In First Eight Years, Redeploy Illinois Diverted 1,232 Youths from Prison, Saving State $60 Million

Wikipedia Juvenile Convicts_(1903)

Young convicts in 1903. Photo credit:Wikipedia

Redeploy Illinois, a nine-year-old program Juvenile-Justice-Program that currently gives 42 counties via 12 sites across the state money to treat delinquent youths in their home communities instead of state prison facilities, has, since its inception, saved the state $60 million in incarceration costs. State Department of Juvenile Justice data show the average cost to house a youth at Illinois state facilities was $111,000 a year, while serving him or her through the Redeploy program cost $7,000. Department Secretary Michelle Saddler says the program “gives youth a second chance” at becoming law-abiding citizens.

Administered by the Bureau of Youth Intervention Services, Redeploy Illinois is designed to provide services to youth aged 13 to 18 who are at high risk of being committed to the Department of Corrections. A fiscal incentive is provided to counties to provide services to youth in the juvenile justice system by building a continuum of care for them within their home communities. Based on individual needs assessments, counties link youngsters to a wide array of needed services and supports within the home community, including case management, court advocacy, education assistance, individual/family/group counseling and crisis intervention.

Research has found that non-violent youth are less likely to become further involved in criminal behavior if they remain in their home communities and if appropriate services are available that address underlying needs such as mental illness, substance abuse, learning disabilities, unstable living arrangements and dysfunctional parenting. Unfortunately, many Illinois counties lack the resources to effectively serve delinquent youth locally, and this plays a significant role in the court’s decision to commit a youth to a correctional facility. Fortunately, the funds provided to the dozen Redeploy sites fills the gaps in their continuum of services, allowing them to cost-effectively serve youngsters in their home communities and reduce the system’s reliance on corrections. Redeploy Illinois has been hailed as a model for the nation in efforts to reduce cruel, inefficient and ineffective juvenile justice systems.

A study released in March of 2010 by the Justice Policy Institute, reported:

Redeploy Illinois is an example of the kind of program other states should embrace as a way to reduce prison costs and prevent young offenders from falling into futures dominated by criminal behavior and incarceration.

This progressive effort to build on the work done in other states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, which successfully reduced juvenile incarceration rates through similarly structured programs, is paying off. Evidence increasingly supports the conclusion that Redeploy Illinois provides a significant return on investment in terms of financial and human resources. The Redeploy Illinois Annual Report  presents data, analysis, and findings substantiating this claim. In financial terms, the average annual cost to serve a youth in the Redeploy program in 2013 was approximately 6% of the annual cost to house him or her in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ). In 2013 the average per-capita cost to house a youth at IDJJ was a reported $111,000. In 2013, 352 youth received full Redeploy Illinois program services, with an appropriation of $2,385,100. This equates to an annual Redeploy program cost per youth of $6,776.

In 2012, 238 fewer youth were committed to IDJJ because of the Redeploy Illinois program, saving Illinois taxpayers nearly $11.7 million. Through 2012, the Redeploy program has diverted 1,232 youth, saving the state a conservative $60 Million in unnecessary incarceration costs. From the human perspective, these 1,232 youth were given a second chance at becoming a contributing and law-abiding citizen of their respective communities. Beyond saving dollars, the program mends lives.

A commissioned report by Illinois State University found:

Parents and youth believe the program significantly improved family relationships, youth attitudes, communications with youth and offered opportunities for success. Youth coped with anger better, were more focused on positive goals and committed substantially fewer crimes. Further, probation staff, service providers and the judiciary all exhibited strong support for Redeploy Illinois.

An examination of the program’s first five years found that 73% of the 972 youth accepted into the program achieved a successful (66%) or neutral (7%) program discharge. Successful youth had a 27% lower recidivism rate than their unsuccessful counterparts. Of the 389 youth successfully completing the Redeploy Illinois Program, 61% of were not incarcerated during the three years following discharge from the program, compared to 34% of the unsuccessful youth. In addition, fewer than 13% of youth were terminated from the program because they had committed a new offense while in it.

More than 250 youths were served in the Restore Illinois program in 2013, but program officials fear budget cuts if the state’s income tax increase rolls back as scheduled in 2015.

San Diego Fights Rising Costs of Treating Homelessness and Chronic Alcoholism

Photo by Susan Madden Langford

A report just released by San Diego police shows the skyrocketing cost of treating chronic alcoholism and homelessness in San Diego.  According to the report, one man had to be transported to the hospital 52 times and was also arrested eight times in one year, at a cost to the city of $85,000.
In 2013, police arrested 7,600 people, many of them homeless, for drunk in public offenses. The report identified 12 chronic alcoholics who were transported 316 times in a year, at a cost to the city of nearly $470,000.
Sean Fitzpatrick, who has been homeless for more than two years, says:

A lot of these people turn to alcohol because its a cheap way to numb yourself from what you’re going through.

San Diego currently utilizes a number of programs and facilities to fight homelessness and chronic alcoholism. The Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) together with the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) 
are the city’s initial point of contact with both chronic homeless and chronic inebriates living on the streets. Every HOT Team is composed of police officers, county psychiatric clinicians and county mental health eligibility technicians. They seek out and engage chronically homeless persons and place those who are willing in housing linked with appropriate services. The San Diego Police Department and Community Services fund the law enforcement officers in this program.
Last year, the HOT program had more than 2,100 contacts with people on the streets, and 720 were placed in facilities other than jail. That’s an 84% increase from 2012, when 391 received placement. San Diego police and its partnering agencies are calling this program a success.

San Diego’s Serial Inebriate Program (SIP) is offered to chronically homeless, substance dependent people who have been arrested. Like HOT, SIP offers offenders an opportunity to participate in treatment, sober-living environments as an alternative to incarceration, as well as access to emergency room care, transitional housing or long-term care.

When one is convicted of public intoxication and custody time is imposed, clients are offered alcohol and drug treatment instead of incarceration. If the client accepts treatment, they are transported to St. Vincent de Paul Village Family Health Center for their medical and psychiatric evaluation and then to the substance abuse treatment program at Mid-Coast Recovery Center.

The County of San Diego Alcohol and Drug Services Division contracts with Mental Health Services, Inc, to provide substance abuse treatment, case management, City-sponsored housing and other services to support their treatment, plus recovery efforts to help them obtain self-sufficiency. During their six months of substance abuse treatment, clients work with their case manager to plan the next stages of recovery. Graduates have attained self-sufficiency, employment, housing and a renewal of their lives.

Teams work to assess the homeless person’s problems and identify how to help them from a range of solutions. Whether their homelessness has been caused by loss of income, psychological problems, substance abuse, lack of job training and/or other problems, multiple options are available to assist each person. This approach not only provides short-term answers but also develops permanent solutions. The teams provide care, resources and assistance to about 700 arrested chronic alcoholics per year.
San Diego Council President Todd Gloria says:

Living on the streets is more expensive for taxpayers. It seems counterintuitive, but the overreliance on emergency rooms, on 911, on interaction with law enforcement is more expensive than giving them housing in a facility like Connections Housing.

Recently, new Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced $160,000 allocated in the latest proposed budget for HOT and SIP—part of $1.9 million proposed to help with homelessness solutions.
In addition, through contracts with nonprofit service providers, funds from the San Diego’s Community Development Block Grant and Social Services programs help provide services to the Winter Shelter Program, Neil Good Day Center, 150-bed Cortez Hill Family Center and the Seniors Transitional Housing Program. The city’s Homeless Adminstrator represents the city on regional homeless committees, including the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless, the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care Council and the East Village Redevelopment Homeless Advisory Committee.
The City works in collaboration with the County of San Diego to provide mainstream resources to establish a continuum of care for episodic, transitional and chronic homeless individuals and families in the area.
To address the needs of homeless people with special needs, such as mental illness, chronic alcohol or drug abuse, or both, the Mayor and City Council have approved the development of a Special Needs Housing Program. During the past two years the program has provided 100 transitional beds for the severely mentally ill and dually-diagnosed homeless and 100 permanent supportive housing units. Under development are 80 beds for short and long-term residential substance abuse treatment for chronic inebriates and dually-diagnosed homeless veterans, with more housing types to be included in the future.

Countries are Realizing That Addiction is a Medical Problem Not Well Addressed by Imprisonment

Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

Around the world an estimated 625,000 women and girls are deprived of liberty, by either awaiting or serving a sentence. In recent years, the population of women prisoners has increased at a faster rate than that of men. In Latin America, for instance, the female incarceration rate has risen from 40,000 in 2006 to 74,000 in 2010.
Traditionally women addicted to illicit drugs have been handled by the criminal justice system. However, over the past decade or so, there has been a slow but gradual recognition that imprisonment is not the most effective response to treating those with drug addiction, and as a consequence, a number of countries have been giving consideration to and/or implementing alternative options to imprisonment (more so in Europea) for addressing drug use and addiction problems. Reasons include overcrowded prisons, cost effectiveness, human rights issues and social and economic development issues. Failure to address the health and social issues related to drug addiction has major implications for public health and safety.

But most especially it has been increasing evidence, informed by research over the past decade, that drug addiction is a chronic medical disorder which can be successfully treated. And that treatment for drug dependence and addiction works best outside of prisons.

Not everyone realizes that drug addiction produces long-lasting brain changes which persist up to two years after discontinuing use. Craving is triggered by people, places and things associated with drug use, and withdrawal continues years after stopping drug use.

While drug use may begin as a matter of choice, once this has progressed to dependence or addiction, a barrier has been crossed and the problem becomes a medical condition, (contrary to the prevailing perception that drug addiction is simply a social lifestyle-related phenomenon over which the individual has control) requiring an integrated approach to its management.

Drug use/addiction triggers a number of severe adverse health consequences which are either fatal or chronic in nature. All body systems are affected. For example, cocaine and crack cocaine use has been linked to heart attack, irregular and increased heartbeat, enlarged heart, brain hemorrhage, acute high blood pressure, renal disorder and impaired respiratory function.

Methamphetamine use causes leakage of the brain blood-barrier, brain edema and morphological abnormalities of brain cells. Marijuana use is associated with cardiovascular disease, impaired respiratory function, negative effect on cognition and increased risk of psychosis and psychiatric disorders. Adolescents and youth are most at risk for these conditions, which may have lasting negative effects on their psychological, emotional and mental health development. And these are just a few of the medical problems associated with drug use/addiction, none of which prisons or their programs are usually equipped to address.

Addiction, as with many other brain diseases, has embedded behavioral and social-context aspects that are important part of the disorder itself. These are played out in aggressive anti-social behaviors, engagement in criminal activities, impaired social interaction, willpower dysfunction and psychotic behavior. Such behaviors have enormous costs for society in terms of direct and indirect economic and social consequences and include: costs on human and financial resources, productivity lost, road and domestic accidents related to drug abuse, health care costs related to mental disorders and diseases that develop in relation to drug dependence, such as HIV.

Therefore, a different approach is needed to address the health, social and security results of drug addiction. Alternatives to imprisonment can prevent and reduce drug use and dependence and drug-related harms to health and society. Research has shown, and many practitioners working in the field support the findings, that alternatives to imprisonment offer workable solutions for addressing the health, security and development challenges emanating from drug addiction.

Many European countries have taken the lead in adopting alternative options for persons addicted to drug with regard to the type of offence committed. The US is still lagging behind. A number of International and UN Mandates support alternatives to incarceration as a preferred strategy for successfully treating drug addiction.

One UN agency has declared:

Member states should develop within the criminal justice system, where appropriate, capacities for assisting drug abusers with education, treatment and rehabilitation services. Close cooperation between criminal justice, health and social systems is a necessity and should be encouraged.

Drug Treatment City Partnerships is an initiative funded by the European Commission, and coordinated by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission and the Secretary for Multidimensional Security of the Organization of the American States. Their objectives are: a) to sensitize prosecutors and judges to drug treatment and rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration for drug-dependent offenders, b) to help improve the policymaking capacity of partner cities to support the provision of drug treatment by creating a learning partnership among programs in different cities, c) to build an exchange partnership among cities in Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union that will mutually reinforce the knowledge, skills and experience they need to better serve their problematic drug users and d) to allow participants in the judicial system, including individual judges and prosecutors, treatment centers, individual healthcare professionals, city officials and national representatives in the area of drug treatment to study and compare different models of treatment alternatives to incarceration.

RAMP Program Mentors At-Risk and Disabled Youth to Steer them to Careers Instead of Prison

In September 2012, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the federal Office of Justice Programs awarded a $1,538,000 grant to the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) to support its “Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program,” or RAMP, in 10 sites across the U.S. The RAMP initiative is a career-focused mentoring program for youth involved with or at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system.

The IEL’s goals for the RAMP initiative are to prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency and gang participation among at-risk youths, improve their academic performance and reduce dropout rates. To accomplish these goals, the IEL proposed to use the award to fund projects that were focused on decreasing truancy, reducing instances of arrest and incarceration, increasing social competencies and social support opportunities and guiding them through employment and post-secondary education processes. Over a three-year period, RAMP has helped more than 1,200 young people from all backgrounds stay in school, improve attendance and social skills and become part of a pipeline contributing to a highly skilled future workforce.

Identification begins with RAMP staff working with schools and juvenile justice agencies in local communities to identify students most “at-risk,” including students with disabilities, students involved in the juvenile justice system or foster care, tribal youth, and young people with emotional and mental health needs. Many youth involved with RAMP are from low-income, non-English-speaking families and are cared for in varied and often unstable family structures. Many struggle with low school performance and truancy. RAMP provides resources and support for youth with disabilities, including those with emotional and mental health needs, learning and cognitive disabilities, and physical impairments, as well as other youth at risk of not making a successful transition to adult life. Young people are referred to RAMP by community organizations, juvenile justice agencies, schools, and families.

Currently there are RAMP programs in Denver, Houston, Baltimore, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Lansing, Elmira NY, Lake City FL, Wayne County NY, Albany County NY and Windham County VT. The Elmira program has assisted families with children who have or are in need of behavioral, social, and chemical dependency interventions. It has also helped families participate in enhancement programs and services as an alternative to entering into family court or out-of-home placements. The Jacksonville program has worked specifically with a population of youth with autism-spectrum disorders served in special education classrooms. The program in Denver has worked closely with a program that educates students who have been expelled from school or are at-risk, and it also has recruited youth from an alternative high school that educates students who are incarcerated or awaiting trial.

The RAMP model uses a combination of group, peer, and individualized mentoring to promote the successful transition of all youth, including those with disabilities, to employment, continued learning opportunities and independent living. Youth participate in weekly career preparation-focused group meetings, including peer-supported goal setting and exploration of careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Each youth meets regularly one-on-one with a mentor to develop and implement an Individualized Mentoring Plan. Mentors are caring adults recruited from the community, schools, employers, and partner organizations. At the end of the program cycle, each group of youths works with an industry advisor to complete a high-tech project.

While in RAMP, youngsters have the opportunity to assess and explore their own career interests, develop a plan and set goals for their transition, create a resource map of their community’s high-tech industries, gain workplace skills, build resume-writing and interviewing skills, interact with employers and experience a variety of work settings, give and receive peer support, take advantage of group and personal leadership opportunities, design and build a high-tech-related team project and  have fun.

An assessment of RAMP’s results from2009-2012:
a) 99 percent of students stayed in school—well above overall national dropout rates and far above those for the at-risk students RAMP typically serves;  b) a 95 percent non-offense rate among RAMP participants; c) 90 percent completed the year-long RAMP program; d) 66 percent improved school attendance; e) 58 percent felt their social supports improved as a result of being involved in the program and f) 43 percent saw improvements in assessed social competencies.

But the impact of RAMP goes far beyond the numbers. In communities across the country, the following results have also been seen:
1) Young people involved in the juvenile justice system and those labeled
“at-risk” often see themselves as problems, but RAMP’s emphasis on careers helps shift young people’s self perceptions to their potential.
2) RAMP’s structured approach to self-assessment and goal-setting in a broad range of areas helps youth develop skills such as self-reliance, independence and the ability to set goals that yield solid outcomes in the transition to adult life.
3) The local organizations that operate RAMP in each community ensure that each site is grounded in the local job market and emphasize high-demand fields available close to home. Through mentoring, job-site visits and other career-focused experiences, employers are also exposed to RAMP students, which challenges—and changes—their previous perceptions of students with disabilities and those who have been involved with the juvenile justice system.

Involving family members is critical to begin services and has proven effective in supporting RAMP participants as they set and meet goals. Sites have introduced home visits and follow-up meetings and conversations to encourage family participation. To address the need for records and meeting space from schools, sites have also developed closer relationships with school districts and aligned activities to daily schedules and academic calendars.

RAMP partners curredntly include leading employers in the following fields:
retail management and food services, auto sales and repair, health and hospitality, aviation and aerospace, media and communications and public service.

Strategy to End Homelessness in Connecticut this Year


Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

Connecticut’s emergency shelters serve more than 14,000 men, women and children each year. Hundreds more go unsheltered, staying in cars, in tents in the woods or in abandoned buildings. Many citizens are committed to putting an end to that in 2014.

Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director, CT Coalition to End Homeless says:

Homelessness is a solvable problem, and a problem that we have to solve. Because it is wrong for the most powerful and prosperous nation in the history of the world to tolerate it, and because it is a wrong-headed and expensive public policy choice to do so.

A Pennsylvania study found that the cost of one child homeless costs the state $40,000 per year and Connecticut’s cost of living is about 20 percent higher than Pennsylvania’s. National studies prove that leaving single adults (often with mental illness or other disabilities) homeless on our streets is much more expensive–especially to our emergency services–than housing them with supports.

A few basic elements have to come together to end homelessness.

Crisis response: We need to coordinate our existing resources more effectively: bringing together separate providers of service to the homeless within one community, reducing duplication of effort and combining resources. That also means providers working together as a team to address the urgent housing crisis of every adult, every family with children and every homeless young person as quickly as possible.

Next step, housing: Our goal is to help each person who is homeless return to permanent housing. For some, this means the subsidy and support that they need to remain housed and stable, given the mental illness or other disabilities with which they live. For others, this means the helping hand they need simply to get back in the door of housing–assistance with a security deposit and first month’s rent. For all, it means offering help to connect them with the employment, health, education and similar resources that may benefit them.

The affordable housing gap: After we improve our ability to respond to the crisis, we need to end this problem permanently. The key element is more deeply affordable housing. Connecticut. needs to provide an additional 80,000 units of housing affordable for its poorest residents (those who earn less than 30% of the area’s median income). For 2012, to afford market-rate housing prices in Connecticut (where housing costs equal about 30% of income), household income had to be over $23/hour, but almost half the state’s occupations provide an average wage lower than the housing wage.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) Program allowed providers in Connecticut to greatly expand Rapid Re-housing services in 2010. In three years, 2010-2012, Connecticut providers re-housed 3,100 people in over 1,600 households.

Rapid Re-housing is short-term financial assistance and services such as case management, outreach, and housing search for individuals and families who are in emergency shelter or on the streets and need temporary assistance in order to obtain and retain housing. Rapid Re-housing does not meet the needs of every homeless person, but is an important option for many.

In the first three year since Connecticut clients received Rapid Re-housing services through HPRP, only a small number returned to shelter. These results are consistent with outcomes across the nation. Three years after receiving Rapid Re-housing, 96% of singles and 95% of families had not returned to shelters.

U.N.’s “Bangkok Rules” Seek To Eliminate Mistreatment of Female Prisoners

59_MAGGOTSSWEETForty months ago, in December 2010, The United Nations General Assembly adopted 70 comprehensive guiding Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders, since known as The Bangkok Rules. These fill a long-standing lack of guiding standards for policymakers, legislators, sentencing authorities, prison staff, probation services, social welfare and health care services in the community, and non-governmental organizations, helping them all to better respond to the needs of women offenders

More than 625,000 women and girls are currently held in prisons worldwide. Of America’s 2.2 million-plus incarcerated persons, more than 200,000 are women and over one million other females are on probation and parole, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. America’s “War on Drugs” has had a devastating effect on women and men, alike: with only 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. currently has 25 percent of the world’s inmates. This means American prisons and jails hold about one third of the world’s incarcerated females.

Historically, the architecture, security, healthcare, protections, family contact and training for prisons were all designed for men. When the first prison for women was built in Indiana in 1873, it was intended just to separate the sexes, not to meet the special needs of female offenders.

Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College in New York City, says:

In America, and around the world, women suffer more in prison than men do. Most female prisoners are housed with little consideration for their needs as women. Now there is a global guide for the treatment of female offenders called the Bangkok Rules.

Certain abuses happen to female offenders just because they are women. Over a decade ago I volunteered as an advocate for inmates in the HIV unit of Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for Women. Despite earlier lawsuits brought against Alabama’s correctional system, abuses continue there. Today, federal investigators call Tutwiler Prison a “toxic house of horrors where repeated and open sexual behavior” is the norm. A Department of Justice investigation found that for two decades prisoners at Tutwiler have been subjected to all manner of humiliation.

The list of abuses includes officers forcing women into sexual acts in exchange for basic sanitary supplies, male guards openly watching women shower and use the bathroom, a staff-organized strip show and a constant barrage of sexually offensive language, according to the New York Daily News.

Across the country and around the world, Female offenders need special protections. As with the suspected Tutwiler Prison guards, many female offenders are subject to rape by male guards and female inmates. Like male inmates, women struggle with substance abuse and mental illness. More women are victims of prior physical and sexual abuse before entering prison than men. Community re-entry programs are rarely designed for women. Prisons are located far from family support, breaking a mother’s bond with her children and weakening her community network, thereby making re-entry more difficult.

In America, racial disparities in the criminal justice system lead to longer sentences for African-American and Latino women. The population of incarcerated African-American women has increased 800 percent over the last two decades. Since nearly 70 percent of African-American children live in female-headed households, the loss of that parent to incarceration often means placement of children in foster care.

More than 80 percent of women prisoners have an identifiable mental illness, and one in ten will have attempted suicide before being imprisoned. And the UN says that women are imprisoned for crimes for which men are not. Also, women offenders face greater stigma than men.

Women visit males in prison, but males rarely visit their female partners at the same rate. Nor do mothers visit daughters as often as they do their sons. When women return home, they are often rejected, and struggle to rebuild their lives socially and economically.

The Rules cover a wide range of areas for improvement, including admission procedures, healthcare, humane treatment, search procedures, children who accompany their mothers into prison, alternatives to imprisonment, global advocacy, justice for children, pretrial justice, prison conditions, rehabilitation and reintegration, torture prevention and women in the criminal justice system.
Below I selected 15 of the 70 rules that I considered especially worthy of mention.

Rule 2: Newly arrived women prisoners shall be provided with facilities to contact their relatives; access to legal advice; information about prison rules and regulations, the prison regime and where to seek help when in need in a language that they understand; and, in the case of foreign nationals, access to consular representatives as well.

Rule 4: Women prisoners shall be allocated, to the extent possible, to prisons close to their home or place of social rehabilitation, taking account of their caretaking responsibilities, as well as the individual woman’s preference and the availability of appropriate programs and services.

Rule 6: The health screening of women prisoners shall include comprehensive screening to determine primary health care needs, and also shall determine:
(a) The presence of sexually transmitted diseases or blood-borne diseases; and, depending on risk factors, women prisoners may also be offered testing for HIV, with pre- and post-test counseling; (b) Mental health care needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder and risk of suicide and self-harm; (c) The reproductive health history of the woman prisoner, including current or recent pregnancies, childbirth and any related reproductive health issues; (d) The existence of drug dependency; (e) Sexual abuse and other forms of violence that may have been suffered prior to admission.

Rule 12: Individualized, gender-sensitive, trauma-informed and comprehensive mental health care and rehabilitation programs shall be made available for women prisoners with mental health care needs in prison or in non-custodial settings.

Rule 15: Prison health services shall provide or facilitate specialized treatment programs designed for women substance abusers, taking into account prior victimization, and the special needs of pregnant women and women with children, as well as their diverse cultural backgrounds.

Rule 16: Developing and implementing strategies, in consultation with mental health care and social welfare services, to prevent suicide and self-harm among women prisoners and providing appropriate, gender-specific and specialized support to those at risk shall be part of a comprehensive policy of mental health care in women’s prisons.

Rule 19: Effective measures shall be taken to ensure that women prisoners’ dignity and respect are protected during personal searches, which shall only be carried out by women staff who have been properly trained in appropriate searching methods and in accordance with established procedures.

Rule 20: Alternative screening methods, such as scans, shall be developed to replace strip searches and invasive body searches, in order to avoid the harmful psychological and possible physical impact of invasive body searches.

Rule 22: Punishment by close confinement or disciplinary segregation shall not be applied to pregnant women, women with infants and breastfeeding mothers in prison.

Rule 25: a) Women prisoners who report abuse shall be provided immediate protection, support and counseling, and their claims shall be investigated by competent and independent authorities, with full respect for the principle of confidentiality. Protection measures shall take into account specifically the risks of retaliation. b) Women prisoners who have been subjected to sexual abuse, and especially those who have become pregnant as a result, shall receive appropriate medical advice and counseling and shall be provided with the requisite physical and mental health care, support and legal aid. c). In order to monitor the conditions of detention and treatment of women prisoners, inspectorates, visiting or monitoring boards or supervisory bodies shall include women members.

Rule 28: Visits involving children shall take place in an environment that is conducive to a positive visiting experience, including with regard to staff attitudes, and shall allow open contact between mother and child. Visits involving extended contact with children should be encouraged, where possible.

Rule 31: Clear policies and regulations on the conduct of prison staff aimed at providing maximum protection for women prisoners from any gender-based physical or verbal violence, abuse and sexual harassment shall be developed and implemented.

Rule 45: Prison authorities shall utilize options such as home leave, open prisons, halfway houses and community-based programs and services to the maximum possible extent for women prisoners, to ease their transition from prison to liberty, to reduce stigma and to re-establish their contact with their families at the earliest possible stage.

Rule 47: Additional support following release shall be provided to women prisoners who need psychological, medical, legal and practical help to ensure their successful social reintegration, in cooperation with services in the community.

Rule 61: When sentencing women offenders, courts shall have the power to consider mitigating factors such as lack of criminal history and relative non-severity and nature of the criminal conduct, in the light of a women’s caretaking responsibilities and typical backgrounds.

Washington State Bill on Sealing Juvenile Court Records Advances

gavelA Washington State Senate bill to automatically seal court records for juveniles guilty of all but a handful of heinous crimes rolled through the state House and picked up momentum during Senate hearings. It has the worthwhile and compassionate intention of preventing people from marring their permanent records through youthful misjudgments.

The concept was so appealing, in fact, that lawmakers were willing to set aside issues like government transparency, court accountability and even the declaration of Washington state’s constitution that: “Justice in all cases shall be administered openly.”

Proponents of H.B. 1651 have cited instances in which young adults were denied jobs, housing or college admission when background checks uncovered things like drug infractions, thefts or assaults on their juvenile records. One young woman, now a law-abiding military wife, told legislators she has been unable to find current employment because she committed a theft when she was young.

Teens and young adults who have behaved themselves are already entitled to request the clearing or sealing of their juvenile records, but this requires knowledge of the opportunity and the following of several steps to do so. Today, the reach of the Internet creates urgency for doing this effectively.

A Seattle legal project now coaches juvenile offenders on how to navigate the court system to have their records cleaned up. The very need for this training exposes the fact that different people have varying levels of access to this potential remedy.

The original House bill would automatically seal virtually all records for juvenile offenders, from the point of arrest onward. But in an amended bill, senators, address the problem of unequal and inconsistent administration of the process for sealing records. Under the pending senate version, courts will administratively schedule opportunities for offenders who have turned 18 (and met all the terms and costs of their court sentences) to apply to have their cases sealed. They will be able to do this without appearing in court or hiring a lawyer.

An editorial in the Everett, WA Veterans’ website Herald.Net declares:

We live in a time when win-win solutions are disparaged, and compromise is viewed as a dilution of virtue. Champions of H.B. 1651 no doubt believe they are pursuing a great good by shielding young offenders from long-term consequences. The Senate action shows the problem can be addressed incisively, effectively and without undue harm to our state’s fundamental principles.

At present, in Washington, juvenile court records do not automatically disappear when a person turns 18. In fact, almost all of his or her juvenile records remain open for the public to view, unless they ask a court to seal them. The person must meet certain requirements to be eligible to have his or her record sealed. Eligibility depends on such factors, as the seriousness of the juvenile offense, the amount of time that has passed since their most recent conviction and the existence of any pending criminal matters.

Type A felonies certain to remain unsealed include murder, rape, arson, kidnapping, possession of an incendiary device, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, child molestation and other sex crimes.

As things stand today, the official juvenile court file is physically kept in the court clerk’s office in the county where the juvenile court matter took place. A record of one’s juvenile court case, from arrest through the disposition, is also available to the public on the Washington State Court’s website.

V.A. Budgets Spending Increase, End to Vet Homelessness in 2015

VA-logoVery recently the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released its proposed 2015 budget of $164 billion, reflecting a 6.5% increase in spending over the current year. Among the goals that will be achieved in 2015 are the end of veteran homelessness and the elimination of the agonizing disability claims backlog that has drawn criticism from all quarters.

The 2015 budget appropriates an additional $1.6 billion in funding the V.A.’s plan for ending veteran homelessness. The money would fund V.A. direct assistance and programs it operates with community agencies and non-profits to help veterans and their families at risk of becoming homeless.

One-third of homeless adult men and nearly one-quarter of all homeless adults have served in the armed forces. It has been estimated that nearly 200,000 veterans may be homeless on any given night and that twice that many experience homelessness during a year. Many other vets are considered at risk because of poverty, lack of support from family and friends and precarious living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. Ninety-seven percent of homeless veterans are male, and the vast majority of them are single. About half of all homeless veterans suffer from mental illness, and more than two-thirds suffer from drug or alcohol abuse problems. Nearly 40% have both psychiatric and substance abuse disorders.

The V.A. has numerous programs to benefit homeless vets. Eligible homeless veterans may be eligible for such benefits as disability compensation, pension, education and training, health care, rehabilitation services, home loan guarantee, residential care, insurance, vocational assistance and employment and compensated work therapy.

Homeless vets in need of health care, can phone the V.A. National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838 and be connected to a trained V.A. responder. This is a free service to homeless veterans, who need not be registered or enrolled in V.A. healthcare. A homeless vet who calls may be connected with the Homeless Program point of contact through the nearest V.A. facility.

The V.A., through the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, provides outreach, exams, treatment, referrals, and case management through trained and caring specialists, to provide the tools and support necessary to help veterans get their lives back on track.

Last year, V.A. provided health care services to more than 100,000 homeless veterans and its specialized homeless programs provided services to 70,000 vets. More than 40,000 homeless vets receive compensation or pension benefits annually. Although limited to veterans and their dependents, the V.A.’s major homeless programs constitute the largest integrated network of homeless assistance programs in the country, offering a wide array of services and initiatives to help veterans recover from homelessness and live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. Nearly three-quarters of homeless veterans use V.A. health care services and 55% have used V.A. homeless services.

The V.A., using its own resources or in partnerships with others, has secured more than 15,000 residential rehabilitative, transitional and permanent beds for homeless veterans. The V.A. spends more than $1 billion from its health care and benefit assistance programs to aid tens of thousands of homeless and at-risk veterans. To increase this assistance, V.A. conducts outreach to connect homeless veterans to both mainstream and homeless-specific V.A. programs and benefits.

These programs strive to offer a continuum of services that include:

  1. Aggressive outreach to veterans living on the streets and in shelters who otherwise would not seek assistance;
  2. Clinical assessment and referral for treatment of physical and psychiatric disorders, including substance abuse;
  3. Long-term transitional residential assistance, case management and rehabilitation;
  4. Employment assistance and linkage with available income supports and permanent housing.

The V.A. has awarded more than 400 grants to public and nonprofit groups to assist homeless veterans in 50 states and D.C. to provide transitional housing, service centers and vans for transportation to services and employment.

The V.A. sponsors and supports national, regional and local homeless conferences and meetings, bringing together thousands of homeless providers and advocates to discuss community planning strategies and to provide technical assistance in such areas as transitional housing, mental health and family services, and education and employment opportunities for the homeless.

V.A. programs for the homeless include:

  1. Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program operates at 133 sites, where extensive outreach, physical and psychiatric health exams, treatment, referrals and ongoing case management are provided to homeless veterans with mental health problems, including substance abuse. This program assesses more than 40,000 veterans annually.
  2. Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Program provides medical care and rehabilitation in a residential setting on V.A. medical center grounds to eligible ambulatory veterans disabled by medical or psychiatric disorders, injury or age and who do not need hospitalization or nursing home care. There are more than 1,800 beds available through the program at 34 sites. The program provides residential treatment to more than 5,000 homeless veterans each year. The domiciliaries conduct outreach and referral; admission screening and assessment; medical and psychiatric evaluation; treatment, vocational counseling and rehabilitation and post-discharge community support.
  3. Veterans Benefits Assistance at V.A. Regional Offices is provided by designated staff members who serve as coordinators and points of contact for homeless veterans. They provide outreach services and help expedite the processing of homeless veterans’ claims. The Homeless Eligibility Clarification Act allows eligible veterans without a fixed address to receive V.A. benefits checks at V.A. regional offices. The V.A. also has procedures to expedite the processing of homeless veterans’ benefits claims. Last year more than 35,000 homeless veterans received assistance and nearly 4,000 had their claims expedited by Veterans Benefits Administration staff members.
  4. Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Providers Program makes properties V.A. obtains through foreclosures on V.A.-insured mortgages available for sale to homeless providers at a discount of 20 to 50%. To date, more than 200 properties sold have been used to provide homeless people, including veterans, with nearly 400,000 sheltered nights in V.A. acquired property.
  5. Readjustment Counseling Service’s Vet Centers provide outreach, psychological counseling, supportive social services and referrals to other V.A. and community programs. Every Vet Center has a homeless veteran coordinator assigned to make sure services for homeless veterans are tailored to local needs. Annually, the program’s 207 Vet Centers see approximately 130,000 veterans and provide more than 1,000,000 visits to veterans and family members. More than 10,000 homeless veterans are served by the program each year.
  6. Veterans Industry/Compensated Work-Therapy and Compensated Work-Therapy/Transitional Residence Programs. Through these programs, the V.A. offers structured work opportunities and supervised therapeutic housing for at-risk and homeless veterans with physical, psychiatric and substance-abuse disorders. The V.A. contracts with private industry and the public sector for work by these veterans, who learn new job skills, re-learn successful work habits and regain a sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Veterans are paid for their work and, in turn, make a payment toward maintenance and upkeep of the residence. Approximately 14,000 veterans participate in Compensated Work Therapy programs annually.
  7. HUD-V.A. Supported Housing Program is a joint program with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides permanent housing and ongoing treatment to homeless mentally ill veterans and those suffering from substance abuse disorders. HUD’s Section 8 voucher program has designated more than 1,750 vouchers worth $44.5 million for chronically mentally ill homeless veterans, and V.A. personnel at 34 sites provide outreach, clinical care and case management services.
  8. V.A.’s Supported Housing Program allows V.A. personnel to help homeless veterans secure long-term transitional or permanent housing. They also offer ongoing case management services to help the veterans remain in housing they can afford. V.A. staff work with private landlords, public housing authorities and nonprofit organizations to find housing arrangements. Veteran service organizations have been instrumental in helping V.A. establish these housing alternatives nationwide. V.A. staff at 22 supported housing program sites helped more than 1,400 homeless veterans find transitional or permanent housing in the community.
  9. Stand Downs are one-to three-day events that provide homeless veterans a range of services and allow V.A. and community-based service providers to reach more homeless veterans. Stand downs give homeless vets a temporary refuge where they can obtain food, shelter, clothing and a range of community and V.A. assistance. In many locations, stand downs provide health screenings, referral and access to long-term treatment, benefits counseling, ID cards and access to other programs to meet their immediate needs. Each year, the V.A. participates in more than 100 stand downs coordinated by local entities. Surveys show that more than 23,000 veterans and family members attend these events with more than 13,000 volunteers contributing annually.

A pending initiative: The U.S. Department of Labor and the V.A. are collaborating on a pilot project to assist veterans discharged from incarceration to avoid homelessness and re-incarceration.

OK Senate-passed Bill Lowers Highest Female Prison Rate

67_MAGGOTSSWEETThe Oklahoma Senate Appropriations Committee last week gave unanimous approval to a measure seeking to lower the nation’s highest female incarceration rate. Senate Bill 1278 would authorize the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to enter into a Pay-for-Success (PFS) contract pilot program for those criminal justice programs that have had proven outcomes of reducing public sector costs associated with female incarceration.

With a female incarceration rate nearly twice the national average, Oklahoma’s rate has topped the nation every year since 1994, except in 2003. Pathways to incarceration for Oklahoma women often begin early, with physical and sexual abuse, chaotic home environments and poverty. These childhood challenges often result in decreased educational attainment and can lead to substance abuse and addiction and mental illness. Domestic violence and adult victimization are other pathways to incarceration for women. Children with incarcerated parents have a significantly higher risk of being incarcerated in the future, continuing the cycle of incarceration.

Author of the Oklahoma legislation, David, R-Porter said:

Oklahoma’s history of imprisoning nonviolent women, rather than treating them, is expensive, ineffective and damaging to families. It’s important that we offer alternatives to incarceration to get these women rehabilitated and back to the workforce and their families. Incarceration and poverty are a vicious cycle in our state that we can stop by giving these women the counseling and education they need to get clean, find a job and be able to support themselves without returning to a life of drugs and crime.

With a PFS contract, the state negotiates with a program to deliver a specific outcome, such as reduced incarceration. Private philanthropy provides upfront funding. Once OMES verifies that the diversion or reentry program was successfully completed by a participant, the state would then re-pay a portion of the savings realized. Another benefit of using these contracts is that state payment will never exceed its savings created through the contracted programs.

Under SB 1278, only service providers which have provided programs that successfully diverted women from prison and which have the capacity (size, scale, budget) to serve at least 100 high-risk women would qualify for this initial PFS pilot.

The first PFS contract will be delivered in Tulsa County, which is the largest contributor to the female offender population in Oklahoma. Since fiscal year 2012, Tulsa County has outpaced Oklahoma County and the rest of the state in its female offender receptions.

David adds:

This is a win-win opportunity for Oklahoma. OMES can find nonprofits that have successfully helped currently and formerly incarcerated women gain the skills they need to become self-sufficient, productive members of society again.

This will help decrease the length of sentences and lower recidivism rates, which will in turn help address the state’s prison overcrowding problem and save the state millions in incarceration costs. Once released, these women will also become taxpayers, creating new revenue for the state, and they’ll hopefully be able to support their families and get off state assistance, saving the state even more money.

David said the bill was written for the Women in Recovery program in Tulsa, but others can apply. Any provider program must have at least $2 million in capital, according to the bill.

Family & Children’s Services’ Women in Recovery program began in 2009 as an alternative to incarceration for women who have drug and alcohol addictions and face prison sentences. The program has admitted about 300 women and has had 131 graduates. Currently, 102 are now participants.

Ken Levit is executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), which helped create Women in Recovery. He said the state saves money that would have been spent on incarceration when women successfully complete the program.

The Women in Recovery program offers an alternative to incarceration for Tulsa County judges, district attorneys and public defenders, by combining strict supervision within a comprehensive day treatment format for women with substance abuse problems. Participant requirements and programs include:

  1. Gender-responsive, trauma-informed substance abuse treatment and cognitive behavioral therapies;
  2. Employment and vocational training;
  3. Comprehensive individual and group treatment;
  4. Family reunification/parent-skill training;
  5. Transitional safe and sober housing;
  6. Intensive case management and basic needs;
  7. Employment and vocational training;
  8. Primary health and dental care;
  9. Linkage to community recovery support groups;
  10. Life skills, education, transportation, volunteerism;
  11. Wellness and stress reduction;
  12. Community integration
  13. Aftercare services post graduation.

A woman is potentially eligible to enter WIR if she is 18 years of age or older, is involved in the criminal justice system, is ineligible for other diversion services or courts, has a history or is at-risk of substance abuse and is at imminent risk of incarceration. Women with children are a high priority for program admission. With more than 300 women sent to prison from Tulsa County in fiscal year 2010, the need for alternatives is crucial.

Tiny Houses for the Homeless: An Affordable Solution Catches On – Truth-Out

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Tiny Houses for the Homeless: An Affordable Solution Catches On Truth-Out For many years, it has been tough to find a way to house the homeless.
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