Saturday, June 02, 2007

Study: Cuts to state jail drug treatment increasing Texas crime

A new research paper from the Urban Institute called Returning Home (available here) says the removal of drug treatment from Texas state jails in 2003 by the Legislature made it more likely offenders would commit new crimes. The Urban Institute analyzed the relation between drug treatment and recidivism through interviews with hundreds of inmates released from TDCJ. According to the Houston Chronicle ("Many inmates miss out on drug rehab," June 2), the Urban Institute:

concluded [that] inmates locked up in state jails — facilities reserved for those serving sentences of two years or less for nonviolent offenses — have less access to drug treatment and are less likely to take part in educational classes, job training and other self-improvement programs than those serving longer sentences at state prisons that typically house violent criminals.

Regardless of where the offenders serve their time, such programs are important for their future success, researchers say.

"People who did participate in those programs did end up faring better," said Nancy La Vigne, an Urban Institute senior research associate who worked on the project. "They were less likely to return to prison and typically more likely to find stable employment." ...

Such programs also save the state money in the long run, one advocate said.

"It's cheaper, and it's better law enforcement and better crime prevention to have good programs," said former Harris County District Attorney Carol Vance, a former Texas Board of Criminal Justice chairman who has done prison ministry work since 1992.

"Any way you can keep these people from going back (to jail), you really save a lot of money."

Inmates in state jails were more likely to have a history of frequent drug use before their confinement — 68 percent of those surveyed — compared with those in prisons, where about half reported such histories, the Urban Institute's research showed.

Yet, only 6 percent of those confined in state jails with substance abuse problems received treatment, compared with 34 percent of those in prisons, researchers found.

That's because substance abuse programs were eliminated from state jail facilities in 2003, when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, like most state agencies, faced drastic budget cuts, TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.

Legislators, however, have placed $5.8 million in TDCJ's budget — $2.9 million for each of the next two fiscal years — to bring drug treatment programs back to state jails, Lyons said.

How soon those programs will be restored is not yet known.

Drug treatment is especially important for state jail confinees, who typically are not subject to probation or parole when they are released, correctional officials say.

Without treatment, "they're just going to go right back out there into society and pick up where they left off," said Mark Hicks, assistant warden of the Kegans State Jail, which houses more than 600 male inmates in downtown Houston.

4 comments:

former substance abuse counselor said...

http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/Bush-Criminal-Justice-Ivans.htm

Scroll down to the paragraph that starts "In the '94 campaign...

In essence, lack of drug treatment to incarcerated people, was a slam at then governor Ann Richards. Way to go George....again.

Anonymous said...

Yup, Bush took money from treatment and spent it to build TYC into what it is today. Great idea from the genius who gave us the Iraq war! From Ivins/Dubose:

In the '94 campaign, Bush specifically campaigned against the drug treatment program, vowing to take $25 million out of it to incarcerate more juveniles. The original program has been pretty much bastardized; mostly because nobody is paying much attention to it, it has no champions. Even Bullock didn't try to save it, feeling it was "Ann's deal" and he was sore at her. In the '95 session, Representative Rob Junell got a hard-on against the folks at TCADA for allegedly wasting money, so he took the program away from them

and put it under TDCJ, ' in whose less-than-tender care it has since resided. Bottom line: At the end of '94 Texas had 4,261 beds for in-prison, back-door, the therapeutic-community unity treatment with follow-up, and there were another 2,000 on line. In late 1999 there are 5,300 beds available for all the drug-treatment programs, but only 800 are for the backdoor beds originally envisioned. The state has relied on experts who say most of the prisoners with addictions are in denial so treatment would be a waste of money. (Treatment, of course, is designed to break through denial.) Another problem is that the back-door program in TDCJ depends on the parole board first deciding to release a con, and the parole board just doesn't do much paroling.

It is especially tragic that Texas let this opportunity slip away, since more and more studies of successful programs in other states show an astonishing payoff. The federal Bureau of Prisons says inmates who have received treatment are 73 percent less likely to be rearrested in the first six months after release. A 1997 Rand Corporation study says treatment reduces about ten times more serious crime than conventional law enforcement does and fifteen times more than mandatory minimums. A state of California study shows that every dollar spent on treatment saves seven dollars in reduced hospital admissions and law-enforcement costs. ...

When Bush ran for governor in 1994 he made a big issue of what appeared to be an increase in juvenile crime. He would announce: "It's always been normal, when a child turns into a criminal, to say that it's our fault-society's fault. Well, under George W. Bush, it's your fault. You're going to get locked up because we aren't going to have any more guilt-ridden thought that says we are somehow responsible." So in his first session, Bush was part of a big push to change the juvenile-justice code. It was completely rewritten, and the population of the state's juvenile prisons has since tripled. Hal Gaither, a Bush adviser and Dallas juvenile-court judge who describes himself as "the most conservative man in Texas," told The New York Times, "If George W. Bush can do for the United States what he has done for Texas, no one can lick his boots."

If you think the main purpose of a juvenile-justice system should be punishment, by all means, lick Bush's boots.

The trouble with Texas as the National Laboratory for Bad Government is that we never throw away an old bad idea. The poor man from the Times identified "protecting the best interest of the child" as "the historical role" of the juvenile-justice system. Not in this state. The old Texas Youth Commission was so notoriously punitive it finally came under the scrutiny of judge justice, long before the adult prisons did. On August 31, 1973, justice issued a restraining order that is among the most hideous reading in the annals of American law. In it, the Youth Commission is enjoined from beating, gassing, racking, encouraging homosexual rape, denying medical care, and torturing kids in reform school in a specified list of ways that make you want to vomit just reading them. Getting tough on youth crime a new idea? Not in this state. We already tried it. It didn't work. For years, the single highest predictor of who wound up in adult prisons in Texas was who had done time as a juvenile; we were running factories making adult criminals. That's changing-the predictor, not the system. In a depressing portent of things to come, corrections systems are now finding that the single greatest predictor of who winds up in prison is having a father who did time in prison.

Anonymous said...

I get frustrated because we Texans just swing back and forth from one extreme (punishment) to another (treatment) and never realize that the answers are almost always in the middle. Damn I was born and bred in this state but sometimes we are way too hard headed for our own good.

JT Barrie said...

Again we talk about false choice - based on false premises. Drug treatment should be done outside the criminal justice system. Drug laws should not be a means to intervene in other peoples' lives. IF these drugs really do cause addiction, a premise that has never even been studied for legally available drugs, then they should be taxed with money earmarked for treatment - instead of used to balance state budgets.
Most users of any drug do so in a responsible manner. Those drugs that are hard to manage get scant use when legally available. See Moonshine and Everclear for examples. We have cigarette addiction on the run and we've confined use in public - without involving the criminal justice system. We've increased use of smoked Cocaine, Meth and Marijuana over tenfold with prohibition and denied use of milder versions of these drugs that were more prevalent in the process.
If we continue the drug war one of two things is most likely to happen:
1] People might finally figure out how harmful this prohibition scam is to the community and end it - hopefully for the right reasons.
2] We will become desensitized to disgusting drugs like we are to video and screen violence. We will start wondering "How did people ever become addicted to Crack" when newer more deadly concoctions make their rounds on the street.