"Today when I think of reentry court, I am reminded that nearly every offender sentenced to time in custody will return to the community from whence they came. And thus, every sentencing court is in fact, a reentry court, creating a pathway for the offender’s reentry into society." -Jeff Tauber

PEW: The First Survey on Recidivism

THE BEST OF: This article, published on May 2, 2012, describes a PEW document from April 2011, that provides the data necessary for a comprehensive review of state prison systems. (click on the image on the left for a PDF of that document)

The PEW Center on the States  recently released the first ever study on  prison recidivism among the states. Released on April 13, 2011, “State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons”, provides  state-by-state data on the rate that people return to prison. Nationally, the survey found that four in ten persons return to state prison within three years of their release.

The Trouble with Reentry Courts……

April 29, 2013

In the title of this blog and its substance, I am extrapolating on issues presented in an excellent article, “How to Make Drug Courts Work”,  authored by Harold Pollack, Eric Sevigny and Peter Reuter, published in the Washington Post  (April 26,2013). The issues explored relating to drug courts are almost identical to those facing other problem-solving courts or specialty courts, including reentry courts.

In the Post article, its authors lament that drug courts and other specialty courts are slated to receive $80 million with possibly little to show for it. They point out that although numerous (half of all counties claim to have a drug court), they average only 50 participants. More significantly, too many courts stick to a limited, and political cautious approach to their specialty courts. By that i mean they screen out the serious or violent offender, and work with those who need the intensive specialty court services the least. As Professor Ed Latessa has highlighted in his research at the University of Cincinati; spending money, resources and energy on low to medium risk offenders, whose offenses are non-serious and non-violent is a poor use of limited resources (see in this website: “High Risk Offenders do Better in Half-Way Houses”). As the article’s authors succinctly put it,”Drug courts could be more helpful in reducing crime and incarceration, but only if they become more ambitious and less risk-averse by taking in populations likely to serve real time”.

And here is where Reentry Courts come in. Reentry Courts don’t focus on drug abusers unless they have a serious drug dependency. They do focus on offenders coming out of custody who have served “real time” for serious and/or violent offenses. That is their purpose, whether there is a drug dependency or not. Keep in mind that these offenders will overwhelmingly be released with or without the serious supervision and rehabilitation services of a Reentry Court. What possible sense does it make, to work with those who pose the least risk to society and benefit the least from an intensive intervention like Drug or Reentry Court.

The authors argue that drug courts [and reentry courts by extension] widen the net of formal social control. That “Even if these drug court participants had been incarcerated, many would likely have received short terms, often in county jails, for less than a year”. It is as if fishermen were to pull in their nets and throw the big fish back and harvest the small fish. It is not logical, does not make our communities safer or serve them well. But we  continue to keep the small fry, and let the big fish return to the wild.

Virtual Incarceration is Here!

March 19,2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 10.02.16 AMIt sounds like something out of an “Arnold” movie. We all knew it was coming. GPS, home detention, long range alcohol detection, all were leading us to the next level of alternatives to custody; “Virtual Incarceration”. Personally, it’s taken a while before I could climb aboard the band wagon, but here I am. There are people that need to be in prison because they are a danger to society and there are those, at the other end of the spectrum of supervision, that can be supervised, monitored , and even treated through digital technology.

Public Radio international, reports that, “A group of panelists at this year’s South by Southwest interactive media conference in Austin, Texas, presented an idea to improve the U.S. prison system with smart phone technology.The consulting firm, Deloitte, and its think-tank, GovLab, led a discussion on alternatives to the brick-and-mortar prisons low-level criminals are sent to. suggested the U.S. keep low-level criminals out of prison, using smart phone technology”. (click on the image on the left for the article and audio of the panel discussion)

One senior consultant for Deloitte, suggested “virtual incarcerations,” where nonviolent, low-level offenders are taken out of prison cells with support and monitoring that keeps both the community and the offender safe.

“When a court determines a low-level criminal is a good candidate for the smart phone program, they would be equipped with an ankle-monitoring device to track them with GPS, and given a locked smartphone with specific apps related to their needs.” For example,  A DUI offender might require Breathalyze, an app that detects eye movements in the camera on your phone”. The app would also allow the offender to meet with his parole officer via FaceTime on his phone.

These are good ideas, many of which are already being used in some jurisdictions. But it would be interesting to see a pilot project that put together all aspects of high tech supervision into what is now called “Virtual Imprisonment”.

1 Year Process Evaluation of 8 Reentry Courts

March 11, 2013

Picture 3The DOj is putting money and effort into a project that  focuses on the  development of court based reentry efforts. One can sometimes get the impression that the courts are not a significant focus in the  federal government’s approach to state prison reentry issues. This project shows the opposite to be true.

The National institutue of Justice has released a one year process evaluation of eight Adult Reentry Courts that are sponsored under the BJA Second Chance Act. The National Institute of Justice’s “Evaluation of Second Chance Act Adult Reentry Courts: Program Characteristics and Preliminary Themes from Year 1”, was authored by Christine Lindquist, Jennifer Hardison Walters, Michael Rempel, and Shannon M. Carey. The document is the product of RTI International, The Center for Court innovation and NPC Research.  (click on image on the left for PDF of evaluation)

The eight reentry court jurisdictions being funded and evaluated are Union County, Arkansas, New Castle County, Delaware, Pinellas County, Florida, Boone County, Missouri, Strafford County, New Hampshire, Stark County, Ohio, Bexar County, Texas, and Norfolk County, Virginia.

The process evaluation will document the implementation of the evolving programs through three rounds of site visits, and be followed by an impact evaluation and a cost –benefit evaluation.

 From the I year site visit and process evaluation,

“Several programmatic characteristics were common across most sites, including the emphasis on post-release service delivery, the provision of a breadth of services relevant to the target population (with all sites offering substance abuse treatment and employment services), the use of a case management approach to coordinate and monitor services, the use of court hearings for the purpose of monitoring participants’ progress in the program, the use of drug testing, and a team approach to decision-making regarding sanctions and rewards. In all sites, reentry court participation is used as a condition of supervision, with the sentencing judge retaining jurisdiction over the participant in most sites. Therefore, almost all participants are under community supervision by a parole or probation officer for the entire duration of reentry court participation.”

Momentum for Prison Reform?

Feb.18,2013

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 10.46.15 AMA new article, in “Think Progress”, cites a host of authorites and experts who claIm that a burst of activity in the prison reform field, may signify a change of course in the criminal justice system. The article goes on to cite authorities such as the Wall Street Journal and the conservative website “Right on Crime” , as well as, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the progressive “Sentencing Project”. As a check on over-enthusiam, the Sentencing  Project reminds us, “25 states still had stable or increasing [prison] population” (click on image on left for Sentencing Project’s “On the Chopping Block: State Prison Closings”)

The question I posed at the beginning of the year “A New Year’s Editorial: Has Penal Reform Peaked“, continues to concern me.  The momentum for Prison And Sentencing Reform,  that “Think Progress” reports, is good news that should not be discounted, but the question remains as to whether reform will be substantial and self-susutaining. It’s important to monitor the extent of existing and proposed reform and the quality of that reform.

It should be remembered that we have been here before, and if we do not provide resources, supervision, and assistance as needed, we may find ourselves in a worse place than when this reform process began.

 

New Study Supports California Realignment Reform

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 11.39.45 PMJan. 28, 2013

From a press release by CSG:

“A study has been released  by the Council of State Governments, entitled The Impact of Probation and Parole Populations on Arrests in Four California Cities” (click on image on the left for a PDF copy). The study attempts to answer a question that to date has been a matter of speculation among law enforcement and corrections officials everywhere: to what extent do people on probation and parole contribute to crime, as measured by arrests?

Researchers at the CSG Justice Center collected and matched more than 2.5 million arrest, probation, and parole records generated between January 1, 2008 and June 11, 2011. Collecting and analyzing the data required the  efforts of 11 independent agencies, including four local police jurisdictions, four county probation agencies, two county sheriffs’ departments, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Among the most notable findings in these four jurisdictions:

  • The majority of all adult felony and misdemeanor arrests were of people who were not currently under supervision. People under supervision accounted for only 22 percent of total arrests.
  • Whereas people under probation and parole supervision accounted for one out of every six arrests for violent crimes, they accounted for one out of every three drug arrests.
  • During a 3.5 year period in which total arrests fell by 18 percent, the number of arrests involving individuals under parole supervision declined by 61 percent and by 26 percent for individuals under probation supervision.”

It is argued that the 3.5 year study, immediately preceding the implementation of California’s Realignment Reform (starting in October, 2011) provides evidence of Realignment’s success. This preliminary information should encourage the legislature to move forward with rational prison reform, the simplification of the state’s sentencing laws, and the reduction in the extraordinary prison terms for violent crimes (that have doubled over the past thirty years).

On the other hand, sceptics of realignment, argue for an independent study of realignment, commissioned by the legislature, to determine the true effect of realignment ( see article by Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee). To my mind, it is too early to come to any definitive conclusions, but that data should continue to be collected, while California moves forward with prison reform.

 

 

Longer sentences are not necessarily better

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Last week, I presented the Center for Juvneile and Criminal Justice Center’s Lizzie Buchen, whose article,  “For real prison reform, look beyond the non, non, nons”, argued that research coming out of the PEW Center of the States, supports the position that longer sentences are a major reason for the explosion in prison populations and  the enormous cost of keeping prisoners locked up.  (PDF of the PEW article, “Time Served; The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms”)

This week, Lizzie Buchen, follows with a second article, that argues for a California Sentencing Commission; “Even for violent crimes, longer is not always better” She writes,

“For the offender, longer is certainly not better: As the years go by, inmates often become more distant from their families and communities, less employable, and more deeply ingrained in prison culture (becoming “institutionalized”), all factors that hamper reentry”.

Finally, I would argue that the public’s hunger for safety (1000 sentencing bills passed by the legislature over the past three decades), is a serious problem that we need to come to grips with. How long is enough? Why does California have an almost impenetrable web of sentencing law. California’s sentencing grid is a constantly changing labyrinth of overlapping, entangling, and bewildering law that is truly understood by the few who have taken upon themselves the task of enlightening the criminal justice field. These are unacceptable circumstances that need to be addressed by the governor  and the legislature, through a Sentencing Commission, that can rationally and reasonably review, clarify and simplify our maze of sentencing laws.

Disagreement on Impact of FBI statistics

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 10.56.20 AMJan. 28,2013

The FBi’s release of California crime statistics unleashed charges from both pro and anti-realignemnt advocates. Each side claimed that the statistics supported their position as to the effect of realignment reform upon crime in California. A January 24th LA Times article articulated the positions of both sides.

“The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation said that statistics released by the FBI, show a 7.6% increase in homicide and double-digit increases in burglary and auto thefts the first half of 2012 when compared to the first six months of 2011″.

The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, on the other hand, found there was ” no connection between those changes and places with the proportion of “realigned offenders,” individuals who would have gone to prison in the past but are now the wards of counties. In fact, crime rates dropped in five counties receiving a disproportionate share of those new prisoners.”

And so the argument as to realignment and its impact upon crime levels continues. With conservative and many law enforcement agencies decrying the return of prisoners to county supervision and custody, as a danger to public safety. And so-called reformers and human-rights advocates arguing that realignment is working, and where there are problems, they are caused by the government’s reluctance to take the reforms further and to provide the resources and support required for such a major  shift in prison policy.

 

San Francisco Reentry Court: 87% fewer “Return to Prison”

THE BEST OF: The following article was published on Feb. 4th, 2012. It describes the success of the San Francisco Parole Reentry Court, and opens the door to evaluations and research based on the San Francisco Model.

PDF

The San Francisco Parole Reentry Court (SFPRC) was a statutorily funded pilot project administered by both the California Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The funding itself, some $1.5 million per county was provided by the federal government through 2009 Stimulus funding. Without going into structural detail here (to be saved for another more expansive article), I’d like to provide general information on how SFPRC was designed and implemented, as well as statistical evidence of its success.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) data for the 10-month period that the San Francisco Parole Reentry Court (SFPRC) was fully operational (Dec. 2010-Sept. 2011) established that the SFPRC “return to prison” rate was 1/7th the rate of regular San Francisco parolees (a reduction of over 85% over 10 months). SF’s parolee population had 1365  “return to prison” out of its 1,686 parolees (81% of the SF parole population). The SFPRC had 8 out of 70 parolees return to prison (an 11% rate).

The most important attribute of the SFPRC were its reliance on “the court as rehabilitation community” 

The SFPRC team and participants created a rehabilitation community that was a driving force for participant change. The court team encouraged and often joined participants in pro-social activities, treating participants as individuals worthy of respect. The court became a friendlier place; where strangers became friends and sometimes mentors, coffee and pastries were served, rehab sessions and counseling, honor roll meetings and award ceremonies, and other pro-social activities occurred. Participants were also expected to engage in the larger community via volunteerism and other activities (i.e. organizing family picnics).

The corollary principle employed was that positive reinforcement and minimal sanctions, rather than custody would be used to modify negative behavoirs”. 

The SFPRC embraced a true paradigm shift, pioneering the use of positive reinforcement in reentry courts; using awards, rewards, and positive, and negative incentives to recognize accomplishments.A tangible example: The courtroom bulletin board displayed the SFPRC Newsletter, awards and certificates, letters and poetry, photos of graduation and awards ceremonies, family and friends, court picnics, and newly inducted Honor Roll members. 

Minimum sanctions were used as necessary, almost to the exclusion of custody. This is especially relevant under new state law, where parole sanctions are often statutorily limited to 90 days county jail. SFPRC sanctioned 14 participants for a total of 105 days in jail over the course of the program. During that same period, SFPRC’s 70 participants achieved a 93% attendance rate, though required to attend weekly court sessions (approximately 1200 hour-long court appearances over a 10 month period). 

Over it’s 15-month life ( including planning and implementation), SFPRC modeled “a minimalist reentry court for recessionary times”(see: reentrycourtsolutions.com). Though problem-solving courts” and reentry courts in particular are often accused of being wasteful, the relatively resource rich SFPRC was dealing with high-risk, serious and violent offenders, who were ultimatley far more expensive to deal with either in prison or in the community. SFPRC limited itself to  a part-time judge, court coordinator, case manager, defense attorney, parole officer and clerk. It used minimal incarceration while achieving a 87% reduction in “returns to prison”. And it successfully engaged long term prisoners, recently returned to society, in rehabilitation through a court-based community.

For a one page summary of the San Francisco Parole Reentry court’s mission, design, and statistical results, see: Final 1-Year SFPRC Report Card

 

CSG data shows reduction in Prison Recidivism

 

Sept. 25, 2012

From an NRRC Press Release:

On September 25th, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center’s National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) released a policy brief highlighting a number of states that are reporting significant reductions in recidivism. The states profiled in the report show significant declines in their three-year recidivism rates based on data tracking individuals released from prison in 2005 and 2007. Texas and Ohio reported reductions of 11 percent, while the Kansas rate fell by 15 percent and Michigan’s rate dropped by 18 percent. Incorporating data through 2010 (and in some cases, through 2011), the report provides some of the most recent data available for statewide three-year recidivism rates. [For  copy of the report, click on the image on the left]

Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, and the U.S. Department of Justice and other cabinet agencies have been instrumental in creating a climate that has propelled the work of state and local governments in reducing recidivism. Most notably, under the Second Chance Act, landmark legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, state and local governments and their community-based partners have been able to seed new reentry initiatives and expand existing efforts.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R, OH), a co-author of the Second Chance Act, applauded the states, including Ohio, for their accomplishments. “Second Chance Act programs, in collaboration with faith-based and community organizations and local reentry coalitions, have a proven record of helping inmates turn their lives around, and I applaud their continued good efforts to reduce recidivism. Encouraging people released from prison to become productive members of society not only strengthens communities, but also reduces the burden on taxpayers who shoulder the costs associated with incarceration.”

The brief, “States Report Reductions in Recidivism,” highlights strategies that leaders in several states credit with helping drive down recidivism:

  • In Ohio, state policymakers standardized the use of a validated risk assessment instrument to focus limited treatment and supervision resources on those individuals assessed at the highest risk for reoffending.
  • In Kansas, state leaders awarded performance-based grants to community corrections agencies, partnered with local communities where recidivism rates were highest to improve post-release supervision, and enhanced housing and workforce development services to better meet the needs of people coming out of prison.
  • Michigan officials invested heavily in the state’s Prisoner Reentry Program, prioritizing funding for housing, employment, and other transition support services in order to provide the most effective community-based programming for released individuals.

Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, said: “Reducing recidivism can produce a big payoff: If states across the country could reduce their recidivism rates by just 10 percent, they could save more than half a billion dollars combined in one year alone in averted prison costs.”

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said: “Corrections administrators know that reducing recidivism is a goal that can be accomplished only in partnership with other agencies and community-based organizations. At the same time, we recognize that governors, legislators, and the public are holding departments of correction accountable for their recidivism rates. The data highlighted in this brief demonstrate that we in corrections are standing up to meet this responsibility and are getting results.”

Denise E. O’Donnell, Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in the U.S. Department of Justice, congratulated the states highlighted in the brief. “At BJA, we’re supporting states who are committed to taking a data-driven approach to lowering re-offense rates of people released from prison and jail. Later this week, we’ll be announcing major awards to a select group of states that are setting recidivism reduction targets, and like the states highlighted today, are using evidence-based approaches to meet the goals they set.”

Preview of Cal Parolee Reentry Courts

Sept. 3, 2012

The California Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has published a monograph on California Reentry Courts, “A Preliminary Look At California Parolee Reentry Courts” (click on image to the left for the document). The six county programs began in the fall of 2010 and will complete their evaluation period at the end of 2012. All six counties devised substantially different approaches to the high-risk drug and/or mentally ill offenders. who had violated their parole. The federally funded program is being  co-administered by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the AOC). Though the programs have not completed their evaluation periods, the AOC sees the potential for substantial benefits coming out of this program.

With California in the midst of  enormous sentencing and prison related reforms, Parole Reentry Courts have the potential to provide important information to other California counties struggling to deal with their own high-risk offenders returning from prison. We will be profiling all six of the programs in the coming weeks.

Evidence Based Practices in Reentry Court

THE BEST OF: The following article, initially published on Feb. 15, 2010, makes the connection between Drug Courts’ Ten Key Components and Evidence Based Practices and comes out in favor of instituting scientifically proven Evidence Based Practices.

Implementing Evidence-Based Practices (on your left), by Marc Carey and Frank Domurad, published by the Center for Effective Public Policy, under a grant from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, is the best publication I have found on the application of EBP to Prisoner Reentry

If you have or are planning a reentry court, you need to be familiar with “Evidence Based Practices” (EBP).   The challenge for a reentry court is to adopt proven empirical and research driven, “Evidence Based Practices”, designed to reduce recidivism. To do so, a reentry courts will need  qualified personnel, with open minds, and pioneering spirits. Perhaps we should start with a bit of history.

The Drug Court field’s Ten Key Components (NADCP/OJP; 1997) have been  around since 1997 and have stood the test of time. However, while still valuable as general principles, they don’t provided guidance as to what specific features reduce drug usage and recidivism.They were developed by practitioners like myself (I was an ex-drug court judge and NADCP’s President at the time), who knew what we were doing was working, but not exactly why. When we came together in Washington D.C., it was clear that the  fast growing field needed standards and guidance. So we created a template that was broad and based on commonsense. What we didn’t know was whether research and empirical evaluation would back up our beliefs. That the components have been implemented and adhered to by thousands of drug and problem-solving court practitioners in the intervening years is extraordinary in itself. But as I said before, for all the success of the “Key Components”, they didn’t provide the guidance we needed, to know which features to build  into our programs to make them more effective. Since then, the “Key Components” have been scientifically evaluated, substantiated to an extent, and have evolved (to my way of thinking) into  what has become known as  “Evidence Based Practices”,  or  scientifically proven”Best Practices” (specific guidelines) for the Problem-Solving Field.

According to the Pew Center on the States, “Evidence Base Practices”,  mean “supervision policies, procedures, programs, and practices that scientific research demonstrate reduce recidivism among individuals on probation, parole, or post-release supervision” (Policy Framework to Strengthen Community Corrections; Pew Public Safety Performance Project; 1998). The Crime and Justice Institute and National Institute of Corrections have produced a major report, authored by Judge Roger Warren (ret.), President Emeritus of the National Center for State Courts,  entitled Evidence-Based Practices to ReduceRecidivism: Implications for State Judiciaries, written for  the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, and the National Center for State Courts. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals has also produced a monograph on the topic: “Quality Improvement for Drug Courts: Evidence Based Practices” (National Drug Court Institute Monograph #9; 2008)  The reentry court practitioner needs to rely on peer approved and recognized works in establishing its structures, procedures, and processes.

Even with all the scientific and institutional support for the implementation of EBP, the application of Evidence Based Practices to reentry court will be a hard sell. EBP often runs counter to  the practitioner’s conventional thinking on sentencing and rehabilitation practices. (ie. Best to play it safe and provide services for worthy non-violent, non-serious offenders, return parolees to prison for all but the most minor of violations, use the same sanctions and incentives for all drug abusers, etc.) And it’s not as simple and straight forward as the “key components”. But let’s remember that the “Key Components” are not the grail, but commonsense ideas about what worked for drug courts in 1997. EBP will require a willingness to learn new ways of doing our job. That means training and education. For some, it’s just too much work. But isn’t it worth the effort to create reentry courts (and other problem-solving courts), using scientifically proven guidelines or “Evidence Based Practices”  that will do what we started out to do in 1997; to better reduce drug abuse and recidivism in our communities.


A Twenty Year Projection: An 82% Recidivism Rate

THE BEST OF: The following article, initially published on March 2, 2010, concludes that 82 % of Tennessee prisoners return to prison within the twenty year period after release.

This public interest piece might be described as  pretty good advertisement for prison reform , reentry reform, and reentry courts. According to a 3/7/10 article by Michael Lollar appearing in The Commercial Appeal, Tennessee’s DOC claims recidivism rates of 51 percent when studied for a three-year period; this compares to national studies that average 65 percent over the same time period. But a 20-year study by Correctional Counseling, Inc., a Memphis-based behavioral therapy firm, followed 1,381 inmates that first did time between 1987 and 1991. According to the 20-year study, 94 percent of the latter group had been rearrested and 82 percent of them wound up behind bars.

Part 12; Systemic Approaches to Sentencing: The Conclusion

June 25,2012

Back to the Future: Evidence Based Sentencing Systems

The 12 part series of articles on Evidence Based Sentencing Systems (see: Evidence Based Sentencing Systems) concludes as it  began, with an admonition to recognize that technology and science have changed the nature of the sentencing process, What is needed is a more comprehensive and systemic approach that recognizes the advances made in sentencing, from risk/needs assessments and cognitive behavioral therapies, to the development of hybrid sentencing sysems that employ traditional as well as  problem-solving practices.

We need to look beyond conventional responses to criminal behavior, acknowledging that our over-reliance on imprisonment  has been a tragic mistake. The science and research advances of the past ten years should inform the sentencing decisions we make. But we should also look back into history.  The prison sysytem in this country is little more than 200 years old. Up until that time, custody as a response to criminal behavior was largely unknown and community control exerted extraordinary influence over the individual. We need to reestablish the primacy of the community through our sentencing and rehabilitation models, in essence going “Back to the Future” (click on image on the left: The Drug Court judicial Bench Book, Chapter 1, Drug Courts: Back to the Future; J Tauber, NDCI, 2011)

We are confronted with new evidence-based sentencing practices that demand a fresh look at a very old paradigm.  We need to acknowledge the central idea of evidence-based sentencing, that sentencing demands a systemic team based approach, and ultimately more effort and time than a single judge can provide. Problem-solving courts provide the structure for a hybrid system, where team based sentencing systems are capable of providing  continuing sentencing  processes, probation and court tracks , risk/needs information, and rehabilitative capabilities that protect the community, yet address for the offenders criminogenic needs.

We will be  challenged in ways that we never expected. Our concepts regarding the treatment of  non drug using offenders,  drug abusers versus drug dependent offenders, low risk offenders versus low to medium risk offenders, all demand that we rethink basic sentencing and rehabilitative concepts.For those willing to open their eyes, Evidence Based Sentencing Practices can open the door to  better and more cost effective sentencing.

 

 

Governors get it right and wrong

June 17, 202

As reported last week, the governor of many a state has jumped on the drug court bandwagon. Many support the position that all non-violent drug abusing offenders are in need of intensive drug treatment and an opportunity to receive such treatment in the community, rather than prison. This belief runs counter to what has become an accepted scientific principle, that only drug dependent and addicted offenders need the intensive intervention of a drug court program.While their grasp of the science of drug dependency may be weak, the governors’ willingness to offer a broad  community drug court based treatment plan for most non-violent drug abusers is exemplary (see: NADCP Argues for Evidence-Based Tracks).

On the other hand,  we have governors who apparently understand the science, that drug dependent offenders should receive intensive drug court treatment, but substance abusers (who are not drug dependent) do not need that intensive treatment. While we applaud their understanding of the science involved, we’re concerned that they are not always interested in alternatives to prison for non-drug dependent offenders (or non-drug abusers). We need to provide non-custodial alternatives to prison for offenders who are not drug dependent. Failing to do so will effectively create a second class of non-dependent drug abusers with serious criminogenic needs that are being ignored by our governors. i ask you (and them); why wouldn’t we want to keep non-violent offenders in the community, where they can receive far more cost effective rehabilitative services suited to their criminogenic needs, rather than sending them to prison where all they will receive is a master’s degree in criminology (see: Dealing with the Whole Person in Sentencing: Part 10).

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