In 2014, The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), Department of Corrections (GDC), and the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN) embarked on a partnership to offer innovative peer support to Georgia’s returning citizens through the development of a Forensic Peer Mentor Program (FPM). In 2015, the partnership expanded to include the newly formed Department of Community Supervision (DCS).
This groundbreaking program strengthens our workforce and provides valuable transition and re-entry support for returning citizens. In order to become a forensic peer mentor, peers must obtain either a certified peer specialist (CPS) or certified addiction recovery empowerment specialist (CARES) credential, followed by participation in a week-long intensive, didactic and experiential training-designed to help them use their own unique lived experience of past involvement with the criminal justice system and their recovery from a behavioral health disorder to help the people that they will support with transition/release planning. In addition, this program will assist with obtaining stable housing; employment; disability benefits; transportation coordination; linkage to community behavioral health services and recovery supports; and learning new skills. The FPM program supports peers working in five Georgia prisons, five-day reporting centers, three mental health treatment courts and two state hospital forensic units.
This collaborative work continues to advance the Governor’s focus on prison re-entry initiatives. Data shows that we have been able to greatly increase successful re-entry and reduce the recidivism rate for individuals with mental illness and/or co-occurring substance use disorders who are being released from prison or on probation/parole.
In fiscal years 2017 and 2018 the FPM program served more than 550 returning citizen participants. The primary goal of the FPM program is to reduce recidivism. Since the program’s inception, only two returning citizens experienced a re-arrest, three returning citizens required psychiatric readmission, one returning citizen experienced a parole/probation revocation.
Prison to Purpose
The "Prison to Purpose" video features instrumental stakeholders responsible for the program’s inception, development and growth. The video highlights how the Forensic Peer Mentor Program plays an integral role in interrupting the cycle of recidivism amongst Georgia’s returning citizens.