Study: Shorter Sentences Key to Shrinking Federal Prisons

A new federally funded study shows how much the federal prison system would shrink without affecting recidivism by levying shorter prison sentences.

Sentencing-reform advocates will find new ammunition in a federally funded study that shows how much more quickly the federal prison system shrinks through shortened sentences than through diverting low-level offenders to probation.

The study by Abt Associations shows that cutting average federal prison time by 19 percent, or 7.5 months, can save vast sums of money without higher recidivism. Closing prisons saves money by cutting both marginal costs such as food and fixed costs such as administrative overhead and maintenance.

Those effects held true regardless of an offender’s criminal history, offense seriousness, sex, race, and education level, the study found.

The study, published in the journal Criminology & Public Policy, is part of a five-year project by Abt to analyze federal prison data on every U.S. citizen sentenced under federal sentencing guidelines for serious offenses from 1999 to 2014, covering every step from initial booking to post-conviction community supervision. The full text of the study is published here.

The federal prison population is, of course, a relatively small slice of a much larger state and local incarceration pie but it is the largest single prison system in the country.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Blind Advocacy of Offender Rehabilitation Programs Hurts All

Highlights Offender recidivism after prison is horrendous. Programs have little to no effect. We need a research initiative similar to cancer. It should be a national priority. What we don’t need is blind advocacy. If you are going to criticize the President, at least be honest with your data. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired […]

The post Blind Advocacy of Offender Rehabilitation Programs Hurts All appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Highlights Offender recidivism after prison is horrendous. Programs have little to no effect. We need a research initiative similar to cancer. It should be a national priority. What we don’t need is blind advocacy. If you are going to criticize the President, at least be honest with your data. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired […]

The post Blind Advocacy of Offender Rehabilitation Programs Hurts All appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Moms Play Critical Role in Reducing Recidivism: Study

While research has shown that family visits to incarcerated individuals can reduce recidivism, a recent study in the Criminal Justice and Behavior journal suggests that the quality of inmates’ relationships with their mothers is one of the best predictors of whether they will re-offend.

While research has shown that family visits to incarcerated individuals can reduce recidivism, a recent study suggests that the quality of inmates’ relationships with their mothers is a better predictor of whether they will re-offend.

In a recent longitudinal study published in Criminal Justice and Behavior, researchers surveyed 205 female and male adult inmates serving up to two years in five southern correctional facilities.  Most of the participants had relatively
extensive arrest histories,  and were incarcerated, on average, for 8½ months.

The researchers assessed the quality of inmates’ relationships with their mothers, fathers, and romantic partners by measuring the importance of each relationship, the level of warmth and affection received, the amount of support and encouragement received, and the inmates’ overall level of satisfaction with the relationship.

Then they extrapolated official visitation data obtained from the state’s Department of Corrections that included the number of visits inmates received from their mothers, fathers and romantic partners; and recidivism data obtained from official Department of Public Safety criminal history records.

They found that inmates who had a higher quality relationship with their mother prior to incarceration not only had higher odds of being visited by their mother, but also had significantly lower chances of recidivating.

Neither the quality of the inmate’s relationship with their father nor romantic partner were significantly related to recidivism.

Although the quality of pre-incarceration relationships is significantly associated with visitation, visits alone do not reduce recidivism, according to the study.

“Findings indicate that quality of an inmate’s pre-incarceration relationships is more important in reducing the odds of recidivism than visitation,” the researchers wrote.

“Most critical, a strong maternal relationship prior to incarceration was associated with a reduction in recidivism subsequent to a period of incarceration.”

The authors offered some possible explanations for mothers’ crucial role in reducing recidivism:

  • Previous research studies have documented the unique and unconditional bond between mothers and their children.
  • The rise of single-parent households since the 1960s has diminished fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives.

The data shows a stark contrast between mothers and fathers.

While inmates indicated having the highest-quality relationship with their mother compared to their father and romantic partners, inmates had the lowest quality relationship with their father.

Furthermore, 34 percent of inmates were visited at least once by their mother, but only 10 percent were visited by their father.

The study was conducted by Cassandra A. Atkin-Plunk , an assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University; and Gaylene S. Armstrong, director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The full study is available for purchase only here.

This summary was prepared by TCR news intern J. Gabriel Ware.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Never Give Up:’ A Returning Citizen Finds Hope After Prison

Obtaining a steady job has been a struggle for former Syracuse, N.Y. parolee Shallah “Brooklyn” Beal, who was released in 2016 after serving three years for assault. But he discovered that the first, and hardest challenge, is to break down the emotional walls he built in prison—and learn to trust in himself.

By his own account, “Brooklyn” Beal has “trust issues.”

He tells his story haltingly, slowly, incompletely— part of the process of getting over the issues that defined the pain-packed 40 years lived by the man born Shallah J. Beal. Some days he is upbeat, almost chatty. Other days, he borders on morose, and a talk with Beal feels dark.

He has his family (two daughters), a girlfriend and an apartment with his brother.

Missing from that list: a steady job.

“I didn’t go to school to work at McDonald’s,” he said, noting he’s taken civil service exams, but still hasn’t found steady work.

Not for lack of trying.

This summer he earned three certificates at the Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center, becoming OSHA-10, OSHA-30 and lead-certified, all of which are construction health and safety trainings.

“I’m told those certificates will go a long way in making me desirable for future construction jobs,” he said. “But I don’t wait for them to call me because then nothing would happen. I call every week — every Monday — to make sure they know I’m seeking work.”

Finding a job is one of the hardest things for parolees like Beal, who was released from prison in 2016 after serving three years for assault. An Urban Institute study found that only one in three parolees had found a job within two months of release.

And difficulty finding work is a key factor in whether a person released from jail is arrested again, the Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded in 2018.

The bureau tracked more than 400,000 people released from state prison in 2005, and found that 83 percent were arrested at least once by 2014, according to its 2018 report. Blacks had the highest recidivism rates, at nearly 87 percent, and male parolees were more likely to be re-arrested than females, the study also found.

Opening up helps Beal. Although talking doesn’t come with a paycheck, it does inspire self-reflection and a measure of optimism.

That’s part of the goal PEACE Inc., a local community service agency whose primary mission is to help individuals and families living in poverty, has in engaging men like Beal.

Charles Rivers

Charles Rivers returned to Syracuse in 2012 after serving 19 years, 9 months and 4 days in prison.Photo by Zachary Krahmer/The Stand

At PEACE’s Southside Family Resource Center, Beal speaks up around others at the encouragement of the center’s coordinator, Charles Rivers, who spent three decades in and out of prison. Rivers’ own journey has seen him evolve from a withdrawn ex-con to a confident advocate, comfortable leading groups of strangers through intimate discussions.

Rivers says one of the hardest things to endure for ex-offenders is coming out of jail when there’s no family or friends to greet you, and nowhere to go. PEACE makes sure Beal has that, and a friend when he might think there is no one.

Beal completed a three-year parole term at the end of 2017, and when he first arrived at PEACE, he was guarded and quiet. Many of the members knew him as someone who would come to PEACE to chat briefly with those he knew and then go about his business.

But after some time, he took to more people and started to relax. He is still private. He was not comfortable with reporters visiting where he lives, preferring to meet at PEACE. He also promised to connect reporters with his oldest daughter. He never did.

Emotional Walls

He says being jailed repeatedly, dealing with family and friends’ deaths, and being away from his own children built the emotional walls around him.

“That’s one of the things I’m most happy about,” Beal said. “I told myself I’d open my mouth more, and I am. I want to tell my story. That’s the whole reason for this. I got trust issues. … I been through some real (stuff) a lot of people wouldn’t understand. But I am getting better with who I’m talking to.”

Middle school and puberty were tough for Beal. He was sent to a juvenile facility for defending his mom from her abusive boyfriend, he said. More assault charges followed. He was last charged for assault in 2013.

Beal’s nickname comes from growing up in the projects of Brooklyn, New York, during the 1980s and 1990s. Those decades were the worst years to grow up in the city, Beal said. Crack, cocaine and PCP were all out of control.

“It was hell,” he said when describing the drugs and killings that surrounded him.

Born when his mother was 16, his grandmother assumed full custody. Beal credits her for raising him. His mom was one of 10 siblings. He has over 50 cousins. His household was always crowded — with an average of three people to a bed, he said.

Beal has suffered a lot of loss. His mother died recently, and he lost several friends last winter and spring, including one who was shot and killed at a party in Syracuse. Beal said he had thought about attending the party.

His first brush with trouble was at age 12, when he said he stabbed his mother’s boyfriend after one of the many times she was beaten. He said he doesn’t remember how many times he was sent to jail before he was given a chance in the summer of 1994 to attend Cayuga (NY) Community College. He received his associate’s degree in business administration.

But he fell in and out of trouble again, the last time in 2013 when he was convicted for assault and gun possession. The three years in state prison that followed, combined with participating in programs and playing basketball, changed his mindset. He knew he had to get out of the projects, get out from under a “black cloud,” and start fresh.

Over the last year, PEACE used a $95,000 state grant for a pilot program to help just-released offenders reunite with families in public housing, which has strict rules limiting who is allowed to move in. Experts acknowledge family support is vital to break a chain of repeat offenses.

PEACE used the funds to help people like Beal, who now lives with his brother in private housing, by preparing for a job with resume-building, setting up mock interviews or returning to school, according to the organization. PEACE also provides a place to go, to hang out, to remember good times and to reflect on positive experiences.

Funding ran out for the pilot program in February 2018. The state is still reviewing the renewal application. Rivers said PEACE will continue its role whether or not the grant is renewed.

Beal credits his strength of getting through his lows to memories of his late mother and his two daughters.

“Never give up,” he said. “That’s one thing I do.”

But that isn’t easy. When he tried to get a job before — and again now — he becomes frustrated.

“That’s when reality hit, and I had a reality check,” he said.

Surviving in Prison: “Fight or Flight”

He describes prison as a place where you activate “fight-or-flight” survival mode. He said he has had to re-learn what it meant to strive for things like a steady job.

Beal says now he just wants to reach his goal: to be “comfortable.”

One threat to that “comfort” is being around the same things that got him in trouble in the first place. While he was incarcerated, Beal said he was around a lot of fighting, drugs and homemade alcohol.

“Being around all that is something I don’t want to keep doing,” Beal said. “I’m trying to make smart choices. I ain’t on no block or on a corner. I know the consequences of what can happen.

“I’m a grown man now.”

Beal has big goals for his future, his family, and what he wants to achieve over the rest of his life. He has two daughters he talks to every day. His first-born is 22 years old and set to graduate from Buffalo State in May.

“That’s my motivation,” he explained. His second daughter lives with his aunt in Brooklyn, and is just six. He hopes that one day they can all be reunited and live happily together as a family.

“I love my family,” he said. “They’re my rock.”

He wants to be someone they can look to. He is talking his way through it, feeling better.

“I’m not far,” Beal said, “from being where I want to be.”

This is a condensed and slightly edited version of a story published in The Stand, a community newspaper produced in Syracuse, N.Y., in partnership with S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Ashley Kang, director of The Stand, is a 2018 John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Justice Reporting Fellow. Click here for an earlier story in The Stand’s “Prison-to-Family series. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Johnson v United States: Three Years Later

The Supreme Court struck down a part of the Armed Career Criminal Act that permitted sentencing enhancements for repeat violent offenders in 2015. But the debate over its impact on public safety and recidivism continues, pitting Attorney General Jeff Sessions against proponents of sentencing reform.

In at least two speeches this August, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the consequences of a three-year-old Supreme Court decision “devastating for Americans.”

He was referring to Johnson v. United States, a 2015 ruling in which the Supreme Court struck down the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), finding it unconstitutionally vague.

ACCA imposes sentencing enhancements on repeat offenders who commit crimes with guns. Specifically, under ACCA, a defendant who is convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and who has three or more prior convictions for serious drug offenses or violent felonies is subject to an increased prison term of at least 15 years.

The residual clause had included under the definition of “violent felony” any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year that “involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”

After the decision in Johnson, individuals sentenced under ACCA’s now-defunct residual clause filed petitions for collateral review, a procedure that allows prisoners, within certain constraints, to ask a court to amend their sentences. Additional follow-on litigation to Johnson has involved questions about other aspects of ACCA’s “violent felony” definition, as in next term’s United States v. Stitt, as well as vagueness challenges to definitions of “violent felony” in other statutes, as in last term’s Sessions v. Dimaya.

But even as these and other challenges play out in the courts, Johnson’s real-world consequences in the three years since the case was decided raise other questions about recidivism, re-entry and policy.

For example, have people sentenced as career offenders and released early after Johnson gone on to commit more crimes? If some have, are certain, less vague sentence enhancements — as Sessions has recommended and as new legislation introduced by two Republican senators would impose — the proper “fix” to Johnson?

This post looks at some of the different factors at play.

Recidivism and Reentry After Johnson

In his speeches, Sessions indicated that Johnson “has resulted” in more than 1,400 inmates obtaining early release from sentences originally enhanced for prior convictions under ACCA’s residual clause. Of this population, he said, 600 have been arrested again.

Sessions highlighted certain crimes. For instance, in a speech on Aug. 1, he discussed six individuals who allegedly went on to commit murder, rape and aggravated assault after their release.

“Releasing repeat offenders has consequences,” he said.

Sessions called this recidivism rate “staggering” and “likely an underrepresentation” of illegal activity. He also cited a 2016 U.S. Sentencing Commission report on recidivism that found a 69.5 percent recidivism rate for people sentenced as career offenders, including those sentenced under ACCA.

Sentencing-reform advocates question the conclusions Sessions drew from his data.

Priya Raghavan of the Brennan Center for Justice observes that it’s unclear from Sessions’ speech what offenses caused the rearrests. She also suggests that the individuals specifically mentioned by Sessions are not representative of the entire population of 1,400 released prisoners. She points to two studies by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the one on recidivism mentioned by Sessions and one on career-offender sentencing enhancements.

The second report indicates that the most frequent “most serious” offense committed by people sentenced as career offenders who were rearrested was assault, not homicide or rape. The report also reveals that the percentage of rearrested career offenders who had assault as their most serious new charge (24.9 percent) was the same as for non-career offenders.

Raghavan clarifies that assaults are not all violent; simple assault “typically involves only a verbal threat against another person.”

The career-offender report does not include the percentages of rearrested career offenders who had homicide or rape as their “most serious” recidivism offense. However, the recidivism report shows that homicide and rape were the “most serious” post-release offenses committed by only 1.3 percent and 1.9 percent of all rearrested offenders, respectively. It’s not clear how many homicides and rapes were committed by people sentenced as career offenders, but Raghavan believes these low rates suggest that only a small percentage of the 600 rearrested prisoners released after Johnson committed such crimes.

Even for those who have recidivated, the extent to which being released early after Johnson contributed to their recidivism remains unclear. Amy Baron-Evans, the national sentencing resource counsel for Federal Public and Community Defenders, adds that the proper comparison for recidivism by those released early after Johnson would be with recidivism by those who served full sentences under ACCA’s enhancement.

It is “too early” for such an analysis after Johnson, but Baron-Evans points to a third U.S. Sentencing Commission report, “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders Receiving Retroactive Sentence Reductions: The 2011 Fair Sentencing Act Guideline Amendment.”

Although focused not on those sentenced as armed career criminals, but on drug offenders who received a sentence reduction after the Sentencing Commission gave retroactive effect to an FSA guideline amendment for certain drug offenses, the report reveals “no difference in the recidivism rates of offenders who were released” early and “similar offenders who served their full sentences.”

To confront recidivism, Sessions called on Congress to “fix the law so violent career criminals are not let out of jail early.” But Raghavan contests the implication that longer sentences will lower crime rates.

A Brennan Center report, “How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?,” reviews social science that “indicates that in the worst case scenario, longer lengths of stay produce higher recidivism rates, while the best case scenario points to diminishing returns of incarceration on public safety.”

John Seibler, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, suggests that longer sentences can reduce recidivism somewhat because individuals “age out” of criminality. However, echoing Raghavan, Seibler reports “general consensus” among researchers about the importance of prison programming toward reducing recidivism.

And indeed, to the extent that inmates released after Johnson have recidivated, that may be in part because they did not receive re-entry programming, despite the existence of policies promoting such support.

According to a 2007 program statement, the Federal Bureau of Prisons claims that the reduction of inmate recidivism is an objective of its Release Preparation Program. This program includes classes on different topics, such as employment and personal finance. Inmates “should enroll” in the program “no later than 30 months prior” to release. Additionally, a “unit release preparation phase” provides inmates with individual assistance from staff, which “usually begins in earnest” 11 to 13 months before release. This phase includes a focus on concrete “release plans” that address aftercare, conditions of supervision, release destination, relocation, residence and employment.

Inmates bringing Johnson claims for shortened sentences were often not in the final 13 or even 30 months of their original sentences. As a result, they did not all receive adequate re-entry planning before they were released, according to Benji McMurray, an assistant federal public defender in Utah. McMurray adds that the bureau rebuffed his attempts to coordinate important late-stage programming for his Johnson clients.

Bureau policy does state that “inmates are encouraged to participate in RPP courses throughout their confinement,” but McMurray says his clients report that meaningful opportunities did not always exist or were not helpful. Todd Bussert, an attorney in private practice with more than 20 years’ experience addressing issues related to the bureau, including as a member of the Sentencing Commission’s Practitioners’ Advisory Group, says of the bureau’s re-entry services that “a chasm between policy and practice” exists, so that the stated policy is not a “true barometer” of what is available to prisoners.

McMurray’s and Bussert’s anecdotal concerns find support in the Office of the Inspector General’s 2016 Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Release Preparation Program. The report, which was not focused just on those released as a result of Johnson, indicates that the bureau “does not ensure that the RPP meets inmate needs” and “releases many inmates who have not completed the RPP.”

Despite recidivism by some after Johnson, there are success stories as well. McMurray reports that clients of his have gone to school and joined the work force. One now runs a mechanics business.

Congressional Response

Earlier this month, two Republican senators, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, introduced the Restoring the Armed Career Criminal Act to, as they wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, “fix the law that was struck down.” In their press releases announcing the proposed legislation, Hatch and Cotton mentioned victims in their states whom Sessions also discussed.

According to a one-pager about the legislation, the act “would do away with the concepts of ‘violent felony’ and ‘serious drug offense’ and replace them with a single category of ‘serious felony.’ A serious felony would be any crime punishable by 10 years or more.”

Brian Colas, Cotton’s general counsel, and Baron-Evans agree that this new legislation would avoid the vagueness problems of the original ACCA residual clause. They disagree on how broadly the law would sweep. Whereas Colas points to the fact the crimes must be punishable by 10 years or more, which he takes as a proxy for the high seriousness of an offense, Baron-Evans worries about the many people regularly sentenced to less than 10 years but for whom 10 years or more would represent a statutory maximum.

Raghavan suggests that subjecting drug offenders to the same sentencing enhancement as violent offenders may not be warranted based on recidivism rates. In its 2016 report on people sentenced as career offenders, the Sentencing Commission split individuals into three categories: career offenders with only drug-trafficking offenses, those with only violent offenses, and those with mixed offenses.

People sentenced as career offenders with only drug-trafficking offenses had a lower recidivism rate than those in the other categories. Among those who did recidivate, those with only drug-trafficking offenses “tended to take longer to do so” than those in the other categories. Additionally, “offenders in the other two pathways who were rearrested were more likely to have been rearrested for another violent offense” than offenders with only drug-trafficking offenses.

The next step for the legislation is the Senate Judiciary Committee. Colas estimates that it will take six to eight months for this legislation to get through the committee. He notes that the act will be absorbed into a “broader fight” for criminal justice reform in Congress.

Andrew Hamm

Andrew Hamm

At the same time, Seibler observes that “if there’s anything Congress can efficiently pass, it’s a criminal penalty, especially when law enforcement wants it.”

Andrew Hamm, a scholar and commentator on the Supreme Court, writes the SCOTUSblog. A 2012 graduate of Harvard University, where he studied archaeology and government, Hamm previously completed a fellowship at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and an internship with the Campaign for Youth Justice. The Crime Report is pleased to reprint this blog article with the permission of the author, and welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The High Cost of Recidivism in Illinois: $13 Billion Over 5 Years

The estimated figure would be even higher if recidivism had not begun to decline since 2015, thanks to programs aimed at helping former inmates reintegrate into civilian society, according to a new study.

Recidivism now costs Illinois taxpayers over $1.5 billion a year —but the bill would be much higher if the state had not introduced programs aimed at improving counseling and other services dedicated to helping former inmates reintegrate into civilian society, according to a study by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (SPAC).

Projected over a five-year period that takes account of “accumulating” costs of sending people back to prison, the bill for recidivism in Illinois will be $13 billion if current trends continue, said the study authors, who based their estimate on the current recidivism patterns of the 59,000 individuals who are expected to be released from prison or sentenced to probation each year over this period.

 The study, which used cost-benefit analysis to arrive at what it called “the true cost of crime,” calculated that each time an inmate returns to prison because of a new crime or a violation of community supervision guidelines, it costs the state $151,662—representing an increase of 30 per cent since SPAC last examined the data in 2015.

Almost half of that cost ($75,408) is attributed to the “tangible and intangible costs borne by victims” of the new crime, according to the study. The resources used by law enforcement, court costs and renewed incarceration account for a third. Indirect costs make up the remainder.

According to the study, criminal history records show that those who recidivate account for a “substantial portion” crimes in Illinois each year.

“Each new conviction, each recidivating event, represents additional victimizations and costs to the system which accumulate over time,” the study explained.

But that estimate was still roughly $1 billion less than estimates of recidivism’s cost in the 2015 study, thanks to a decline in the numbers of those sent back to prison in the three years since.

SPAC, an independent commission of criminal justice stakeholders that reports to all three branches of government in the state, said the decline in repeat offenders was due to “evidence-based interventions,” such as reentry programs and social service counseling, designed to “help put offenders on the path to productive citizenship.”

It warned: “If recidivism is not addressed using research and cost-benefit analysis, the people of Illinois will continue to pay the high cost of maintaining the status quo.”

The studies, completed with the assistance of the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, offer some important clues for other states dealing with recidivism, according to analysts.

“Illinois is one of many states embracing evidence-based policymaking to make more informed, strategic investments that generate positive outcomes for residents and get the most from taxpayer dollars,” wrote the analysts: Sara Dube, a director of the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative; Steve Lize, an officer of the Initiative; and Alyssa Doom, a senior associate.

In Illinois, 43 percent of those released from prison each year are returned to prison for new crimes or probation violations, and 17 percent will recidivate within one year of release.

The full SPAC study is available here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Are Fewer Returns to Prison in Society’s Best Interest?

Background Pew offers data (below) showing a decrease in returns to prison. It uses US Department of Justice research. While we have no reason to dispute the findings, the question is why? Are fewer returns (revocations) to prison in our best interest? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning […]

The post Are Fewer Returns to Prison in Society’s Best Interest? appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Background Pew offers data (below) showing a decrease in returns to prison. It uses US Department of Justice research. While we have no reason to dispute the findings, the question is why? Are fewer returns (revocations) to prison in our best interest? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning […]

The post Are Fewer Returns to Prison in Society’s Best Interest? appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Does Anything Work in Parole and Probation?

Observation As we celebrate parole and probation week, don’t agents (and society) deserve more than a system that seems hopelessly adrift? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for […]

The post Does Anything Work in Parole and Probation? appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Observation As we celebrate parole and probation week, don’t agents (and society) deserve more than a system that seems hopelessly adrift? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for […]

The post Does Anything Work in Parole and Probation? appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Thinking Outside the Cell: Software Cuts Recidivism Among Texas’ Mentally Ill

In Dallas County, the main outlet of psychiatric care for those with mental illness is no longer the corrections system. A five-year initiative using predictive technology is helping to divert justice-involved mentally ill individuals into effective treatment programs.

In Dallas County, Texas, the main outlet of psychiatric care for those with mental illness is no longer the corrections system.

A five-year initiative aimed at bridging the gap between the legal and medical communities is successfully diverting justice-involved mentally ill individuals to effective treatment programs.

The key to the program is technology. The initiative uses software created by HarrisLogic, a Missouri-based technology and clinical services company that allows information about mentally ill individuals who fall afoul of the law to be shared among law enforcement, courts and health care providers.

Experts say such a tech-based approach could be critical to reducing overcrowding in U.S. jails.

There are now nearly ten times the number of mentally ill patients behind bars than those residing in the remaining state hospitals, according to a 2014 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, an Arlington, Va.-based national nonprofit focused on mental illness issues.

A prime example is the Dallas County Jail, whose jurisdiction stretches from the cities of Carrollton to Mesquite, to just outside of Arlington. Dallas County’s major detention center, the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, is the second largest mental health facility in Texas, according to the County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2014, the county received a $7 million grant from the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation for a “Smart Justice Initiative” to provide alternatives to jail for individuals with mental health problems who come into contact with the justice system. The county partnered with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), a research and development organization that helps Texans connect to mental health care.

Now in its fourth year, the jail diversion program has reduced recidivism from 31 percent in 2014 to 26 percent in 2017, according to the National Association of Counties.

It’s “an impressive example of how local jurisdictions can implement data-driven innovations that enhance public safety, reduce jail costs to taxpayers, and provide effective and humane interventions for people with mental illness,” said Marc Levin, vice president of criminal justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Alternatives to Punishment

Relieving jails of the burden of providing mental health services is only a first step towards the goal of developing alternative and non-punitive options for treatment. It doesn’t address the decisions that bring mentally ill individuals into the justice system in the first place, mental health advocates say.

The Dallas County initiative uses technology to assist in the decision-making by police, courts and health providers.

Following a 911 call, if it is determined that jail is an initially appropriate response to a troubled individual, data from the standard mental health and suicide screening tests (as per Texas standards) is automatically integrated with any other data related to the individual’s medical history contained in police or emergency response records as well as hospital data.

Traditionally, such data was kept in separate silos, but the software implemented through the Jail Diversion Platform, created by Harris Logic, integrates all the personal information critical to determining a defendant’s immediate needs and subsequent care.

That includes information such as previous arrests or incarcerations, previous mental health rehabilitation, and current medication, Hudson Harris, chief engagement officer of HarrisLogic, said in an interview with The Crime Report.

This data is entered in the County Adult Information System, a “master index,” which is used to share information in a manner that allows for access by court and jail authorities, clinicians, legal professionals, and pretrial staff.

Privacy Protection

No mental health assessment is conducted without the prior permission of a defendant’s attorney—likely a public defender. Further privacy protections require that each agency using the data can only view what is authorized to them through a data usage agreement.

By involving multiple agencies, the combined knowledge and expertise allows future treatment to be tailored to an individual’s needs─better than simply checking a box during a mandatory evaluation, authorities say.

This step is arguably the most crucial. Without accurate and swift identification, issues stemming from an individual’s illness can make it more difficult for persons to follow jail rules, increasing the likelihood they will face harsh disciplinary measures, or be subjected to violence from other inmates or from guards.

The second intercept in the initiative is through pretrial release, providing an escape from being trapped in the justice system.

“Mental health patients often spend more time in jail waiting for their case to be resolved than that of a mentally healthy convict,” observed Alisa Roth, author of Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness, in a recent article.

This may be due to the requirement in many states that inmates with serious mental illness undergo additional evaluations or be restored to competency before standing trial.

According to a survey of 40 state hospital officials by the Treatment Advocacy Center, 78 percent of the respondents were wait-listing pretrial inmates for hospital services. Often, mentally ill inmates spend more time behind bars waiting for their case to be heard than they would serve if they were convicted of the offense.

To remedy this delay, the comprehensive technology utilized in the Smart Justice program increases the likelihood of a pretrial release by allowing officials to determine if the person is a flight risk, or a danger to the public.

Using this complete data, a judge is more likely to issue a pretrial release, but with conditions for connection to treatment.

An evaluation of the Smart Justice Initiative from April 2017 to January 2018 showed that of the individuals presented before the magistrate for a release decision, 89 percent were successful in being granted a pretrial release bond. Of those granted bond, 100 percent were “released, connected to treatment, and supervised on bond with monitored treatment for the Court,” reports Dallas County.

Need for Coordinated Care

So why are mentally ill offenders more prone to getting re-arrested and re-booked than the general population, even with increased treatment availability?

The main reason, explains Hudson Harris, is the lack of coordinated care. This refers to the absence of follow-up treatment or supervision of mentally ill persons after they have been released from jail, typically back to the same environment that caused them to get arrested in the first place.

It’s here that the third intercept comes into play.

The software directly assigns an individual to a treatment program based on the data provided. Normally it takes weeks to find a person eligible for mental health care programs, but with this technology it takes an estimated 15 minutes or less.

Inadequate coordination is not only a problem within the jail system, but also in an individual’s contact with hospitals.

When dealing with an individual with a mental health illness, a hospital’s main goal is only to focus on the individuals’ current state of health─stabilize them, get them locked down, and then out the door as quickly as possible—with little to no coordination of care, says Harris.

There is no link between simply going to the hospital and getting better when you have a psychiatric condition.

In fact, a 2018 study from the American Psychological Association found that hospitalization has an iatrogenic effect on mental health, meaning the treatment causes a worsening of the condition.

 Follow-up Care Crucial

Connecting mentally ill persons with the care and follow-up that they require will ensure they are less likely to become involved in the justice system, said Levin.

“The initiative has resulted in rapid screening and diversion to appropriate treatment programs for thousands of individuals arrested for conducted related to a serious mental illness,” he said.

Providing access to treatment and follow-up care can also help authorities save money on their corrections budgets.

When mentally ill inmates do not receive consistent treatment, they frequently cycle in and out of the jails, forcing the facility (and taxpayers) to spend additional money on health professional staff, medication needed for certain mental illnesses, and simply housing them behind bars for longer periods of time.

A 2003 study reports that in Texas prisons, “the average prisoner costs the state about $22,000 a year compared to the cost of prisoners with mental illness, which ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 a year.”

Also at a state level, Texas spends $1.4 billion in emergency room costs and $650 million in local justice system costs annually to address mental illness and substance use disorders that are not otherwise being adequately treated, according to MMHPI.

The operation of increased treatment may seem like a burden to the jail’s budget, but simply by providing individuals with the appropriate care that they need, the cost of doing so declines; breaking the high-utilizer cycle and reducing contact of the mentally ill with the corrections system.

According to HarrisLogic, the Smart Justice Initiative will be able to trim over $30 million in these expenses over the five-year implementation period.

While the initiative has resulted in significant savings to Dallas County on jail costs and indigent defense costs, and helped reduce overcrowding in the courts system, Levin notes the challenge is to replicate it in other jurisdictions.

Laura Binczewski

Laura Binczewski

While Dallas received a large grant, other jurisdictions would have to provide upfront funding or use a pay-for-performance model in order to get similar initiatives off the ground, which may prove difficult for less-fortunate counties, he said.

However, the prospects for similar programs elsewhere have brightened thanks to the increased interest of private funders, and a call to action by the Stepping Up Initiative, a national effort to divert people with mental illness from jails by asking state and local officials to pass mental health legislation.

Noting that 451 counties across the nation have already passed motions calling for reforms to the justice system’s treatment of mentally ill, the initiative organizers said a nationwide consensus for change was crucial.

“Without change, large numbers of people with mental illnesses will continue to cycle through the criminal justice system,” the organization declared on its website, “often resulting in tragic outcomes for these individuals and their families, missed opportunities for connections to treatment, inefficient use of funding, and a failure to improve public safety.”

Laura Binczewski is a TCR news intern. She welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Thinking Outside the Cell: Software Cuts Recidivism Among Texas’ Mentally Ill

In Dallas County, the main outlet of psychiatric care for those with mental illness is no longer the corrections system. A five-year initiative using predictive technology is helping to divert justice-involved mentally ill individuals into effective treatment programs.

In Dallas County, Texas, the main outlet of psychiatric care for those with mental illness is no longer the corrections system.

A five-year initiative aimed at bridging the gap between the legal and medical communities is successfully diverting justice-involved mentally ill individuals to effective treatment programs.

The key to the program is technology. The initiative uses software created by HarrisLogic, a Missouri-based technology and clinical services company that allows information about mentally ill individuals who fall afoul of the law to be shared among law enforcement, courts and health care providers.

Experts say such a tech-based approach could be critical to reducing overcrowding in U.S. jails.

There are now nearly ten times the number of mentally ill patients behind bars than those residing in the remaining state hospitals, according to a 2014 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, an Arlington, Va.-based national nonprofit focused on mental illness issues.

A prime example is the Dallas County Jail, whose jurisdiction stretches from the cities of Carrollton to Mesquite, to just outside of Arlington. Dallas County’s major detention center, the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, is the second largest mental health facility in Texas, according to the County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2014, the county received a $7 million grant from the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation for a “Smart Justice Initiative” to provide alternatives to jail for individuals with mental health problems who come into contact with the justice system. The county partnered with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), a research and development organization that helps Texans connect to mental health care.

Now in its fourth year, the jail diversion program has reduced recidivism from 31 percent in 2014 to 26 percent in 2017, according to the National Association of Counties.

It’s “an impressive example of how local jurisdictions can implement data-driven innovations that enhance public safety, reduce jail costs to taxpayers, and provide effective and humane interventions for people with mental illness,” said Marc Levin, vice president of criminal justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Alternatives to Punishment

Relieving jails of the burden of providing mental health services is only a first step towards the goal of developing alternative and non-punitive options for treatment. It doesn’t address the decisions that bring mentally ill individuals into the justice system in the first place, mental health advocates say.

The Dallas County initiative uses technology to assist in the decision-making by police, courts and health providers.

Following a 911 call, if it is determined that jail is an initially appropriate response to a troubled individual, data from the standard mental health and suicide screening tests (as per Texas standards) is automatically integrated with any other data related to the individual’s medical history contained in police or emergency response records as well as hospital data.

Traditionally, such data was kept in separate silos, but the software implemented through the Jail Diversion Platform, created by Harris Logic, integrates all the personal information critical to determining a defendant’s immediate needs and subsequent care.

That includes information such as previous arrests or incarcerations, previous mental health rehabilitation, and current medication, Hudson Harris, chief engagement officer of HarrisLogic, said in an interview with The Crime Report.

This data is entered in the County Adult Information System, a “master index,” which is used to share information in a manner that allows for access by court and jail authorities, clinicians, legal professionals, and pretrial staff.

Privacy Protection

No mental health assessment is conducted without the prior permission of a defendant’s attorney—likely a public defender. Further privacy protections require that each agency using the data can only view what is authorized to them through a data usage agreement.

By involving multiple agencies, the combined knowledge and expertise allows future treatment to be tailored to an individual’s needs─better than simply checking a box during a mandatory evaluation, authorities say.

This step is arguably the most crucial. Without accurate and swift identification, issues stemming from an individual’s illness can make it more difficult for persons to follow jail rules, increasing the likelihood they will face harsh disciplinary measures, or be subjected to violence from other inmates or from guards.

The second intercept in the initiative is through pretrial release, providing an escape from being trapped in the justice system.

“Mental health patients often spend more time in jail waiting for their case to be resolved than that of a mentally healthy convict,” observed Alisa Roth, author of Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness, in a recent article.

This may be due to the requirement in many states that inmates with serious mental illness undergo additional evaluations or be restored to competency before standing trial.

According to a survey of 40 state hospital officials by the Treatment Advocacy Center, 78 percent of the respondents were wait-listing pretrial inmates for hospital services. Often, mentally ill inmates spend more time behind bars waiting for their case to be heard than they would serve if they were convicted of the offense.

To remedy this delay, the comprehensive technology utilized in the Smart Justice program increases the likelihood of a pretrial release by allowing officials to determine if the person is a flight risk, or a danger to the public.

Using this complete data, a judge is more likely to issue a pretrial release, but with conditions for connection to treatment.

An evaluation of the Smart Justice Initiative from April 2017 to January 2018 showed that of the individuals presented before the magistrate for a release decision, 89 percent were successful in being granted a pretrial release bond. Of those granted bond, 100 percent were “released, connected to treatment, and supervised on bond with monitored treatment for the Court,” reports Dallas County.

Need for Coordinated Care

So why are mentally ill offenders more prone to getting re-arrested and re-booked than the general population, even with increased treatment availability?

The main reason, explains Hudson Harris, is the lack of coordinated care. This refers to the absence of follow-up treatment or supervision of mentally ill persons after they have been released from jail, typically back to the same environment that caused them to get arrested in the first place.

It’s here that the third intercept comes into play.

The software directly assigns an individual to a treatment program based on the data provided. Normally it takes weeks to find a person eligible for mental health care programs, but with this technology it takes an estimated 15 minutes or less.

Inadequate coordination is not only a problem within the jail system, but also in an individual’s contact with hospitals.

When dealing with an individual with a mental health illness, a hospital’s main goal is only to focus on the individuals’ current state of health─stabilize them, get them locked down, and then out the door as quickly as possible—with little to no coordination of care, says Harris.

There is no link between simply going to the hospital and getting better when you have a psychiatric condition.

In fact, a 2018 study from the American Psychological Association found that hospitalization has an iatrogenic effect on mental health, meaning the treatment causes a worsening of the condition.

 Follow-up Care Crucial

Connecting mentally ill persons with the care and follow-up that they require will ensure they are less likely to become involved in the justice system, said Levin.

“The initiative has resulted in rapid screening and diversion to appropriate treatment programs for thousands of individuals arrested for conducted related to a serious mental illness,” he said.

Providing access to treatment and follow-up care can also help authorities save money on their corrections budgets.

When mentally ill inmates do not receive consistent treatment, they frequently cycle in and out of the jails, forcing the facility (and taxpayers) to spend additional money on health professional staff, medication needed for certain mental illnesses, and simply housing them behind bars for longer periods of time.

A 2003 study reports that in Texas prisons, “the average prisoner costs the state about $22,000 a year compared to the cost of prisoners with mental illness, which ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 a year.”

Also at a state level, Texas spends $1.4 billion in emergency room costs and $650 million in local justice system costs annually to address mental illness and substance use disorders that are not otherwise being adequately treated, according to MMHPI.

The operation of increased treatment may seem like a burden to the jail’s budget, but simply by providing individuals with the appropriate care that they need, the cost of doing so declines; breaking the high-utilizer cycle and reducing contact of the mentally ill with the corrections system.

According to HarrisLogic, the Smart Justice Initiative will be able to trim over $30 million in these expenses over the five-year implementation period.

While the initiative has resulted in significant savings to Dallas County on jail costs and indigent defense costs, and helped reduce overcrowding in the courts system, Levin notes the challenge is to replicate it in other jurisdictions.

Laura Binczewski

Laura Binczewski

While Dallas received a large grant, other jurisdictions would have to provide upfront funding or use a pay-for-performance model in order to get similar initiatives off the ground, which may prove difficult for less-fortunate counties, he said.

However, the prospects for similar programs elsewhere have brightened thanks to the increased interest of private funders, and a call to action by the Stepping Up Initiative, a national effort to divert people with mental illness from jails by asking state and local officials to pass mental health legislation.

Noting that 451 counties across the nation have already passed motions calling for reforms to the justice system’s treatment of mentally ill, the initiative organizers said a nationwide consensus for change was crucial.

“Without change, large numbers of people with mental illnesses will continue to cycle through the criminal justice system,” the organization declared on its website, “often resulting in tragic outcomes for these individuals and their families, missed opportunities for connections to treatment, inefficient use of funding, and a failure to improve public safety.”

Laura Binczewski is a TCR news intern. She welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org