Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Waiting list for in-prison treatment gone for first time ever

The Austin Statesman reports on an important milestone in Texas' efforts to reduce prison overcrowding by expanding treatment and diversion programs ("After 15 years, waiting list ends for prison drug treatment programs," Aug. 5):
For the first time since the Texas prison system's substance-abuse treatment programs began nearly 15 years ago, amid controversy over their cost and effectiveness, programs have no waiting list, prison officials said Tuesday.

In years past, thousands of drug- and alcohol-addicted convicts had to wait for months — in some cases years — for space to open up in the treatment programs, filling prisons with felons who could have been paroled, and confounding a smooth transition of convicts from prisons to programs to parole.

But officials said that because the Legislature voted two years to ago greatly expand the treatment programs, the chronic backlog that had plagued them since their inception, at the behest of then-Gov. Ann Richards, is now gone. At the same time, the prison population has decreased slightly in recent months, part of a national trend.
This development will help further reduce prison overcrowding by allowing prisoners to complete requirements more quickly to qualify for parole, the Statesman reported:

Rissie Owens, chairwoman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the agency in past years had approved thousands of convicts for parole on the condition that they complete a treatment program, only to see them sit in prison for months — even years — because no space was available.

"We can actually vote them into a program now and have them get in," she said. "That's great."

Billed as the biggest shift for Texas corrections policy in years, the 2007 expansion of treatment programs by lawmakers greatly expanded the capacity of in-prison drug- and alcohol-treatment programs, opened transition treatment centers to help convicts succeed once they got out, expanded counseling and specialized drug-treatment programs, and opened lockups designed especially for habitual drunken drivers. The cost was more than $227 million.

In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry proposed building two medium-security prisons, but legislative leaders opted for expanding the treatment programs instead, despite some concern about whether the initiative would work. ...

State Rep. Jerry Madden, a Republican from Richardson who co-authored the 2007 legislation with Whitmire, said that having treatment beds available for convicts will mean that they can complete therapy programs before they are released from prison, giving them a better chance of success upon release. "This is exactly what we had in mind, where we wanted to be someday — even though I'm somewhat surprised we got here so quickly," Madden said. "We know the history of the programs shows they work if they're done right."

Bottom line: Investing in drug and alcohol treatment instead of building more prisons was an inspired approach that's clearly working in Texas. I'm sure state Sen. John Whitmire, Rep. Jerry Madden, and other legislators who bet on this strategy are happy and relieved to see things working out the way they predicted - I know I am!

14 comments:

The Geography Lady said...

what they dont tell you is that prisoners now stay only 6 months, instead of the 9 in the original program, and most parolees dont go to TTCs after the 6 months of prison-based treatment, they go straight home.
why hasnt TDCJ released data about this? surely the longer program with intensive aftercare was more effective, and surely they have the numbers to back it up - where are they?

Anonymous said...

This seems great, but The Geography Lady's comment gives me pause-- I wasn't aware the treatment programs had been shortened.

Where did you get the information, lady? I'd love to take a look if you have any data. I suppose you might work at the facilities and have firsthand knowledge of the program changes. Just interested...

Anonymous said...

She is right; I was on the ground floor when the program was initiated by then Gov. Richards. It was a good program. Sadly politics changed the program and did not allow for the next phase of the program when released on parole. I got so disgusted hearing; "Well, part of a program is better than none at all"!

Senior Warden, Retired 2004

Steven said...

Is there anyone studying outcomes of the program any more? Since the Criminal Justice Policy Council was killed in a snit by the governor's office, there is no central agency doing that kind of research. Anecdotal information says that the people coming out after six months instead of nine are not doing as well.

In addition, please understand that the Statesman article is addressing the In-Prison Therapeutic Community (IPTC) program for prisoners. While the SAFP waiting list for regular probationers is also down to nothing, the waiting list for those with special needs (e.g., mental health), is nine weeks for men and 12 weeks for women.

Something looming on the horizon might be unfilled beds for probationers. The state didn't do a study to decide how many more treatment beds were needed, so when they just grabbed some numbers out of thin air, they may have over-committed themselves. Local probation-run treatment facilities are beginning to have problems filling all their beds, because of all the additional state-run beds that are available. I wouldn't want to complain about too many beds, but it could send a bad message if we have unfilled beds.

The Geography Lady said...

i got the info from a family member who has worked in every phase of the program - prison-based, TTC, parole, and aftercare, since 1998.
the original framework was great, but its turned into a publicity game, instead of an actual program.

Boyness said...

The Geography Lady said...

i got the info from a family member who has worked in every phase of the program - prison-based, TTC, parole, and aftercare, since 1998.
the original framework was great, but its turned into a publicity game, instead of an actual program.

8/05/2009 11:07:00 AM
---------------------------------

Of course it's a sham...it's TEXAS!

strawberry6977 said...

Geography Lady:

It depends which In-Prison Treatment Program an inmate is voted (or approved) into....

The DWI Program is 6-months, and they are Paroled to a Parole Officer that is specially trained in Substance Abuse case-loads. The Parolee's are required to continue some sort of treatment (even if it's AA/NA Meetings), along with random UA's.

The IPTC Program is 6-months In-Prison, then they are required to stay in a Treatment "Halfway House" for 3 months, then go home with Outpatient Treatment for up to 12-months as "Aftercare". (SAFP is very similar, but normally for Probationers sent there by a Judge).

I am not concerned by the fact that these Programs are only 6-months long (and then some). Let's think about it: they are there 7-days per week, getting at least 8-hours worth of "Treatment/Therapy". Most people who go into Rehab are only there for 30-45 days. Or if someone goes to Counseling once per week for one hour. Statistics show that the success rate goes up significantly if an addict goes into In-patient Rehab for at least 3 months, if not more. How many days does it take to change a habit? 21 days. After that it is learning (and improving) a new/better habit! :-)

I personally am VERY glad they have rapidly expanded the Treatment beds! I am a HUGE advocate for treatment instead of pure punishment (inmates sitting there staring at a wall in their cell doing nothing to "better" themselves). Stastics show these Programs work, and it makes logical sense! Yeahhh Whitmire & Madden!!

strawberry6977 said...

Steven -
I totally agree that they should also look at expanding the SAFP beds as well.

I believe this will alleviate on it's own due to the fact that TDCJ has pulled Parolee's out from SAFP's and dedicated them solely to Probationers. Also, there is initiative to create more Halfway Houses and such to then free-up space in the SAFP's (instead of them sitting there waiting on a HWH bed to open up).

The Geography Lady said...

parolees are no longer required to go to TTC's (neither are probationers, that i know of.) most of the 'halfway houses' closed down in the past 4 or 5 years, as the state paid such a pittance they couldnt afford to stay open. so now parolees are going back to the same place they started in - their mothers house, or something similar, even if their counselor objects - its all rubber stamped. they do have to attend counseling and AA/NA, but thats not the same as a TTC.
if i was a conspiracy theorist, i'd say it was planned this way, so the program would fail and 'they' could do away with it.

Steven said...

The Geography Lady is absolutely correct about the pitiful reimbursement for TTC beds. Many of them shut down, and for a while, there was a backlog of probationers waiting to get OUT of the SAFPs. On the other hand, some of the TTCs NEEDED to be shut down (a Houston TV station documented major drug dealing and prostitution just outside one of them).

Most probationers are still required to go through a TTC, but there is an alternative program (the 4C program). Dallas, Fort Bend, and a few other probation departments use this program to bypasses the TTCs that are so poorly run. If the probationer did well at the SAFP and there is a good home environment, the client can go into intensive outpatient treatment instead of a TTC.

Anonymous said...

I have a daughter that has been in the SAFEP program in Hackberry @Gatesville. She waited in the county jail for almost 6 months to get into this program because a judge ordered her there due to breaking probation. She has never been in jail before. I find it hard to believe the wait to get in has been shortened. She has really done well and is a different person now that she is clean. She is in her fortys. She says she is happier than she has been since she was a child. I believe the program works if the person really wants it to work.
She will get out in October which will be 9 months. She has been a role model while there. She mentioned she might get to come home on the 4C program instead of a TTC house. We would really like that. Our home is very stable and clean. Most of the TTC houses are in horrible areas of towns with crack dealers outside of them and the neighborhood's are very bad. She said she was told that the 4C program had been halted. Does anyone know anything about this. Her area is McLennan County.

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