Day in the Life of: a prison case manager

The variety of challenges and responsibilities of being a jail case manager with the Philadelphia Linkage Program make it difficult to describe a “typical day.”

Our days change with the needs of our assigned clients, their level of engagement in care services, release dates from jail and all other current circumstances of their daily lives.

8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

The day begins with checking voicemail and email. Calls and emails may have come in from clients who were released from jail overnight or within the past few days, seeking appointments and access to resources within the community, such as shelters, food resources, Social Security and transportation assistance. The case manager may also receive returned calls from various organizations such as infectious-disease doctors in the community confirming client medical appointments, drug and alcohol programs, probation officers, pharmacies to confirm prescriptions or mental-health providers to schedule clients’ new intake for services.

As much as we try to schedule our client meetings, jail can be a revolving door for many, so we never truly know when someone may be released. Frequently, we will receive a call from the front desk that a new client has arrived, and has come to the office unannounced, as they were newly released from jail. All PLP case managers welcome walk-ins, since most PLP clients have no access to phones and they arrive to our office after reporting to their probation officer a few blocks away. 

The case manager will meet with clients to assess immediate needs and congratulate them on their release. We want to remind them that we are here to support them in their re-integration to society and that we are invested in their well-being. Most clients are released from jail with a three-day supply of emergency HIV medications. If they are released directly from court, it is typical that they will not be provided with any medications. The case manager will immediately request the client’s jail discharge summary, a prescription for HIV meds from Corizon Medical and Employment Assessment Forms to expedite client’s medical benefits. The case manager assesses clients for drug and alcohol recovery and mental-health needs and coordinates appointments to help them access appropriate treatments.

The case manager facilitates the first medical appointment in the community and assesses if the client needs emergency food or clothing. The case manager verifies all contact information and probation details, assesses residential needs, as well as any other urgent or immediate needs. An appointment is scheduled for a follow-up within two weeks. PLP provides personal-hygiene products and referrals for Philadelphia AIDS Thrift vouchers, tokens for all upcoming medical and case-management appointments and condoms, if the person is sexually active. The case manager will introduce the client to his or her care-outreach specialist to begin ongoing services supporting their re-entry needs.

Paperwork is an important aspect of case management, as careful note-taking and documentation are necessary so we can provide the best services to our clients. Following the initial meeting with our newly released client, the case manager will prepare and fax voucher letters for emergency HIV medications, update all client information in our data-entry system, type up the day’s notes, print and file all required documents and request the client’s medical records from Corizon at Philadelphia Prison System.

1:30- 5 p.m.

On this day, the case manager received a new referral from the PLP coordinator and proceeds to prepare for a site visit to the jails on State Road. The case manager checked Municipal Court Docket for several clients’ legal status and locations, and then prepared a PLP intake package for the new client.

Entering the jail, the case manager is greeted by a correctional officer and completes an official visit slip, requesting to see the specified client. The wait time for the client to be brought down into the visiting area varies in each jail and with each day. This will depend on if the client is in protective custody, with medical staff, at lunch, in the yard on break or meeting with an attorney, if it is between shift changes or if the client refuses an official visit.

The case manager meets with the new client, introducing themselves and explaining the PLP program and how we may be of support to them. We remind them that the medical provider at Corizon referred them to our program for case management. Should the client agree to accept services, the case manager conducts an intake/psychosocial assessment and, if newly diagnosed, HIV education.

The client reviews and signs all required releases and agreements to ensure privacy and allow for the provision of case-management services. The case manager evaluates the client’s level of need for appropriate assignment and informs the client they will be meeting with them on a monthly basis during incarceration.

Time permitting, the case manager then travels to another jail on campus to meet with other clients and monitor their medical care.