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Rehab, not jail, shows promise in lowering recidivism

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In Knox County, the threat of incarceration is met with a shrug.

Substance abuse, with methamphetamine being the drug of choice, is putting many behind bars again and again. For some, drug and alcohol abuse begins as young as 8 years old and being arrested is just part of the routine.

“Sometimes (being imprisoned) does give a wake up call,” said Rev. Peter Haskins, “but to a lot of the folks it’s a real acceptable thing to go to jail.”

To help combat the drug problem, Haskins, an ordained United Church of Christ minister, started the Life After Meth program in May 2005. Two years later, LAM partnered with the Knox County jail to bring the program to the facility.

The community-model initiative includes parenting classes, drug treatment, employment classes and Bible study. Haskins said the program has helped participants find jobs, provided support after they are released and is currently preparing to add transitional housing.

“It’s a good way to teach,” Haskins said of putting LAM in the jail. “It is a great setting. It has worked beautifully.”

The LAM program in Knox County is one example of taking a different approach to the problem of crime. Communities around the state are employing alternative courts and treatment programs to address the root cause of why some individuals commit felonies and misdemeanors. In turn, these efforts are credited with reducing the rate of recidivism.

The rewrite of Indiana’s criminal code under House Bill 1006 attempts to boost these alternative programs by calling for intensive probation, rather than lengthy incarceration, for low-level offenders.

Money is among the primary motivators for the shift. At the current rate of incarceration, the Indiana Department of Correction expects its offender population to grow from the current 27,647 to 29,000 by 2020, according to a fiscal report by the Legislative Services Agency. At that point, the department will likely have to request funds to build a new prison.

Instituting the proposed changes in the criminal code bill could delay that population growth possibly into the 2030s. Along with not having to budget for the cost of building a new prison, the state would save on operating costs. The LSA report noted the Miami Correctional Facility has an operating budget of $32 million for fiscal year 2013.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the criminal code is not being revamped solely because of the fiscal element. The focus is to have the punishment equitably match the crime.

“But the reality is, if we don’t make that adjustment, we’ll be building another half-billion dollar prison in Indiana in the immediate future,” he said.

At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, advocates of alternative programs emphasized these different approaches are helping certain offenders change their behaviors and stop the cycle of repeated incarcerations. In the long-term, diverting people from criminal activities and keeping them out of jail and prison saves the state money.

However in the short-term, these programs cost money.

As it was introduced, HB 1006 called for the establishment of a probation improvement fund with a state appropriation of $1.9 million and funds from other sources. That funding was removed in the House.

Testifying before the Senate Committee, Don Travis, president of the Probation Officers’ Professional Association of Indiana, strongly encouraged the committee to re-insert the funding for evidence-based programs that can cut crime.

“If this bill goes into effect without the proper community resources, this bill will not have the effect that is anticipated,” he told the committee members. “Our recidivism rates will continue to grow if we don’t have the resources or the funding to implement the way the bill is currently being structured.”

Changing behavior

Monroe County’s drug court, presided over by Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff, is an example of the type of success alternative programs can have. The drug court has posted a 47 percent reduction in recidivism and an 87 percent graduation rate.

Within a very structured program, the drug court combines a high level of accountability with a high level of treatment. Defendants are placed under intense supervision, appearing in court one or two times a week and meeting regularly with their probation officers or case managers.

In addition, they are sanctioned swiftly for any missteps with punishments ranging from community service to immediate remand into jail. They are also given treatment that focuses on changing their thinking so they can modify their behaviors.

“These kinds of programs are working and making a difference,” said Monroe Circuit Judge Teresa Harper. “People become more accountable, and they change the way they actually think. Their responses are not the same.”

The alternatives to incarceration that work best, Travis said, are those that change behavior. Not addressing the underlying cause will just land the defendants back in jail when they are released from supervision.

Cognitive restructuring, on the other hand, gets defendants to think about the reasons why they engaged in criminal activity. When they become aware of their impulses and of the drivers behind their behaviors, they can then change.

“There are pockets of programs occurring all over the state,” Travis said. “If we had more resources we would be able to do those things across the entire state.”

The programs do not work for every defendant. But, both Travis and Harper said, when individuals are ready to overcome their addictions or change their behaviors and the programs to help are not available, these people will slip even further.

Necessary spending

Resources to provide services have more of an impact when they are directed to certain offenders. Travis made a distinction between defendants who commit misdemeanors or D felonies and defendants who are unlikely to break the law again. Specifically, not all low-level offenders are low-risk offenders, he noted.

Research shows that giving more programs and services to low-risk offenders increases the likelihood they will re-offend. This group of people has shown a tendency toward self-correction. The better option is to put the resources toward moderate- and high-risk offenders.

Monroe County partially funds its drug court with the fees paid by the defendants. Those fees do not cover all the programs and services, but Harper emphasized “spending is absolutely necessary” for long-term gain.

“Yes, it is more expensive to run a drug court, but in the end it is saving the county because (the offenders) don’t come back” into the system, she said.

When Daviess County built a new jail, Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit told the architects to put classrooms near the inmate living quarters. The space is used for the Restructure Addiction with Recovery and Education (RARE) faith-based program which is aimed at transforming offenders into productive, law-abiding citizens.

Like LAM in neighboring Knox County, the RARE program teaches anger management, parenting skills and vocational skills. The LAM and RARE programs have been credited with reducing inmate populations in the counties’ jails, reducing recidivism and curbing inmate fights.

Harbstreit told the story of a former inmate whose mother introduced the young man to meth. Faced with spending years behind bars, the man entered the RARE program and was able to change his life, becoming a certified welder at a local company and eventually being promoted to supervisor and transferred to Iowa. He has since married and is still living and working in the Hawkeye State.

“If anything ever worked,” Harbstreit said of RARE, “this is really working.” •

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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