WHAT TOP DOES

Hey There

Over 97% of incarcerated individuals will return to their community at some point. Far too many have nowhere to go and no plan when released. This can create homelessness, hopelessness, and recidivism.

Transitioning Offenders Program (TOP) is a nonprofit (501{c}3) organization created by offenders for offenders to assist with the difficult transition from prison back to family and community. TOP is a peer-to-peer program that began with a database of 8,000+ public and private organizations in the 39 counties of Washington state.

These organizations work with the offender to create a foundation and social network before they even leave the prison setting. This means that the offender does not start from scratch looking for the necessities of life. Those basic issues have already been addressed. It is less likely that the individual will turn to old habits and haunts because he has created a transition plan that sets the stage for a successful new start.

What TOP does, with the help of the community, is bring those processes inside the correction system before the person is released. These processes include communicating with available resources such as housing, employment agencies, food, clothing, and treatment programs.

TOP works with each man and woman individually to create a Release Plan for his or her re-entry into the community. TOP has now assisted over 22,000 offenders with resource information, helping each one to create a Re-entry Plan that initiates a successful return to family and community.

Almost every man who enters the Washington State prison system goes first to the Receiving & Diagnostic Center at the Washington Corrections Center (WCC) in Shelton. Women go to Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Purdy. WCC is where TOP originated and is still going strong today.

TOP volunteers at WCC speak to newly committed individuals at their intake orientation class, explaining about the TOP program and our belief that "reentry begins at reception." (see photo at right)

TOP workers and volunteers build post-release packets for offenders who are 6-12 months short of release. These packets consist of resources and information chosen specifically for that individual and the county he is releasing to, based on information submitted by the individual outlining his anticipated needs.

TOP workers type up and edit Personal Release Plans based on handwritten plans composed by the releasing individual and submitted to TOP.

TOP workers interview offenders in a peer-to-peer process to help determine how best to help them prepare for their release.

With the help of community volunteers, TOP workers are continuously updating and maintaining the database of resources.

TOP Class.jpg

TOP maintains a database of over 8,000 felon-friendly services in Washington for:

Housing
Apprenticeship programs
Counseling
Education
Employment
Social services
Treatment
Medical services
Support groups, and more.

Anyone incarcerated within DOC can fill out a TOP questionnaire which has check boxes for 63 main resource areas with many subsections under them. TOP workers enter the individual's requests into a database, and when he is six to nine months short of release, build a resource packet of contacts, sorted by that individual's release city and county.