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Wooden Hut



  • How does TOP know which services to recommend?
    TOP doesn't endorse or recommend particular resources or services. TOP recommends that an inmate do a great deal of advance planning on his own, too. If he writes to the resources provided in the packet designed for him before getting out, he'll have a good idea of which resources best fit his needs and which would not. This is part of TOP's over-all philosophy of helping others help themselves. We give them resources to choose from; what individuals do with the information is up them.
  • Where do you get the information on resources and services?
    Government bulletins on veterans and subsidized housing, information from DSHS, the Department of Motor Vehicles, etc. We get information about housing from people in the community who are committed to safe housing for transitioning offenders, and some comes from Community Corrections officers, too. Clothing and food bank, credit restoration, and counseling information comes from various sources in each county, from our outside volunteers, and from individuals who have been helped by TOP.
  • How much cash does TOP give to offenders when they get out of prison?
    TOP doesn't provide funds to releasing prisoners. The role of TOP is to make sure that individuals have information about where to find housing, work, and other resources in their community.
  • I read about inmate volunteers putting together information packets, but isn't this DOC's job to help inmates getting out of prison?"
    There are not enough DOC employees to explore all the individual needs and community resources for each offender. Besides, TOP works well because it is a peer-to-peer assistance program.
  • Why is this only happening at Washington Corrections Center in Shelton? Wouldn't it be better if TOP were available in all of the prisons?
    TOP IS available in all of the prisons around Washington state! TOP started at WCC because that is the Reception and Diagnostic Center for all of Washington's male prison population. All men sentenced to prison initially go through the classification process at WCC in order that when they move on to a more permanent facility, they will be sent to the place that most nearly meets their needs for treatment, education, or even family visits. During the first few days an inmate is at WCC, TOP volunteers speak to them (in groups). The men are invited to learn more about the TOP process and to write TOP when they get to their eventual institution. Correctional counselors in all of the facilities know they can contact TOP for information that will be useful to any of their offenders. Female offenders housed at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women or the Washington Corrections Center for Women have often requested TOP information. TOP is located at WCC, but our services reach out to any offender in any institution in Washington.
  • Does the Department of Corrections know TOP is doing all this?
    Yes. The mission of the Department of Corrections is to increase public safety, and the mission of TOP fits very well within that. TOP's mission is to provide information, encouragement, and skills that will help any incarcerated person leave prison better prepared for a successful and lawful life in the community. We are working for the same goals of stronger families and safer communities.
  • How can I donate to TOP? What will my donation be used for?
    Donations to TOP are really appreciated because we use the money to build packets for offenders — for instance, to purchase paper, stamps, toner (and repairs) for our copier. Anyone may donate to TOP by sending a check or money order to the financial officer of our Board of Directors at: Financial Officer — TOP
  • If I know an inmate who isn't interested in TOP services, can't you require him to take advantage of the services anyway?"
    No. We think it's a useful program, but it's also strictly voluntary. Don't lose hope, though! An offender can request help from TOP at any time during his or her incarceration and we'll respond as quickly as we can to get the information out to the individual.
  • Why does't TOP help incarcerated women?
    We do! Although we do not have a TOP orientation program at the women's institutions, information about TOP is available through DOC's correctional counselors there. Incarcerated women are hearing about TOP from their husbands, their brothers, and sons.
  • My husband is a veteran and he's in prison at Airway Heights. Is he eligible for any veterans benefits?
    The TOP questionnaire asks about military service and veteran status. Veterans benefit payments stop while an individual is incarcerated, but information about benefits will help the offender to contact the appropriate veteran resource at the time of release so that any remaining benefits can be used. Explanation of benefits and resources for those honorably discharged from military service is complex. It would be impossible for TOP to describe all options and benefits that the military may offer an individual with a particular service record. TOP provides veterans service center locations and contact information so these specific situations can be discussed and all helpful options explored.
  • Is there a way for me to donate directly to help a person I know who is in prison?
    If you want to direct your donation to an individual, that is a question for the specific institution that person is in, not for TOP. Donations to TOP go into a single account that pays for the paper, postage, and copying expenses we incur in putting together the packets of information sent to each individual. TOP does not provide financial support to anyone.
  • Who handles the money donated to TOP?
    Any money donated to TOP is handled by our Board of Directors and not by TOP's inmate volunteers.
  • I can't afford to donate to TOP. Is there any other way for me to be helpful?
    Thank you for asking about that. Just like any good idea or program, TOP will not reach all the people who would like to make productive changes in their lives unless someone is talking about us. If you aren't able to make a donation to TOP, be sure to tell others about this program. Tell them why you think it's worthwhile or interesting. Give others the address of our website so they can read about what we do. Good ideas are only helpful when they are put to use — and that requires friends to tell friends.
  • Can my company do something to help TOP?
    We love it when companies see value in the TOP process. If your company can donate money, we will put it to good use making packets that help offenders plan for successful release from their Washington prison. If your company can provide work for an offender who releases from prison, we will pass that information on to the right DOC staff for appropriate follow-up. If you can contribute a box of copy paper, that's great, too. All donations are appreciated!
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