Parolees, probationers fleeing substance abuse programs
Parolees and probationers released to required Substance Abuse Programs, or SAP, are either leaving before they have completed the program or not showing up at all.
Johnathan Hall is the DOC’s Director of Probation and Parole.
“It's something that we're really focusing a lot of time and effort on because we do think it's a problem,” Hall said.
The programs help move inmates back into society, but when they are caught skipping the programs, they are arrested and sent back behind bars.
Hall said unsurprisingly, drugs have become a massive issue.
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"Our offender population obviously has some pretty severe substance abuse problems,” Hall said. "We've really seen it snowballing over time, specifically with the latest heroin epidemic."
Since 2005, the state has gone from around 470 beds statewide for treatment to more than 5,000.
Ray Weis is the President of Dismas Charities, which runs many halfway houses throughout the state where inmates are sent for SAP programs.
“Dismas is really interested in solving the problem of getting the people to this treatment,” Weis said.
Records show statewide about 10 percent of people paroled or on probation never show up to treatment at all.
More shocking, Hall said 50 percent of all people given required supervision will flee. When that happens, law enforcement has to go find them and they are put back behind bars.
"If they don't change, they will die,” Weis said. “Those are just really tragic numbers."
"Sometimes the first resort is well I'm just going to quit, hide," Hall said.
Hall said the state issued around 8,000 warrants issued for absconding, or fleeing, in 2016. State numbers show many people who leave or don’t show up for programs are not caught.
Right now, DOC releases parolees or probationers to friends or family or purchases a bus ticket for them, but it’s working with Dismas on a new secure transport program.
"The intention is for them to go directly to the halfway house of treatment center for treatment,” Hall said.
Weis said the results really comes down to what the person wants.
"It's very easy to leave these programs if you're not serious about them,” he said.
Hall and Weis both said it’s important to talk to and survey people in programs to try to improve the number of people who complete them.
"We've got to figure out what we've got to design differently to incentivize these folks or get their attention,” Weis said.
"If we can really drill down into the problem and find out what's causing them to not show up in the first place, there are solutions out there,” Hall said.
Besides substance abuse programs, Weis believes reentry programs are crucial for getting people ready for the outside world and staying clean.
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