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JULY 21, 2011: Peg's Blogs on Hiatus...

As many friends and regular readers know, I've been dealing with a lot in my personal life, lately, while my workload has continued to grow. Rest assured that I'm in the best of company, and getting by with a little help from my friends. Still, I need to take a break and focus on centering myself. That means this site will be neglected even more than it has been.

Until I'm able to get a grip on blogging regularly and thoughtfully again here (or until someone else steps in to anchor the site), I encourage people to check out Carl Toersbijns' blog (he's a former Deputy Warden for the AZ Department of Corrections, and while not an abolitionist, he's a strong advocate for the prisoners with mental illness, and for broad-based prison reform in AZ). You may also want to drop in on Middle Ground Prison Reform's site for news.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Salt River Juvenile Justice: Diverting Our Native Teens

When I originally posted this article I expressed my skepticism about the appropriateness of a corrections department getting prevention money that could otherwise be used for books and teachers and substance abuse treatment - which might just reduce the need for a law enforcement presence in the schools and state prisons for children. I also suggested that the article below was biased in favor of the DON'T program it describes because of the authors' respective roles with it.

I didn't explore the article any deeper than that, though, and having given it only a superficial read at the time, at best, I owe these folks an apology. I'm not at all down with the Scared Straight model of working with juvenile addicts and other offenders. I also still think it's a mistake to tax our food to pay for law enforcement agents to fulfill the role of civilian social workers in schools and on the streets. In doing so, we divert precious resources from high-risk communities to monstrous state institutions while allowing local after-school programs to be gutted and teachers to be fired, all the while feeding that school to prison pipeline.

Nevertheless, I think these guys are on the right track by aspiring to reduce the incarceration and recidivism rates among indigenous youth through evidence-based practice and diversion efforts instead of just planning to add more facilities to warehouse them in.
I'm impressed with the Salt River Department of Corrections, their probation department, and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale, that they can think outside the box. All have taken some political risks to treat criminalized youth and their families more holistically than the rest of the system does - they really deserve some credit for that.

Given that we reside in one of the most punitive and cruel states in the country, this model being tested out is fairly progressive. It's evidence-based, not fear-based, and it positions the responsibility for rehabilitating most youth back in the families and communities they came from, rather than in archaic state penal institutions.

It's refreshing to find people in corrections who really want to put themselves out of business. Ironically, while the Salt River DOC is trying to de-institutionalize and de-criminalize their people, the Arizona Department of Corrections is planning a major expansion over the next few years, having invested their resources in lobbying for more stringent penalties and sentencing guidelines - and of course more prisons - instead of putting their billion dollar budget where it might actually prevent more crime.

Drug rehabilitation, affordable supported housing, and effective mental health treatment programs could easily eliminate the need for 5000 new beds behind bars - as could the sentencing reform that Representative Cecil Ash has been working on in the AZ state legislature. The ADC, however, isn't about to lead that charge - Director Chuck Ryan is clearly too invested in the status quo.

As for the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections under new director Charles Flanagan: I don't see him driving many progressive reforms in juvenile justice either. I think Governor Brewer just brought him in to be her hatchet man and dismantle the agency, sending young prisoners back to their respective (and mostly broke) counties to bear the weight of incarcerating (and hopefully rehabilitating them) in local facilities.

Anyway, this is a good article, though it lacks some details. For more information on Diverting our Native Teens (DON'T), contact William Daly at the Salt River Department of Corrections at 480-362-7299, or by snail mail at 10005 E. Osborn Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85256

Thanks to the reader out there who convinced me that I needed to take another look at this program...


During, After and Before…?
By William Daly , CPM, CCE, CJM, & James Short, M.S.C.J
Published: 08/29/2011

Normally the phrase that is used to describe a particular sequence of events is “before, during and after”. Most departments and organizations invoke this “before, during and after” philosophy to provide a balanced approach to their work and to ultimately reach their departmental and organizational goals. Conversely, corrections and detention departments have always operated in their own, rather unique, sequence. With correctional staff working every minute of every shift in a world that is surrounded by the walls of the secure care facility, it is no wonder that corrections departments have focused primarily on the “During” portion of this sequence.

Nearly every secure care facility in the free world faces the same dilemma of choosing which programs and services will be the most effective “During” inmate incarceration. This particular dilemma is prevalent in all secure care facilities, large or small, regardless of population or location.

External pressure also plays a role in the operation of a correctional facility. One school of thought believes that investing in programs will prevent inmates from a life of recidivism, thereby reducing costs to taxpayers and creating a more positive community. There is also the school of thought that stanchly supports the idea that incarceration should be punitive and that we should just lock them up and throw away the key. Regardless of which way or how far the correctional pendulum swings, this debate will continue to exist.

Recently the discussions about the “After” phase and the sequence and the ideology surrounding the concept of re-entry have made its way front and center in the correctional conversation. Administrators are continuously looking for evidence based programs that will change behavior and assist in preventing a return to incarceration. As we all know there are many different variables when it comes to the re-entry process, including substance abuse, mental health, financial resources, employment and other stakeholders. Academics, politicians, public safety administrators and the general public are now focusing much of their attention on the re-entry process in the hope that it can quell what appears to be a vicious and endless cycle of recidivism.

For the purpose of this discussion we will focus our attention on the “Before” phase of incarceration. The question that is being posed is whether or not this is a phase of the sequence that a corrections department should be responsible for, concerned about or even delve into. Is it corrections job to simply provide care, custody and control for the “During” phase of the sequence or do they have the responsibility to participate in the “Before” and “After” phases as well? From my experience I understand that most corrections agencies, facilities and administrators have their hands full simply trying to managing the day to day issues that arise inside the walls of their correctional facilities. But what if a department had the financial resources, staff and facility to provide assistance and truly have an impact on the re-entry process?

The Salt River Department of Corrections in cooperation with The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale has decided to once again join forces and test this unorthodox approach to prevention. Those of us in this business remember the days of “scared straight”. Despite its early popularity and now the debate in regards to its effectiveness, we are making another run of it but with a twist of our own.

Our program is the culmination of a number of programs and ideas such as scared straight, drug court, diversion as well as a number of other youth development curricula. It is our belief that "Effective Intervention" is the key to diverting the community youth away from a life of criminality and delinquent behavior. Research has shown that prevention and intervention programs, such as this one, can have a substantial impact on the number of youth entering the jail system or re-offending and becoming recidivists.

The DON’T Program stands for Diverting Our Native Teens. This program is a collaborative effort on the part of the Salt River Department of Corrections, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale and the Salt River Probation Department. This program provides community youth, that are in the early stages of the juvenile justice system, an opportunity to find an alternative path to incarceration and the ability to become successful, contributing members of the community. This program focuses on goal setting, financial literacy, career exploration, substance abuse awareness, positive choices, culture and relationships. The overall goal of this program is to provide these at risk teens the social tools that are necessary to make positive choices, become productive citizens and divert them from becoming further involved in the justice system.

Although many of our participants come from dysfunctional or nontraditional families, we encourage the families to be involved in the process and to participate in the program with their children. Many of the parents that we work with don’t have the skills or knowledge to help their children and believe that they are doing their job by merely dropping their sons and daughters off at the program and hoping that someone else will produce positive results We try to emphasize to these parents that they are a key component in this process and the success of their children lies in their participation and support.

The final and most important component is the tracking of the youth’s performance and recidivism after they have successfully completed the program. As much as we like to throw out concepts and ideas, we cannot truly show the impact of the program and the success of the youth without raw data and true statistics.

The 80’ and 90’s set the stage for a huge shift in the mentality of corrections departments across the country. This paradigm shift changed the focus of corrections from a treatment driven model to a much more punitive approach. Not only did this affect the operations in the adult system but, unfortunately, this mentality ultimately filtered down to the juvenile system as well. Thankfully it appears that the pendulum is quickly swinging back towards the direction of rehabilitation. At Salt River we consistently strive to be ahead of the pendulum.

Can a corrections department move outside its comfort zone and provide services outside of the facility that will have a direct impact on incarceration and recidivism rates? Can a corrections department delve into the “Before” phase of incarceration and truly make a difference for generations to come? Only time will tell. I contend that corrections, as an industry, cannot afford to dismiss any alternatives to incarceration. We must always be looking for new ideas and programs that can assist with lowering incarceration rates and helping people become productive members of society, even if those programs don’t fall directly inside the walls of the facility.

Editors note: author, William Daly, CPM, CCE, CJM is a veteran in the field of Corrections, entering his 25th year. Daly is a retired Captain from the New York City Department of Correction and Currently the Acting Director of the Salt River Department of Correction, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Co-Author James Short, M.S.C.J. is the Director of Correctional Programs for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...but still don't get exactly how the program works. I also don't get why the community's resources for preventing juvenile delinquency should run through the corrections department".

Maybe you should give them a call and ask them instead of doubting a new way of handling an old problem which no one else appears to have solved.