Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Senate Dean promotes treatment options for nonviolent offenders

The Longview News-Journal has excerpts from a graduation speech given by Texas state Sen. John Whitmire to offenders who've completed the state's new DWI treatment program in Henderson ("Whitmire: Programs needed for nonviolent offenders," Dec. 16):
The chairman of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said Monday that the state needs to be more proactive in creating programs for nonviolent offenders within the prison system.

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, told more than 130 graduates of East Texas Treatment Facility's DWI Recovery program — formed after Whitmire introduced its legislation in 2007 — that additional recovery programs are the ticket to reforming the state's prison system.

"We've done a real poor job dealing with nonviolent offenders," Whitmire said. "When you're out drinking and driving you put me, my family and others at risk. But when you're not drinking I don't think you're a threat to society."

The six-month program teaches DWI-convicted inmates from across the state life skills, alternatives to drinking and driving and the medical lifestyle and stress effects of alcohol.

The Department of Criminal Justice awarded the $8.9 million bid for the pilot program in January. In 2009, the amount will increase to $13.3 million, according to department spokesman Jason Clark.

Inmates who successfully complete the program go before the state's parole board, which decides to grant inmates' release or send them to another facility.

"This is an experiment in the state's eyes and I've got colleagues that don't believe in this," Whitmire said. "But I really want this to work." ...

Whitmire said preliminary data shows that many of the inmates are living successful lives since completing the program.

"This is not rocket science stuff," he said. "If you provide the treatment, they are going to do very well once they leave."


18 comments:

rage said...

AT what stage do they enter this program? If it's that expensive it must involve incarceration, meaning we got to them after their 3rd, probably.

Treatment-only without incarceration at an earlier stage would sound even better to me, although it does sound an awful lot life our fabulously unhelpful probation programs...

Unfair Justice said...

What type of treatment do you offer a person that is a RSO but never offended anyone. It was an online sting they never met at a location. 29 times they asked him to show and he never did, there was No porn found, just a overzealous detective. but juries found him guilty. Said it was based on "Attempt to Attempt". What type of treatment do you recommend?

sunray's wench said...

Please, please Sen. Whitmire, stop using the term 'violent offender' if you are not going to qualify it more precisely. If you mean offenders who have been convicted of a violent (or 3G) offence then just say so, but if you mean offenders who have been incarcerated for any offence but have shown themselves to be compliant while in prison, you would be mopping up a lot more people who could really be useful back in society, especially those who were incarcerated in their late teens and who are now in their 40s and 50s.

Anonymous said...

Sunray - while not fair or just, Texas politicians must be tuff on crime. A shift to tuff on violent offenders is an improvement. If we can slowly and surely redefine tuff on crime as tuff on violent offenders then we can begin to turn Texas away from warehousing men and toward rehabilitation.

We have to take baby steps toward a rehabilitation model of criminal justice. In time, even "violent" offendrs - what ever that means - will benefit from a shift away from long sentences and toward rehabilitation.

I agree, there is no justice in Texas. The cost of an aging and ailing prison population will be too expensive for Texas and ultimately, they will find a way to reduce the length of time individuals stay in TDCJ.

Don said...

Rage is right. Treatment only without incarceration at an earlier stage would be preferable. And you are also right about the fabulously unhelpful (great phrasing, Rage) probation departments. The problem is, they have to become involved with the (in)justice system to get them into treatment, and anything TDCJ runs is by definition pretty useless. If we could get a court to refer to a private treatment program and pay for it, after an alcohol/other drug evaluation, that would be better than waiting till the felony (3rd) DWI occurs, and sending them to some TDCJ treatment program inside razor wire. Also, Sen. Whitmire, Sir, you people have a habit of allocating a bunch of money for programs when you are flush with it, then promptly pulling the plug when things get tight. We voted for 12,000 treatment beds (SAFPF, IPTC, etc) in the 90's, as a part of 25,000 new beds overall. Cost us somewhere around 2 Billion. Then came the Republican Revolution, sporting on it's coattails one G.W.B. and the treatment beds started becoming general population beds, until the budget crisis of 03 when treatment became nonexistent. We're all on the bandwagon to spend money on treatment now, but what happens when the recession makes it to Texas. We need consistency, and solutions, not political posturing. I am getting scared again as we closer to an odd-year January. As Molly Ivins would say, many a village is about to be without their idiot.

Anonymous said...

The villige idiots aren't disappearing....they just relocated....to the lege.

Don Dickson said...

I gotta better idea...how about for their $30 billion, Detroit promises us they'll start making cars with drunk-proof ignition systems?

Don said...

To Don Dickson: How do you do that other than with the notoriously unreliable and troublesome Ignition Interlock Devices that MADD is pushing to have installed on all new cars? So you have no problem blowing into a tube to get your car started, and at intervals while you are traveling, even though the machine may detect your mouthwash, shaving lotion, etc, and shut your car down? Even if you are a lifelong tee-totaler? How about the "sobriety checkpoints"? You know, the ones that SCOTUS said were obviously counter to the Bill of Rights, but we need to allow them anyway? (That was the "strict constructionists" talking). How about random drug tests for the public? How about suspiscionless searches, including forced blood draws that they classify as a "search"? Come on.

Anonymous said...

How do you help someone witha drinking problem when they first have not admitted they have a problem?

Is the treatment program at state jail mandatory or voluntary?

Why does it take a three convictions to make a felony? Is it because the first and second times they were caught they didn't mean to do it, got probation and promised not to do it again? Or is because the state recognizes first and second offenses as revenue generating crimes that require the defendant to pay
probation fees, dwi surcgarge fees and attend dwi education programs?

Don said...

to anonymous regarding treatment in prison and/or state jail: offender usually accepts it in lieu of something deemed harsher. Why does it take three DWI's to make a felony?
All of your answers will do, but theoretically if a person has 3 DWI's, it's likely they are not gonna quit driving and drinking without some kind of intervention, whereas anybody, and I mean ANYBODY can get 1 DWI, if you ever drink any amount and drive, and maybe even if you don't.

Anonymous said...

Don,

Thanks for your response. I'm a sheriff's deputy and for the 30 years of my career, I have felt that a lot of of the penalties that are imposed are designed to generate revenue for the state.

And counties, like the one I recently retired from, incarcerate misdemeanor and non violent felony offenders for probation violation without bail and they remain in jail with little or no treatment.

Most of them are placed in jail for not paying their probation fees which I guess someone believes the fees are more important than treatment. At least probation officers feel that way. I sense these fees must help pay their salaries.

County probation departments are weak sisters and do little in the way of promoting treatment. I can only imagine what sort of monitoring they will do if mandated to babysit TYC offenders, speaking of course of our local probation department.

Change has been long needed.

Anonymous said...

Whitmire said preliminary data shows that many of the inmates are living successful lives since completing the program.

"This is not rocket science stuff," he said. "If you provide the treatment, they are going to do very well once they leave."

Grits,

Is there any data regarding those who completed the treatment program and have since been arrested for DWI?

Medical Treatment for Tinnitus said...

well thanks for your offer. It will help.

Don said...

Anon(604): Any "preliminary" data regarding completion of the DWI program would be pretty useless given the amount of time that program has been in existence. You need a couple of years before you could actually draw any conclusions from it. Which just proves once again that Whitmire and most of his colleagues don't get it. Many of the graduates were probably leading "successful lives" (whatever the hell that means) before they got popped the last time.

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