Massivedynamic.co
Community Supervision

The Marshall Project recently published an article that touches on a bill passed by the Illinois legislature requiring community corrections officials to maintain and publish data on electronic monitoring of former prisoners, including racial makeup and rates of recidivism. The bill was passed due to a hearing in which “advocates and legislators criticized the misuse of electronic monitoring, as an independent report showed how little data the Prisoner Review Board and Department of Corrections kept on those they placed on tracking devices.” Because of this, it is now required that the board and department produce an annual report of those who are electronically monitored and for what reason. It was a necessary step to take as community corrections officials admit they have little evidence to support that the ankle bracelets are being used to show the location of former inmates and protecting public safety. Considering the state of Illinois does not have a parole system and instead requires a period of supervised release for those who have finished their sentence, it is important that they have a functioning and secure system to monitor former prisoners with. With many companies not tracking their clients and using the data collected to improve services, TRACKtech has taken the initiative to provide a better solution to monitor clients.

TRACKtech,LLC provides community supervisors the ability to monitor the location of its program members through real-time check-ins and store the data to provide supervisors access to it when they need. Supervisors can monitor the program member’s pattern of life and at risk behavior through video conferencing and behavioral health assessments. Dynamic geo-fencing helps keep program members in or away from specific locations at appropriate times, notifying the supervisor if a location violation has occurred. Community supervisors have easy access to their entire caseload in TRACKcase, allowing them to monitor and track all program members. Ultimately, the ease of TRACKtech technology avoids misuse of monitoring and helps rehabilitate those under supervision. TRACKtech strives to provide solutions to better manage and improve success of program members while increasing public safety.

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

A recent article published by the Justice Center The Council of State Governments discusses the recently signed Assembly Bill 236 by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. It is a “Justice Reinvestment bill that aims to rebalance the use of criminal justice resources and invest in strategies that reduce recidivism, support law enforcement, and expand access to behavioral health services.” The legislation hopes the bill will “avert 63% of projected growth in prison populations over the next decade, saving taxpayers $543 million.” As prison populations continue to increase, many people who enter the Nevada prisons are convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug or property crimes. However, once in the prison system, there is a lack of appropriate behavioral health interventions. There is a significant gap in services for people who are struggling with substance addictions and/or mental illnesses. 

Rebalancing criminal justice resources is necessary and beneficial to an inmate’s health. This legislation is aiming to target interventions and services for people with behavioral health needs. TRACKtech, LLC is taking the approach of working to help inmates as they reenter society with their behavioral health needs by providing support and access to resources. These resources help to rehabilitate program members effectively and provide outlets for seeking help. Working with case managers, TRACKtech offers extensive support to help program members improve their behavioral health issues and mental illnesses. We encourage others to follow this lead as it is a significant problem the world population faces, in and out of the prison system. 

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
The National Alliance of Mental Illness Tri Cities in Washington is scheduled to host a discussion about their “Lourdes Prosecutorial Diversion” program. The program provides another option for law enforcement officers in dealing with low-level, non-violent offenders with symptoms of mental illness. It has been in effect for three years, and it identifies inmates with behavioral health conditions in Benton and Franklin County Jails, particularly where competence issues arise. The vast majority of those with mental health issues are less likely than anyone else to be violent, criminal, or dangerous. According to a study published by American Psychological Association of Crimes committed by those with a mental illness, only 7.5% were directly related to symptoms of a mental disorder. People with mental illnesses are not inherently prone to crime, but for those who have persistent illnesses that are chronic and have reoccurring flare ups that impact their judgement, they may do things they normally would not, such as shoplifting or trespassing.

Jail is not a place conducive to mental health treatment. The program is in effect to engage these patients with treatment so they can return to a functioning and coherent state. Upon completion of the program, which can span from six months to a year, the inmate’s charges will be dropped if they are low level crimes. The inmate will also receive resources such as housing and medical treatment.

A large majority of these inmates are charged for trespassing. Adriana Mercado, the Care Coordinator for the program, states that trespassing is very common because these individuals are symptomatic, or they haven’t been on the proper medications. “It’s really rewarding to get somebody into a home and see that change of behavior” as 50 inmates have successfully finished the program. According to Mercado, the recurrence rate has dropped substantially among these inmates.

The program collaborates with the crisis response and in-patient unit, Transitions, to determine the most suitable placement for each inmate so they can receive medication and work on becoming stable. The end goal of the program is to reduce recidivism for those who already face a very high chance of returning to prison once they are released.

Ken Hohenberg, the Police Chief of Kennewick, has stated that “from my perspective, this is not only going to be able to help keep people out of the criminal justice system that truly don’t belong there, but also provide some hope for their families and friends. We see this as the right thing to do.”
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Recidivism

Recidivism is an endless struggle for cities across the country. While there have been many strategies to combat this never-ending cycle, it is proving to be a difficult issue to tackle. Many prisons have cognitive behavioral treatment programs that include classes on substance abuse, anger management, and family relationships. These have been developed with the intention of correcting an inmate’s pattern of thinking and behavior. However, results have shown that limiting these programs to prison walls is not making a large enough impact. It’s imperative that these programs continue during and after the reentry process.

The main causes for recidivism are the lack of housing, education, familial bonds, and employment. To genuinely make a dent in the recidivism crisis, no person should leave incarceration without a program to assist them with these valuable necessities. Community-based programs to help fight recidivism have been known to be expensive, but they are far more affordable than the cost of repeatedly committing someone for the same crimes. The ultimate goal of any program that aims to reduce recidivism is to improve the lives of these individuals and give them the best chance for successful reintegration into their communities.

Regardless of what rehabilitation programs occur within prison walls, it is negligible if a rehabilitated person cannot find work, housing, or a support system. Returning to prison becomes a very real possibility despite all the progress they have made. It is not uncommon for many to return to a life of crime to support their basic needs, even if they were successful in prison. Building this kind of support system and finding employment for ex-offenders is not an easy task. Many people without a criminal history have difficulty finding employment. If we are to achieve this lofty goal of successful rehabilitation and a much lower rate of recidivism, resources for housing, employment opportunities and dedicated community programs are necessary to help those reentering society regain control of their futures.

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Recidivism

Convicted Felon. This title carries with it a heavy stigma, and it can completely transform how a person is viewed by their community. On April 8th, 2019 Leroy Green of WLTX19 interviewed two prominent figures of the South Carolina community about the effects of recidivism. Professor Jennifer Trombley from Claflin University and Beasy Baybie, a DJ for HOT 103.9, are both convicted felons. Their stories are troubling, intriguing, and give a unique perspective of what it is like to have gone through the criminal justice system and made it out to become successful in their communities.

Beasy was incarcerated when she was still mothering her children. She did not know what to expect upon reentry and feels that she did not have adequate information on how to continue with her life outside bars. “I lost everything – clothes, car, house. I went to jail with kids and came out with kids, but I didn’t know how to parent them. Certain programs need to be included for women. We have expectations to be a mother, but how can I mother when I’m still broken? There needs to be more availability of forms of counseling and groups who have been incarcerated and come out the other side to raise their children. There are programs to help you with paperwork, IDs and Social Security cards to prepare you, but why aren’t there programs to prepare you for what to tell your children? There are parenting classes outside all the time, we need more in prison.”

They both believe that helping people with their reentry to society is incredibly important. Barriers to success need to be evaluated, and resources and programs to help with this need to be readily available. Mass incarceration does not work and has not been working for years. In five years, developing programs for recidivism has greatly cut down on the tax dollars spent on incarceration expenses and improved the recidivism rates for inmates in these programs. The recidivism rate fell 25% in 2014 and the state saved $491 million, while helping to improve the lives of generations of inmates.

There have been many monumental steps taken by the most recent presidents to overcome the ever-growing dilemma of recidivism. President Obama declared a National Reentry Week, in which he put into place 31 million in grants for job training for employment. These programs are evidence based and included many proven strategies to help those in need. He procured permanent support for housing, mentoring and parent programs, and put into motion the ban on the felony box in resumes for federal agencies. Prospective employees cannot be asked if they have a felony until after they have been offered employment. President Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act that is full of monumental justice reform, such as greatly reducing the time spent by those incarcerated with good behavior, and moving prisoners closer to their families. Even with these changes, there is still a great deal to go before we have solved this crisis.

“We need to figure out how to not even send them to jail,” states Baybie. “They wound up in prison because they have no hope or options. Their circumstances made it feel necessary to commit these crimes. There are some brilliant people in prison that shouldn’t be there.” Trombley agrees, mentioning that “most of those who are in jail are marginalized populations. They struggled before and were in terrible circumstances. Why do we think that without sufficient resources and help that when they get out the circumstances would be any different?”

Many people do not consider recidivism or the incarcerated population to be something that affects them, but it affects them more than they could imagine. “You should care because eventually, they get out, and having people come home and not understanding how to get jobs or parent or be part of the community affects us all. We are all connected, and it would benefit us to help them not go to prison, and if they do, to help them become more productive when they get out,” states Beasy. Eventually, they do get out, as 80-85% of inmates reenter society. They need to be equipped with the proper tools and strategies to acquire a job and be less likely to reoffend. The Second Chance Program in South Carolina helps to drive these positive changes and assist reentering civilians to acquire jobs and better their lives. Out of the 783 people who went through the program, 75% got jobs.

Both Beasy and Trombley have hope for these new programs and the positive changes to justice reform, but they still feel that felons are looked at with a debilitating stigma. “It feels like we’re segregated. People don’t think that we are like them, but we are people. Their children go to school with our children. They’re driving around the streets with them. We are people that exist,” Beasy says, sadly. Trombley concurs, stating that “it almost feels like people don’t want us to succeed. The stigma feels like they want us to fail.” Jail was not easy for either of them to endure, and when they got out, it was like a whole new terrifying world.

They share a unifying desire to better their lives and the lives of others after being released. They both are driven by their faith and want to leave the world with a positive message that lives longer than they do. “It’s all about purpose, living one day to the next.” They want to spread awareness of the struggles faced by those rejoining their communities and what can be done to help. Ultimately, they want to spread love.

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