, during, and after incarceration. The Reentry Peer Specialist credential also offers formerly incarcerated individuals an opportunity to further their own recovery while providing support and hope to other people who may be trying to find their own way through reentry and recovery. The credential is issued by the Texas Certification Board. Future Via Hope projects will focus on the implementation of this workforce into correctional facilities and broader system change related to incarceration and community reentry.
The core learning objectives of this training involve participants’ self-exploration relative to: (1) Recovery from a Reentry Perspective, (2) Trauma, (3) Recidivism Intervention, (4) What it means to be a Peer Specialist, and (5) Maintaining a Whole Person Perspective. The training is held over a 8-day period (various formats) and is facilitated by trainers who also share lived experience around incarceration. We assembled a strong team to develop an excellent training and certification, with expertise in curriculum writing, evidenced-based support services, mental health, substance use, and lived experience with incarceration.
There are currently a myriad of peer supports for different audiences. The Reentry Peer Specialist training opportunity provides an innovative approach to reentry peer support. It is reentry focused, trauma responsive, evidence and competency based. Our training provides concrete professional tools; these tools equip participants with the knowledge, strength, and intestinal fortitude that will help them to break the cycle of recidivism. The criminal justice system is often referred to as the new mental health system because of the staggering amount of people with mental health challenges who become justice involved, in part due to the continued criminalization of mental health and substance use challenges. Via Hope actively works to make Texas systems more focused on recovery and resiliency by providing education, training, and consultation for people in recovery, their family members, youth, and mental health professionals. We believe that by creating innovative, evidenced-based peer support services like the Reentry Peer Specialist certification, we can work to end the disturbing trend of criminalization and make our communities and our country more equitable and recovery-oriented places.
Sandra Smith, PhD, the Peer Programs Manager for Via Hope, (formerly incarcerated herself) developed the new training and credential. The curriculum for the training was funded by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. The Texas Institute of Excellence in Mental Health serve as the evaluators for this training
“The model has the potential to change the trajectory of recidivism for our nation,” said Dr. Sandra Smith. “The curriculum is focused on a new concept called “Thrauma” and Freedom vs. Release, which is a person-centered model that emphasizes, ‘What happened to you?’ rather than ‘What is wrong with you?’ or ‘What were you thinking?”
Reference: 1 Bureau of Justice and Statistics (2019). Retrieved on 4/3/19 from https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?tid=11&ty=tp
To view the video “A Solution to Recidivism” click here