Obamacare may be path to drug treatment as prison alternative

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 6.39.36 PMMarch 31, 2014

The Justice Department estimates suggest that with the expansion of Medicaid, millions of ex-offenders could get the health care they need. They claim is predicated on the exoffender accessing the medical services now available to them.

A Newsweek Cover Article states that  ”President Ronald Reagan defunded federal mental health programs, dropping total mental health spending by over 30 percent. As a result, many of the nation’s mentally ill lost what was essentially their home and place of work, and many ended up on the street.Today, a good portion of those make their beds in prisons and jails. The last major study on mental health in prisons, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that 64 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons met the criteria for mental illness at the time of their booking or during the twelve months leading up to their arrest. For comparison, the rate of mental disorders among U.S. citizens stands at around 25 percent, according to the NIH. Sixty-nine percent of the country’s prison population was addicted to drugs or alcohol prior to incarceration.”

Grim statistics, but the article argues that the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid will reach those with mental health and drug abuse for the first time as an alternative to incarceration.

“Essentially, Medicaid left out poor, single, male adults without dependant children. – the same demographic most likely to end up arrested and incarcerated. Starting in January 2014, however, the categories have been eliminated (at least in the states that have chosen to take the medicaid expansion – it is an optional aspect of the ACA). “That means that a lot of people who are going to jail for mental illness or substance abuse related crimes could potentially avoid jail,” says Marsha Regenstein, a professor of health policy at George Washington University.

 

 

DOJ Budgets $173 million for Reform

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March 2, 2014

Eric Holder is making good on his promise  to double down on funding for criminal justice reform. Holder’s budget — $122 million above the 2014 enacted level — includes $173 million in targeted investments for criminal justice reform efforts.

As reported in the Washington Post, “The DOJ budget requests funding for Holder’s “smart on crime” initiative to reduce the number of low-level drug offenders in prison and reduce recidivism rates by expanding drug treatment programs.”

It requests $15 million for U.S. attorneys, including prevention and reentry work and promoting alternatives to incarceration such as the establishment of drug courts and veteran courts.

Another $15 million would go towards expanding the federal residential drug abuse program, and $14 million would assist inmates with reentering society and reducing the population of individuals who return to prison after being released. An additional $14 million would expand the residential substance abuse treatment program at the state and local levels.

The DOJ budget also requests $115 million for the Second Chance Act grant program to reduce recidivism and help ex-offenders return to productive lives.

“Each dollar spent on prevention and reentry has the potential to save several dollars in incarceration costs,” Holder said in a statement.

“These wise investments can help make our criminal justice system more effective and efficient.”

Penn Prison Chief tells it like it is

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 12.13.53 PMFebruary 26, 2014

Political leaders across the nation should take note of Pennsylvania’s Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, a straight talker who is willing to tell it like it is.

Responding to legislators concerned about increased numbers of Pensylvania prisoners, the following is a summary of his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on February 12, is reported in the Patriot News (he best speaks for himself).

“You say you want change, but you keep passing the same bills,” Wetzel told the lawmakers.

Since adopting the prison reform legislation aimed at reducing the prison population, he said, the House has passed no fewer than 23 bills that will likely increase it – either through the creation of new criminal offenses, or lengthening the sentences for existing crimes. No one bill could break the reform, but the small impact of multiple bills combine to a formidable threat. Wetzel called it “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

” Wetzel said every budget season he goes to the Capitol to explain corrections policy to lawmakers, “and then they forget about it until the next year.” Correctional Policy, Wetzel said, should have two goals: the response should be equal to the crime and the response should yield results; in other words, the offender should be less likely to commit another crime when he exits the criminal justice system”

. “You can’t say that about some of our current laws and corrections policies,” said Wetzel. He said, “No less than 23 bills have passed the House, every one of which has the potential to increase prison populations,” but legislators have done little to counteract the effect of those legislative efforts through legislation aimed at reducing crime and prolonged incarceration.”

I think we should to keep an eye out for further comments from Corrections Secretary Wetzel.

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February 17, 2014

The federal Government has recently doubled down on their investment in drug courts. What was once a  $6 million federal program has grown to a major government project amounting to approximately one hundred million dollars.

As described in the Grant Publication,”The goal of the Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program is to build and/or expand drug court capacity at the state, local and tribal levels to reduce crime and substance abuse among high-risk, high need offenders. States, Local courts, Counties, Units of local government, and Indian tribal nations are eligible for 60 grants.

States that are looking to improve, expand or enhance drug court services statewide and/or financially support drug courts in local jurisdictions  are eligible for grants of up to $1.5 million over a three year period.

While not directly aimed at court-focused prison reform, it would not be difficult to design a grant project that would use its resources on offenders who were otherwise heading for prison. State agencies should take a long look at the money available under this and other federal programs, that can be used to reduce prison populations, drug abuse, and criminality in their communities.

“States applying for funding under this subcategory must demonstrate a statewide, data-driven strategy for reaching and expanding capacity of drug court options and services for nonviolent substance-abusing offenders, which may include: implementing new drug courts; reaching capacity of existing drug courts; and expanding/enhancing capacity of existing drug courts to reach specific or emerging offender populations with drug treatment needs. The support provided through such statewide awards must also be consistent with the evidence-based principles outlined above” (Drug Court Funding)

 All applications are due by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on March 18, 2014. 

 

 

Reauthorized Second Chance Act will include Reentry Courts

November 18, 2013
Picture 3Reentry Courts which appeared to have been written out of the reauthorized “Second Chance Act”, received a reprieve when language that included reentry courts as possible grantees of Second Chance Grant funds was inserted into the Reauthorization  Act. (see below)……………………………………………………………………………..
[An issue worth pondering: while reentry courts may be funded under the reauthorized Act, previous references to the court as a necessary partner and participant in grants applications, has to my knowledge, disappeared from grant guidelines. In fact, while the inclusion of reentry drug courts as possible recipients of Second Chance Act grant awards is clearly a positive, the inclusion of the courts as necessary partners in the application and implementation of all grants would be a much more appropriate and important inclusion]………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
From the Amended legislative language: “In this section, the term reentry court means a program that—(1) monitors juvenile and adult eligible offenders reentering the community; (2) provides continual judicial supervision; (3) provides juvenile and adult eligible offenders reentering the community with coordinated and comprehensive reentry services and programs, such as—(A) drug and alcohol testing and assessment for treatment;( B) assessment for substance abuse from a substance abuse professional who is approved by the State or Indian tribe and licensed by the appropriate entity to provide alcohol and drug addiction treatment, as appropriate; ( C) substance abuse treatment from a provider that is approved by the State or Indian tribe, and licensed, if necessary, to provide medical and other health services;(D) health (including mental health) services and assessment; (E) aftercare and case management services that—(i) facilitate access to clinical care and related health services; and (ii) coordinate with such clinical care and related health services; and (F) any other services needed for reentry; (4) convenes community impact panels, victim impact panels, or victim impact educational classes;(5) provides and coordinates the delivery of community services to juvenile and adult eligible offenders, including—(A) housing assistance; (B) education; © job training; (D) conflict resolution skills training;(E) batterer intervention programs; and (F) other appropriate social services; and (6) establishes and implements graduated sanctions and incentives.”

 

 

Minimalist Reentry Courts For Recessionary Times

THE BEST OF: The following article, initially updated on March 21, 2009, is the first article I am aware of that described the danger of over-resourcing reentry courts.

MARCH TWENTY-ONE UPDATE:

Over the past four weeks I have interviewed practitioners from four successful reentry courts, and showcased them as model reentry courts on this website: the Harlem Parole Reentry Court(NY), the Boone County Reentry Court(MO), the Richland Reentry Court(OH), and the Fort Wayne Reentry Court(IN).  All displayed what i have described as quasi-minimalist reentry court features (see below), that are non-adversarial and rehabilitation focused, without attorneys on the reentry court team or in reentry court itself; with counsel provided, only when the parole participant has left the reentry court program, and returned to the formal adjudicatory system, whether parole or court based.  From my discussions with reentry court practitioners from across the country, I believe  that the majority of reentry courts can be described similarly.

A number of jurisdictions  that are interested in creating a “parolee reentry court”,  find themselves in a difficult dilemma. Either reject the reentry court concept because of   inadequate funding, or go ahead and build it, but pare back the conventional problem-solving court model to its bare essentials. It’s clear to me that a comprehensive reentry courts, (with full staffing), capable of working with and consolidating an offender’s state and county matters in a single court, is the best possible  solution. But if the necessary funding isn’t avaialble, there is a case to be made for a “minimalist parolee reentry court”, that can reduce court costs, by successfully and lawfully doing  without attorneys, reporters, and clerks. Such a “minimalist reentry court”, may mean substantial savings to the court and community, as well as a smaller, more successful, and sustainable reentry court. [Note: a model "minimalist parolee reentry court" team might include judge, program coordinator, treatment specialist, parole officer, and bailiff]

As a consultant, I’ve sat through many team staffings, and  ”progress hearings” over the years, with more than a dozen team members present.  I often wondered how cost effective or sustainable such  court structures would be in the long run. The answer  has become clear, as hard times  shape  the structures of today’s reentry and other problem-solving courts. Many problem solving courts are closing down, while others severely cut back on participation or services. Interestingly, some of our most successful early drug courts had as few as two team members present at pre-court staffings. The smaller, more intimate courtroom environment, encouraged clear, direct, and personal communication, as well as, increased team involvement and participant engagement; established problem-solving concepts that often lead to better outcomes.

The key hurdle in creating a  hybrid “parole reentry court” with fewer personnel, is the very fact that it’s unconventional. But a Parole Reentry Court, by its very nature is  a minimalist court. Proceedings related to parolees, while evidentiary in nature, are informal, do not involve county jurisdiction (which would require counsel), nor demand the same panoply of procedural and due process rights as a conventional court  (see: Morrisey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 1972, Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 1973). Truth is that there are less than a dozen states that require counsel at “parole revocation hearings”. Clerks and Reporters are not required either, as a written decision setting forth the facts and reasoning upon which it is based, are typically written up by the hearing officer. (Note: the fewer personnel engaged in the legal process, the more resources available for direct services for the returning parolee)

The clear purpose of the minimalist Reentry Court  is to provide an informal and therapeutic enviroment, where the focus is on the rehabilitation and reintegration of the returning parolee in  the community. Some may be uncomfortable with the idea of an informal problem-solving court without counsel present.  But participation in informal courts is typically voluntary, with “parole revocation hearings” passed on to  parole authorities, once the participant has been terminated from the reentry court program.  California has recently  set up  a pilot “Parolee Reentry Courts”  program, where parolees will be referred by parole authorities to the reentry court, admitted only after the parolee voluntarily accepts the program, and the court agrees. The parolee can opt out at any time, (even after a violation), to be returned to the jurisdiction of the parole agency. Ultimately, this model may be an interesting option for those communities with limited funds, a commitment to a reentry court,  but also to “revocation hearings” with counsel present. One of the  most fascinating aspects of the nascent reentry court field, is the many innovative and pragmatic models being developed. The minimalist “Parolee Reentry Court” continues that tradition. [see examples of  quasi-minimalist reentry courts below: Harlem Parole Reentry Court; Ft. Wayne Reentry Court; Richland County Reentry Court; Boone County Reentry Court]

Whether a “minimalist reentry court” is effective, economical or lawful is an open question. If you have a comment, please share it with us.

Early Conservative Support for Drug Courts

June 11, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.00.53 AMRichard A. Viguerie, a leading conservative figure, argues for Prison Reform, in an OP ED piece in the New York Times  (click on image on the left for article). He argues that “Conservatives known for being tough on crime should now be equally tough on failed, too-expensive criminal programs. They should demand more cost-effective approaches that enhance public safety and the well-being of all Americans”.

While it’s wonderful that the conservative movement appears to support Prison and Sentencing Reform, the law enforcement community and its conservative allies provided key support for alternatives to prison (read: Drug Court)  as early as the mid 90′s.

I had the opportunity to observe this phenomenum up close. While I found limited local law enforcement and conservative support for Drug Court in the early 1990’s, the environment began to change by 1994. When I returned to D.C., as the President of the newly formed National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), the political climate had changed, but not necessarily for the better.

The Republican party had taken over the Congress in 1994, and it wasn’t clear that funding for drug courts written into the budget by the Clinton administration would survive. It would take support for drug courts from key republican committee chairs and  members, to fund the nascent drug courts. This could be described as  a critical point in the drug court movement’s development, when this new innovation could have easily faltered without adequate funding.

I saw my job, as NADCP’s President, to encourage and provide support to drug court judges, D.A.s and others who were willing to visit their Congressional members, both in D.C. and at home. It was their job to convince those Congressional leaders that drug courts worked and deserved federal funding. I contacted Drug Court judges from key states with Republican Chairs or influential congressmen, I encouraged drug court judges to visit D.C.and meet with  congressional members, and I made sure that visiting judges had talking points and other information to rely on in private conversations.  I had no idea how successful a strategy that was to be.

It turned out that the judges (especially) liked to work the halls of congress and were more than willing to move to the fore in supporting drug court funding and visiting with their members of Congress. Many a judge went to school or belonged to the same social circle or clubs as our state and congressional  leaders. Drug Court Judges invited their congressmen and local political leaders to visit their drug court (preferably at a graduation, when they would be given the opportunity to speak at the ceremony, before the media).  Many of the important Committee Chairs had drug courts and drug court judges from their jurisdictions advocating for drug court funding. And it didn’t matter much whether they were democrat or republican, liberal or conservative.

While many a new program died that political season, drug courts received there first ever federal funding from a Republican controlled Congress.

 

 

 

 

 

Byrne Grant Funding; Then and Now

June 3, 2013

circa 1990“The Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2013″ (further described in the Facebook article on the right), would, if enacted, require localities to include representatives of a number of different professions, besides traditional police and custodial agencies,  in distributing the largest federal grant earmarked for public safety, known as Byrne JAG grants. As part of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, Byrne Jag grants provide funds to state and local governments for criminal justice purposes.

Byrne Grants have been around for a long time. As an example of how important these funding streams can be to nascent (and even an established specialty court program), I will describe my personal experiences with the state-wide California Criminal Justice Task Force, tasked with distributing Byrne grants statewide (on the left, a much younger me; circa 1991)

In 1991, I was casting about for funds to support the nascent Oakland drug court. I learned that the federal government distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to California through Byrne grants, and that rehabilitation and treatment of criminal offenders came under one of the discretionary purposes of the Act. I also learned that both local and state wide law enforcement were  committed to keeping the funding for themselves. I began to attend yearly hearings held by the statewide Criminal Justice Task Force to request that drug courts be funded. At that time, the Task Force was made up almost entirely of law enforcement professionals The first time I stood to speak at a hearing held in Oakland, I got a puzzled look from the members of the Task Force. But I went back the next year and the next, and encouraged others to speak for drug courts at similar hearings held around the state.

Finally, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP), who also chaired the Criminal Justice Task Force nominated me to be a Task Force member (perhaps as a means of keeping me away from the podium). At that time, few, except those in law enforcement seemed to know  when or where the meetings were to be held (although I am sure the official notices of the meeting could be found in some obscure publication). I sent my own notices to those who supported drug court: judges, legislators, county officials, criminal justice and treatment professionals, and many who were interested in starting a drug court in their jurisdiction.

As you can imagine, there was a flood of speakers over the next several years appearing and speaking out for drug courts. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that at least half of the speakers attending meetings while I was on the Task Force, were there to support drug courts. What followed was a $500,000 grant to statewide drug courts in 1995 and two  one million dollars grants to follow.  When I returned to California from D.C. in 2002, the number of California drug courts had increased from four to over 150. While there were obviously other reasons for the explosion of drug courts in California, the start up Byrne funding was clearly an important funding source to the nascent field, and also a symbol to all that drug courts were here to stay.

 

A Federal Drug Court Funding Restriction

May 6, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 9.52.21 AMA distinctive article, written by Harold Pollack, Eric Sevigny and Peter Reuter, and published in the Huffington Post was reviewed on this website last week (The Trouble with Reentry Courts…). It described how drug courts, while reaching half of U.S. counties, don’t work enough with the  population in greatest need, the high risk drug offender or serious offender with a dependence on drugs and/or alcohol. A recent proposal from the Bureau of Justice Programs (BJA)  and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) may unintentionally institutionalize that unfortunate circumstance.

The most striking  feature of that proposal is  a restriction that has only been part of the Drug Court Funding Program since 2012: “Note: Applicants must demonstrate that eligible drug court participants promptly enter the drug court program following a determination of their eligibility. A required initial period of incarceration will be grounds for disqualification unless the period of incarceration is mandated by statute for the offense in question. In such instances, the applicant must demonstrate the offender is receiving treatment services while incarcerated if available and begins drug court treatment services immediately upon release (click on image on the left for a PDF of the BJA/SAMSA Request for Proposal).

Knowing that drug courts are intensive programs, specially designed to work with high risk offenders, who often have serious and/or violent criminal histories, the restriction noted above appears ill-advised. We know that the Congress restricts federally funded drug court programs to non-violent offenders (42 U.S.C. 3797u-2).Only Congress can change that ill-advised restriction. To add that, those who serve a term in custody are also prohibited from BJA/SAMSA funding appears to  contradict the RFP’s rationale. From the text at page 7; “Grant funds must be used to serve high risk/high need populations diagnosed with substance dependence or addiction to alcohol/other drugs and identified as needing immediate treatment”.

This may be a classic example of unintended consequences. The relatively new provision, admirably encourages jurisdictions to reduce their reliance on incarceration as a response to drug dependence, by prohibiting drug court participants from being sentenced  to custody. Unfortunately, it may have a far greater impact on the demographics of the offender class entering federally funded drug courts.  Many drug dependent, high risk offenders, will have committed serious offenses (but not violent offenses) and have extensive criminal histories. To most judges, their criminal behaviors cry out for a custodial response. To the more enlightened , they also cry out for involvement in an intensive drug court program. What now appears to be the case, is that that an otherwise eligible drug court participant, if sentenced to drug treatment in custody, may not be transitioned into a drug court program on that same case post custody. Of course, savy, experienced drug court judges will find their way around the restriction. But the principle (so bolded) will have its impact upon the elligibility requirements of a great many drug courts.

Once again, these are the serious, high risk, high need drug dependent offenders that the research says need to be in drug court programs. In the real world, a petty thief, or car burglar, with a long history of similar crimes will almost always receive time in jail as a consequence of their current and/or past criminal behaviors. That might be a day, a week, a month , a year in county jail, or a term in state prison. Under the new grant restriction, an otherwise appropriate candidate would be excluded (unless he met the limited, mandated incarceration exception to the prohibition; see bolded text above).

This restriction will close the door to many if not most serious offenders with drug dependencies, who might face a term of custody. It seemingly  precludes a collaborative and hopefully seamless application of proven drug court practices for those individuals while in custody and upon release and transition to a drug court program through probation or parole services.. It is not an effective approach to reducing recidivism or protecting society (these folks will soon be in your community with or without the intensive supervision and treatment provided by a drug court).

An American University Technical Assistance Project Report, “LOOKING AT DRUG COURTS AFTER TWO DECADES”,  published in July of 2012, provides an important historical context. Drug Courts need to  “continually move to the more difficult populations – defendants whose drug use is fueling criminal behavior and who may have criminal histories that might have barred them from the program in the past.”

[This article is an independent analysis of 2013 BJA/SAMSA grant funding for Drug Courts; it was not written with the knowledge, consultation, or approval of any other persons or organizations]

 

 

 

 

 

“Second Chance Act” Celebrates 5th Anniversary

April 29,2013

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 9.01.54 AM[The Second Chance Act, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), within the Department of Justice (DOJ), has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for reentry projects in every state of the union. Below, the National Reentry Resource Center, provides highlights of BJA's administration of the "Act" (click on image on left for PDF of National Reentry Resource Center Document)]

The Second Chance Act: The First Five Years

This month marks the five-year anniversary of the Second Chance Act, the landmark legislation authorizing federal grants to support programs aimed at improving outcomes for people leaving prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities and reducing recidivism. The bill also funds research and evaluation projects and created the National Reentry Resource Center, a clearinghouse of information relating to prisoner reentry. Through its broad scope and innovative approach, the bill has had a significant impact on all stakeholders: individuals and families in need of services; communities and governments seeking strategies to increase public safety and reduce costs; researchers looking to inform, advance, and disseminate their work; and practitioners interested in enhancing their programs and sharing best practices with others in the field.

The grant program currently funds eight different types of projects: demonstration projects involving the planning and/or implementation of a reentry initiative for adults or juveniles, mentoring services for adults or juveniles, family-based substance abuse treatment for incarcerated parents, reentry courts, programs targeting individuals with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders, funding for state departments of corrections to achieve recidivism reductions through planning and capacity-building, evidence-based strategies in probation supervision, and programs providing training in technology careers. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) manages the juvenile demonstration and juvenile mentoring projects, while the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) of the U.S. Department of Justice manages all the other projects.

To date, BJA and OJJDP have awarded nearly 500 Second Chance Act grants to state, local, and tribal government agencies and nonprofit organizations across 48 states and the District of Columbia, totaling nearly $250 million. Representing a wide range in geography, size, and program design, the grantee programs display the different ways that reentry strategies can be applied in jurisdictions.

Reflecting the importance of reentry as a process that begins during incarceration, grantees must serve individuals both in pre-release and post-release stages. According to BJA’s latest performance reports on its Second Chance Act grantees, the grantees served more than 11,000 participants in pre-release programs and nearly 9,500 participants in post-release programs from July 2011 to June 2012. The vast majority of participants are assessed as medium or high risk, which is in line with research that shows that focusing services and resources on higher-risk individuals has the strongest impact on recidivism.

Some programs have already seen reduced recidivism rates among the people they serve within the first few years of the grant program. For the Harlem Parole Reentry Court in New York, which has received two Second Chance Act grants, preliminary results from an ongoing evaluation showed that the rate of reincarceration at 12 months after release of 14.7 percent for program participants was 24 percent less than a comparison group’s rate of 19.3 percent. The reentry court serves medium- and high-risk adults in Harlemand offers a combination of intensive case management, parole supervision, judicial intervention, clinical services, and other support services. Furthermore, the program employs the evidence-based practice of graduated sanctions and incentives to promote compliance and accountability.

In addition, Second Chance Act grantees have achieved positive outcomes on a number of other measures, including employment, education, family reunification, and pro-social relationships. For instance, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, a 2010 Adult Mentoring grantee, has found that 74 percent of the participants who received employment development services have since obtained employment.

The positive impact of the Second Chance Act can perhaps be best conveyed by the program participants themselves. Since early 2012, the Council of State Governments Justice Center has interviewed program administrators and participants and shared their individual stories in the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) website and newsletter. The people featured have included: Wade, a Los Angeles man in his fifties whose participation in the Amity Foundation’s mentoring program helped him overcome his addiction to heroin and become a mentor himself; Frankie, a father in New Mexico who enrolled in PB&J Family Services’ program while in prison and received help finding employment and parenting pre- and post-release; and Janelle, a young woman with co-occurring bipolar and substance abuse disorders who found a job and returned to school after receiving treatment from the Ohio Department of Youth Services’ Second Chance Act-funded program in Franklin County. Each of these stories represents the success and promise of the Second Chance Act and initiatives focusing on prisoner reentry across the country.

Also funded by the Second Chance Act, the NRRC has made great strides in advancing reentry work by promoting and disseminating key information for practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and others in the field. In addition to the website and newsletter, the NRRC offers webinars each month. Recent topics have included work release centers, electronic technology in supervision, and the needs of women in the criminal justice system. The NRRC also produces reports and guides to inform reentry work in practical and constructive ways. Its most recent product is a series of checklists with targeted guidance for state corrections departments and policymakers on building reentry initiatives to reduce recidivism.

The Second Chance Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on April 9, 2008, after receiving bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. The bill authorizes up to $165 million per year in grant funds.

 

BJA Second Chance Grant Announced

April 1, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 12.24.03 PMFrom the National Reentry Resource Center:

On March 27, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance released the Adult Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders Second Chance Act grant solicitation. State, local, and tribal governments are invited to apply for this funding to improve outcomes for adults with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders through the provision of appropriate evidence-based services and treatment both during and after incarceration.

To download this solicitation, click on the image to the left

 

2013 BJA Second Chance Act Adult Mentoring Solicitation

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 10.56.03 PMJan. 28,2013

As described in the Council of Sate Government’s Press Release ( click on image on the left for PDF of solicitation)

“On January 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance released the fiscal year 2013 solicitation for the Second Chance Act Adult Mentoring and Transitional Services for Successful Reentry Program. Nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Indian tribes are invited to apply to receive up to $300,000 over a two-year period to provide mentoring and transitional services to individuals returning from prison or jail. Awards will be made in two categories: mentoring programs for adult offenders generally and mentoring programs that focus on adult offenders who are parents, particularly those who are non-custodial parents. Applicants may apply under Category 1 or Category 2, but not both”

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on March 21, 2013.

 

 

Corporation Makes a Pitch for Guaranteed Prison Occupancy

Nov. 4, 2012

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s biggest private prison corporation, has ofered to buy prisons in 48 states on condition that the states maintain a 90% occupancy rate for twenty years (described in a comprehensive article by Chris Kirkham in the Huffington Express}

 

Ohio became the first (and only) state to sell a state-owned penitentiary to a private prison company earlier this year.  The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), directed by Gary Mohr, has since decided that it would not sell any other penitentiary to a private company. The Ohio Correctional facility, formerly a state prison, bought by the Corrections Corporation of America, (COC) was recently cited for 47 violations. The nature of the violations included quality of food, hygiene and sanitation among many others.

A more central concern is the idea of guaranteeing occupancy in a private prison. It’s hard to imagine local officials, including law enforcement, judges, and other state and county officials pressured into filling  prison beds. Instead of a bounty on imprisonment, we need incentives that do the opposite; reduce the number of prisoners behind bars. No doubt that given discretion, private corporations could reduce the costs of imprisonment, But at what cost. Ohio is in the process of finding that out.

EXTRA: Importance of Supreme Court Ruling on ACA

Breaking News/July 2, 1012
Former ONDCP Deputy Director Thomas McLellan, describing the impact of the ACA , concludes that the requirement that care services for the full range of substance use disorders be part of the law’s “essential benefit design”, is a  sign of the historic changes to come in our treatment of drug abusers in this country.

Philadelphia; June 29, 2012: A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, CEO of the Treatment Research Institute, and former Deputy Director of the Obama Office of National Drug Control Policy (serving on the Obama Healthcare Reform Task Force), had the following to say about impacts on the substance use/addiction field given the June 28, 2012 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

“The decision by the Supreme Court upholding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an extremely uplifting one for the substance abuse field. The debates and research around the ACA produced two facts that were startling to all involved.

First, unaddressed substance use now costs mainstream healthcare upwards of $100 billion annually, particularly in areas such as ER and trauma care, but also in the treatment of virtually every chronic illness. Because of the severity and complexity of their conditions, the 23 million “addicted” Americans are disproportionately costly – but it is the 40 – 45 million Americans with lower severity but still significant “harmful substance use disorders” who comprise the largest burden of illness and cost to healthcare.

 The second realization produced in the ACA debates is that while there is provision to treat “addiction” in specialty care programs (though clearly more coverage is needed) there had never been healthcare benefits or reimbursement options for those with “harmful substance use.”

 Thus, one of the historic aspects of ACA is the requirement that care services for the full range of substance use disorders be part of the “essential benefit design” in all health plans.

 This is the beginning of a new era in prevention, early intervention and office based care for patients who are not addicted – but whose drinking, smoking, and use of other substances is harming their health and compromising the effectiveness of the care they are receiving for other illnesses and conditions.”

Systemic Approaches to Sentencing: Part 9

May 28, 2012

Evidence-Based Sentencing Systems are Cost-Effective: Part 9

The previous eight articles in this series are testimony to the potential of evidence based sentencing systems. Scientific and technological advances now make these systems cost-effective as well. The most cost intensive aspect of any evidence-based system are the court hearings for felons sentenced to local custody and/or supervision. There is a misconception, that in an evidence-based sentencing system, all felons would be seen in court on a regular basis (as most problem-solving courts tend to do). But science and technology has provided us with strategies and solutions that allow us to substantially reduce the need for additional court sessions and staff (the “Risk Principle”).

Validated risk/needs assessment tools developed over the past ten years allow us to determine a felon’s risk levels and how to best deal with the offender ( see “University of Cincinnatti Study on Risk Principle”) We now know that intensive supervision for low to medium risk offender (involving multiple appearances before the court) actually increases their levels of recidivism. In some jurisdictions, that understanding may actually reduce the total number of court appearances, as only those who have been determined to need intensive supervision and court monitoring would receive it. Felons who are traditionally “banked” as low-risk probationers would almost certainly be excluded. Those offenders who are considered medium risk offenders might be seen by the court on a very limited basis (perhaps one court appearance after beginning their jail sentence, with a second at the start of active probation supervision and a third at the completion of successful probation supervision). Depending on criminal background, history of violence, extent of imprisonment and other relevant factors, high-risk felons would be placed in an appropriate supervision and court monitoring track. (see video at bottom of article, for interview with Reentry Court judge Jeff Tauber, on the intensity of supervision and rehabilitative track required by serious and/or violent high risk parole violators)

A more universal fiscal concern relates to the over-staffing of problem-solving courts. The fact that many courts have more than a dozen employees attending staff meetings and court sessions is a major financial obstacle to the expansion of evidence-based sentencing systems (and other problem solving courts as well).  My experience as both a drug court and reentry court judge suggests problem-solving courts are often over-staffed ( see: A Minimalist Reentry Court for Recessionary Times). My Drug Court staffings in 1990 (admittedly a long time ago) had two persons present, the probation officer personally responsible for offenders to be reviewed, and myself. In a more recent experience on the Bench (2010-2011) , the San Francisco Parole Reentry Court operated with a staff of five; judge, program coordinator, case manager, defense attorney, and parole officer. It should be acknowledged that every problem-solving court has its own staffing requirements,  but the tools described above can also help keep court personnel to a minimum. The development of risk/needs assessment tools allows us to better categorize probation/parole offenders, placing them in customized court tracks, limiting the court time of program specialists, to sessions where their skills are truly needed. Similarly, technology allows us to share information and communications between program personnel and staff, limiting  the need for those present in court.

Finally, even problem-solving courts with significant operating cost, have shown themselves to be cost-effective (see California Study), substantially reducing custody and other criminal justice costs, and providing enormous savings to the community as a whole. This will undoubtedly be the case for evidence-based sentencing systems as well.