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Cherry Short Joins Prison Rehab Team

Cherry Short, USC School of Social Work assistant dean of global and community initiatives, has been asked to be part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rehabilitation strike team focused on implementing radical policy change in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Short will be one of 20 experts from universities, community organizations and state government agencies to participate in the overhaul of the department’s policies and programs. Schwarzenegger has created two strike teams: Short’s team will fundamentally reform California’s prison rehabilitation programs, and the other will expedite the construction of correctional facilities.

Having served as a probation officer for serious offenders in the United Kingdom’s National Probation Service of Wales and as commissioner for racial equality in the United Kingdom and Wales, Short is well-versed on criminal justice and is in the process of developing a forensic social work program at the USC School of Social Work.

She also has served as a task force member on the implementation of the Welfare to Work and New Deal programs in Wales and as an elected member of the city council in Cardiff for 17 years, where she was involved in policymaking and legislative campaign strategies.

“I have a clear understanding of how the prison system actually works,” Short said. “The similarities between Britain and America are significant, especially the overcrowding situation. I’ll be working on how we can change that.”

The governor’s strike teams were formed to expedite implementation of State Assembly Bill 900, the historic $7.7 billion measure passed to help reform California’s overburdened correctional system. In addition to creating 53,000 new beds, the measure will pay for the improvement of inmate rehabilitation services.

The rehabilitation strike team Short has been appointed to will focus on evaluating existing education, training and substance abuse programs; developing rehabilitation classes; delivering the services to inmates and parolees to improve public safety; designing facilities to best accommodate programs; and working with communities to continue services in local settings.

Short will use her knowledge of the United Kingdom’s prison system, in which the same officer supervises certain inmates from the start of their incarceration to the time after their release. This is currently not the case in California, which makes it hard to rehabilitate inmates effectively.

“Right now, there are different people supervising offenders at different times � there’s no continuity,” Short said. “Continuity helps inmates understand that they have links to the community.”

By providing better rehabilitation services to prison inmates, Short hopes they will feel more connected to their communities as stakeholders in society. As it is now, many offenders leave prison worse off than when they went in.

“Rehab is the way forward,” Short said. “They come back into society � they don’t go to another prison. It’s in our interest to help them.”

Short hopes this work with the strike team will help everyone in the long run. “People who are in prison are a reflection of our society,” she said. “To be caring to prisoners isn’t high on most people’s agenda. There is very little empathy. But if I can change the way society actually views the prison population, leading to a better understanding of them and getting people to want to change the system … I will be a very happy person.”

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