Supporting the Transition from Incarceration

Transition Circles through the Center for Dispute Settlement

In 2010, four hundred and sixty-eight (468) women spent time in the Ontario County Jail.  Eighty-four (84) of them had been there before.

The overwhelming majority of jail inmates will return home in a few days, weeks or months. However, their time in jail disrupts their families’ lives.  There are significant economic costs as jobs or other benefits are lost.  In addition, children are often relocated causing emotional distress. Inmates do not return to the same family they left when they went to jail.  Effective reentry planning and transition programs promote offender reintegration and reduce inmate recidivism. Successful reintegration improves outcomes for women and their minor children.

Transition Circles is a promising new program developed in Hawaii for people leaving state prison. Trained facilitators work with incarcerated individuals in a group process combining family engagement and restorative justice principles.  This process recognizes families provide significant positive support for reentering offenders, both short and long-term. Nationally reentry and transition planning involving family and other social networks is gaining ground.

The transition circle process brings together the incarcerated person, family members and other support persons, selected by the inmate, for a dialogue designed for reentry planning and family healing.  The facilitated conversation focuses on the incarcerated person’s strengths, how individuals in the circle have been impacted by the inmate’s behavior, how that harm may be repaired and what needs to be in place for a successful reentry and transition.

We are very excited to pilot this program in Ontario County. Volunteers and staff have received training in facilitating transition circles and the program launched in April, 2012.  While we are reaching out to human service agencies working with inmates for referrals to the pilot program, we are also planning for expansion and sustainability.

This project highlights our commitment to the development and application of new processes designed to bring peace to our communities.  For additional information about the project please contact Kim Reisch, Director, Ontario/Yates Counties, at