Citizen participation and guidance is essential for correctional practices inside and outside institutions. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has embraced the needs related to offenders returning home from correctional settings and as such one strategy is the implementation of Citizen Circles.
Citizen Circles focus on eight dynamic domain areas:
- Employment - Work and the role of work in the person's life, including education and vocational skills;
- Education - Education and vocational skills desired;
- Family/Marital - Being with family members and the support an offender derives from them;
- Associates/Social Interactions - Positive interaction with community members and non-criminal associates with the opportunity for positive interaction with peers;
- Substance Abuse - Living without reliance on alcohol and/or other drugs;
- Community Functioning - Knowledge and skills for daily living, including safety, an acceptable place to live, health, personal budgeting, leisure activities, and the use of social services;
- Personal/Emotional Orientation - Decision-making, coping with stress, and practicing mental health and wellness activities.
- Attitude - Supporting law-abiding behaviors and involvement with religious activities.
Citizen Circles create partnerships that promote positive interaction and accountability for offenders upon release. Circle members address risks that contribute to criminal activity by taking ownership of the solution. It is an opportunity for citizens to communicate expectations for successful reentry and help offenders recognize the harm their behavior has caused others. Offenders are able to make amends and demonstrate their value and potential to the community.
Offenders and their families develop relationships with members of the community and together develop a plan to help the offender become accepted as a productive citizen and member of the community. The Citizen Circle helps offenders understand being a positive community member demands responsibility and obligation.
The Citizen Circle creates an environment fostering acceptance and focuses on offender's personal strengths. A focus on the future rather than the past, and giving back through community service and contributions are key elements for success. Offenders seek involvement with a Citizen Circle voluntarily. The Citizen Circles meet on a regular basis to discuss offender progress, review plans, interview new applicants, admit new members and to discharge both successful and unsuccessful offenders.