AN IDEA BORN OF NECESSITY – NOW A MODEL FOR SUCCESS
By Julio Naudin, Program Development Manager, Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office
A recent New Orleans Times-Picayune article quoted a Pew Center study that found Louisiana’s incarceration rate to be up by 272% since 1982. Our own statistics show that from 1999 to 2009, the un-sentenced Lafayette Parish offender population increased 32 percent; while the sentenced population increased 47 percent.
In dealing with higher incarceration rates, Lafayette Parish decided early on in the last decade that rather than build traditional prisons, it would be better to establish a different approach … one that was cost effective, decreased recidivism and insured public safety.
To date, we have been able to accommodate the significant increases in our offender population, without adding square footage to our correctional facility by establishing several diversionary programs early on.
These programs included a day reporting program, a work release program and an inmate industries enterprise.
While these programs were started with limited resources and a handful of staff, they all have become the fastest growing areas in both the corrections division and the Sheriff’s Office. Their success has relied on a shift in priorities brought about by a new way of thinking. This new way of thinking is best expressed by Rob Reardon, Director of Corrections at the Lafayette parish Sheriff’s Office.
“People need to understand that locking up offenders in little rooms is the most expensive and least effective way of dealing with the problem. Every day that someone sits in a jail cell without access to a program that could help turn their lives around, deal with their substance abuse, or advance their education is time wasted,” Reardon says.
This new way of thinking is the catalyst for the Community Corrections Campus which opened its doors in 2002 with the launch of a home monitoring program called, GPS Offender Tracking. It has grown to include a variety of adult and juvenile programs and services including:
• Adult and Juvenile Day Reporting
• Leadership and Resiliency
• Intensive Outpatient Counseling
• Truancy Enforcement
• Corrections Department Training
• Alternative to Suspension program
Today the Community Corrections Campus serves almost 350 people every day — quite the increase over the original twenty it started with in 2002.
As the number of offenders assigned to the Day Reporting program has grown, so has the number of educational, employment and other facilitative group services it provides as well as the total time on average each participant spends in a program.
The Community Corrections Campus Program with the highest increase in enrollment is the GED program. In 2009, a total of 536 offenders participated in a GED educational program … representing a 60% increase over the prior year. Through the first six months of this year our GED program has already graduated as many students as it did in all the prior years combined. The program focuses on bringing up low literacy scores to the national level. We have been successful in raising literacy scores among a third of those needing the help.
“People need to understand that locking up offenders in little rooms in the most expensive and least effective way of dealing with the problem.”
What started as an idea born of necessity has become a model for other Louisiana Parishes who are looking to create their own reentry programs and alternatives to incarceration programs.
Now, almost ten years later, the positive impact these programs have made both to recidivism rates and to operating costs are significant. Recidivism rates for those offenders who successfully complete our programs range in the low 30th percentile while offenders leaving jails and prisons without such programming statistically return to incarceration 55 percent of the time within three years.
All this at a cost that is nearly half the cost of keeping these same offenders incarcerated (see chart “Daily Costs per Offender”).
Daily incarcerations costs are $42.20 per incarcerated offender versus $21.36 per day for those offenders in one of our various Community Corrections Campus programs — less than half the cost with almost twice the success rate.
The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Corrections Division will continue to seek out forward thinking concepts for offender supervision, education and counseling both inside and outside of a secure setting. For more information on The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and its Diversion Programs visit our website at www.lafayettesheriff.com.