Monday, November 10, 2008

Evaluating new DWI treatment programs

Here's something interesting I just noticed on the Texas Legislative Budget Board's website: A request for proposals (pdf) to evaluate new in-prison DWI treatment programs. Proposals were due Oct. 20, so they'll be picking a vendor soon if they haven't already. Here's a description of the work evaluators will be doing according to the RFP (p. 15):
A key focus of the 80th Legislative session was the provision of funding for the state's criminal justice system to enhance treatment programs and manage projected offender population growth over the next several years. One such initiative was the establishment of a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in-prison treatment program.

The In-Prison Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Recovery Program (500-bed male facility) is located at 900 Industrial Drive, Henderson, Texas 75653, as part of the East Texas Treatment Facility. The program is operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC) through a contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Eligible offenders are provided a DWI-specific course of treatment for an average period of six months with the provision of a Comprehensive Assessment Plan to be submitted to the Parole Division to be included in the Parole Case Summary. Eligible DWI participants are defined in Section 14, Article 42.12, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 493.009, Texas Government Code.

Funding was provided to TDCJ to design and begin operating the program during fiscal year 2008. The program became operational in March 2008, and as of August 31, 2008 has received 544 offenders.

This study will provide independent, objective information and analysis of the funded program. The study will collect, consolidate, and present information regarding specific policy actions and steps the State of Texas can take to:
  • Better coordinate state resources;
  • Ensure better delivery of state/vendor services;
  • Identify TDCJ and program infrastructure issues that are barriers to program quality;
  • Identify and make recommendations for changes to state laws that conflict or offer a deterrent to the success of the program;
  • Identify opportunities to enhance community-based transitional housing opportunities; and
  • Ensure that the basic foundation of the TDCJ program is conducive to reducing recidivism.
All of these issues should be reviewed with an aim to improve program quality, while also seeking to reduce contact with the state's criminal justice system.
This formative and process evaluation study should, at minimum, address:
  • Realistic strategies to provide treatment and services to rehabilitate offenders;
  • Assess credentials and training of program staff as well as TDCJ's oversight staff;
  • Assess program structure and organization to ensure best quality;
  • Ensure that program is operating from legitimate evidence-based published curriculum;
  • Evaluate the proper placement of offenders in the program;
  • Evaluate Program Services to ensure the existence of a strong assessment of needs, dual diagnoses responses, response to co-occurring mental issues and relapse plans; and
  • Assess the size and scope of the program design in relation to the spectrum of in-prison substance abuse programs offered in TDCJ and the demand for the program.
3.6 Deliverables
The study requested in this RFP requires a minimum of two (2) written deliverables and various scheduled meetings as described by the following:

Deliverable One: Initial progress report is due January 27, 2009. The initial progress report must include an outline of steps taken to provide an assessment of program quality, offender placement into the program, availability and use of a strong assessment of needs tool, and assessment of credentials and training of staff. The report will provide an initial assessment of the quality of the program provided. In addition, this report will include any recommendations for policy or law changes.

Deliverable Two: Final report is due April 20, 2009. This report will provide a complete analysis of the Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Recovery Program. The analysis will include a final conclusion on all the deliverables provided in Deliverable One. In addition, this report will determine if TDCJ is following the initial Individualized Treatment Plan (for those offenders in the DWI program) completed during initial intake of offenders entering the prison system. The report shall also include an assessment and recommendation of any program infrastructure issues and state laws that are
This is all well and good, but the scope of work doesn't seem to address the evaluation metric that actually drove the Legislature to launch the program in the first place: Has the existence of in-prison substance abuse treatment increased the rate at which the parole board approves release for DWI offenders? That's why this program was created - because parole board chief Rissie Owens said if offenders had received no treatment, parole board members were reluctanct to let them back on the streets. So now that treatment is in place, will they grant parole for offenders who complete the program? The scope of work identified for program evaluators doesn't seem to address the question. (Perhaps it's too early to tell - the earliest offenders who began the program in March would have only finished in September.)

Another thing, in the long run, it seems to me that if Texas is going to shift further toward treatment oriented, evidence-based criminal justice policies, it's absolutely essential that TDCJ (or some other entity like the now-defunct Criminal Justice Policy Council) develop expertise in-house to evaluate them, not just rely every time on outside consultants to examine every individual, narrow program.


Anonymous said...

What the parole boards do is anyone's guess. This points to the fact that the BPP should have straight, set guidelines on granting paroles. Rehab, education, work programs should all be part of this. The services are sadly lacking. I don't know the exact figure offhand of dui offenders currently incarcerated in the overpopulated TDCJ system, but I dare say its more than the 600 bed program in East Texas. There are other odds and ends programs scattered throughout the state, but no cohesive Alcohol Rehab is in place. I'mm afraid I'm always a little apprehensive of the private contractors in TDCJ.

Anonymous said...

The In-Prison Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Recovery Program must be evaluated as soon as possible, as it can help hundreds or even thousands of people with alcohol abuse. It is going to serve as an opportunity for these people to change their bad habits, and overcome the alcohol addiction.