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The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts

Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry (WISR)

If you are looking for more information regarding the WISR program, their partnership agencies, or participation requirements, please contact Opal Stone, WISR's Project Coordinator, 
at (508) 887-2734 or
Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry (WISR)$2,322,347
Wiser Women (2016)$50,435
Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Implementation, Year 4 (2016)$123,771
Wiser Men (2015)$375,000
Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Implementation, Year 3 (2015)$286,968
Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Implementation, Year 2 (2014)$499,619
Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Implementation, Year 1 (2013)$474,500
Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Pilot (2012)$373,641
Dismas House Reentry Initiative - Planning (2011)$138,413
Year:2016Amount: $50,435
Title:Wiser Women
Recipient:Advocates, Inc.
Advocates is conducting a six-month pilot of the Wiser Women model. This pilot will be based on the successful WISR model and adapted to meet the unique needs of women. Wiser Women will build upon current programming that is available to the women at MCI-Framingham, the South Middlesex Correctional Center and the Women's Correctional Center (Chicopee).

The reentry navigators will work to help these women bridge the gap in services and supports that exists for women as they come back into the community. The planning effort for Wiser Women indicated that women are likely to need more intensive services, so the case load of the staff will be lower than that for Wiser Men. Advocates anticipates recruiting 15 women returning to Worcester for this pilot and plans to evaluate it based on predictive factors that have been shown to reduce recidivism rates among men.

Project Director: Ms. Opal R. Stone
Fiscal Agent: Advocates, Inc.
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Year:2016Amount: $123,771
Title:Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Implementation, Year 4
Recipient:Advocates, Inc.
In this final implementation year, Advocates will continue the Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry (WISR) and the Wiser Men projects as well as plan for a Wiser Women program. In addition to their ongoing programming efforts, Advocates has been doing extensive advocacy work with state officials to ensure the sustainability of reentry programming.

This year, Advocates will monitor the outcomes for the WISR participants, a total of 166 men returning to the Worcester area from jail or prison. They will continue their partnership with the Worcester County Sheriff's Office to implement a region-wide reentry program -- Wiser Men. The goal of Wiser Men is to develop and implement a collaborative and comprehensive system of reentry strategies to reduce recidivism by 50 percent. Finally, Advocates will complete the planning for Wiser Women. This will allow Advocates to develop a program for women that can be piloted locally and implemented statewide.

WISR's education and advocacy efforts have been successful in reaching a number of area legislators and administration officials. WISR has provided information for the Senate's proposed criminal justice reform agenda and has worked with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to change the work done through the Community Corrections Centers and increase the focus on reentry.

Project Director: Ms. Diane E. Gould
Fiscal Agent: Advocates, Inc.
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Year:2015Amount: $375,000
Title:Wiser Men
Recipient:Advocates, Inc.
In 2014 the Worcester County Sheriff's Office (WCSO) partnered with WISR and was successful in winning a $750,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance for a Second Chance Act grant for the Sheriff's new Wiser Men program. In 2015, WISR will provide services to 75 men returning to the community from the Worcester County House of Correction. WISR expects to begin providing in-reach services in March 2015 and post-release services beginning 30 to 90 days later. WISR will work with the WCSO on Wiser Men through 2016.

In 2015 and 2016, The Health Foundation will provide $375,000 in matching funds required by the Second Chance Act grant. This was one of only seven grants awarded in the country and is the largest matching grant the Foundation has ever made.

Project Director: Ms. Rebecca Pellegrino
Fiscal Agent: Advocates, Inc.
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Year:2015Amount: $286,968
Title:Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Implementation, Year 3
Recipient:Advocates, Inc.
In its third year of implementation, WISR will continue providing comprehensive transitional and post-release services to former inmates returning to the Worcester area. WISR anticipates providing maintenance case management services to about 65 men and will also provide maintenance services for approximately 15 men who were in the WISR and Worcester County Sheriff's After Incarceration Support Services (AISS) program. They will continue to focus on advocacy for the sustainability of this program, working on two strategies to secure long-term funding: a state budget line item and social impact bonds. WISR will continue exploring both of these with the new administration in 2015.

Preliminary results after WISR's first year of implementation for the 48 men who had been in the community for one year showed that:
- Only 8 percent had been re-incarcerated vs. 34 percent for a comparison group of other DOC former prisoners;
- 100 percent of WISR participants had housing upon release;
- 60 percent were able to maintain continuous employment for at least six months; and
- 90 percent of participants referred to substance abuse treatment services has accessed the recommended services.

Of the 80 WISR participants currently actively engaged with WISR, 28 percent are working full-time, 23 percent have part-time jobs and 32 percent are continuing to meet with the job developer to secure employment. The other 16 percent are disabled or unable to work due to residential program restrictions.

Project Director: Ms. Diane E. Gould
Fiscal Agent: Advocates, Inc.
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Year:2014Amount: $499,619
Title:Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Implementation, Year 2
Recipient:Advocates, Inc.
In 2013, WISR served 80 men who had been released from the Massachusetts Department of Correction or the Worcester County HOC with Superior Court From and After probation and have returned to the Worcester area. WISR also expanded to serve men who are participating in the Worcester County Sheriff's new After Incarceration Support Services (AISS) program which serves men who release from the House of Correction (HOC) and have District Court From and After probation. The goal for WISR in 2014 is to serve 144 participants, sixty will be served through the WISR/AISS partnership with District Court probation; the remaining 84 will be WISR participants with Superior Court probation. In addition to assistance with housing and employment, WISR will provide an evaluation of AISS for the Sheriff.

Other partners for this project include: Massachusetts Department of Correction; Massachusetts Parole Board, Region 4 Office; Worcester Superior Court Probation; Worcester District Court Probation; Worcester County Sheriff's Office/Worcester County House of Correction; Dismas House; and Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center.  The project is being evaluated by researchers from Brandeis University.

Project Director: Ms. Diane Gould
Fiscal Agent: Advocates, Inc.
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Year:2013Amount: $474,500
Title:Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Implementation, Year 1
Recipient:Advocates, Inc.
WISR is working with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Superior Court Probation, the Parole Board and the Worcester County House of Correction to identify individuals who are being released and returning to Worcester to participate in this program. WISR staff conduct information sessions at the various correctional facilities for those who are eligible and interested in participating in the program. As their release date approaches, each participant will be assessed and an individual service plan developed. These plans include specific goals related to housing, employment, substance abuse and family reconnection issues. WISR case managers work with each participant to assist them in achieving the goals they have outlined. WISR expects to serve 80 individuals in 2013 with a staff of three reentry case managers and an employment specialist.

Project Director: Mr. Ken Bates
Fiscal Agent: Advocates, Inc.
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Year:2012Amount: $373,641
Title:Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry - Pilot
Recipient:Henry Lee Willis Community Center
The Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry (WISR) is a coordinated reentry program for men involved with Superior Court Probation.  The goal is to reduce the rate of recidivism by providing clinical and case management services by increasing employment and housing stability and reducing alcohol and drug use.  Participants will be assessed prior to release and will each have an individual strengths-based service plan (ISP) that will be revised as appropriate throughout the project.  They will receive intensive supportive case management and be linked to medical, mental health, housing, vocational and educational resources designed to bolster their ability to address those factors and life-circumstances that will contribute to their ability to remain crime free.

Eligible program participants for the pilot project will: be adult men between the ages of 20 and 50; have either a high school or GED diploma; have three or fewer convictions and episodes of incarceration; have some demonstrated employment and housing history; have no previous convictions for sex offenses, arson or murder; and have positive or at least neutral views on engaging in treatment.  Twenty-five men will be recruited for the pilot project.

Project Co-Directors: Mr. Dave McMahon
Mr. Carlton Watson
Fiscal Agent: Henry Lee Willis Community Center
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Year:2011Amount: $138,413
Title:Dismas House Reentry Initiative - Planning
Recipient:Dismas House of Massachusetts
There is currently no government entity at either the state or federal level that is charged with addressing issues of prisoner reentry. Dismas House will use this planning grant to gather information about successful prisoner reentry initiatives, develop a new model for prisoner reentry and create a network to facilitate the introduction of a new model in Worcester. Prisoner reentry is a complex issue. Many of those returning to the community have a history of substance abuse, along with other physical and mental health needs. These factors place them at risk for homelessness, unemployment, relapse and recidivism. This grant will begin to explore ways to improve the likelihood that prisoners will be able to successfully reenter the community.

Project Director: Mr. Dave McMahon
Fiscal Agent: Dismas House of Massachusetts, Inc.
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