Editor’s note: This story is being shared with us by the
International Association of Correctional Training Personnel, from its
newsletter, The Correctional Trainer.
In my readings, I came across an excellent book
on corrections, Corrections: Past, Present and
Future, by Jeanne B. Stinchcomb, PhD, from
Florida Atlantic University. It is available from
the American Correctional Association, and was
published in 2005.
In the chapter titled “Special Populations in
Corrections,” there is an interesting feature,
“Close Up on Corrections” that discusses the
question “What Works in Correctional Drug
Treatment?” It is based on the report issued by the
National Task Force on Correctional Substance
Abuse Strategies, Intervening with Substance
Abusing Offenders: A Framework for Action
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice,
National Institute of Corrections, 1991).
Even though this report was issued in 1991, the
task force recommendations still ring true and
can be applied to all correctional substance
abuse treatment programs. Corrections staff
must understand that there are no easy answers
to the problems of offenders and substance
Corrections staff see the results - multiple
crimes, long criminal histories, broken families,
ruined lives, disease, overcrowded correctional
facilities, and psychological problems. Some
corrections officers become jaded as the same
offenders are seen re-entering the facility over
and over, for reasons ranging from new crimes
to probation and parole violations.
I have often said that custody staff and
treatment staff must work together if these problems are to be effectively addressed. Working
together means understanding each other’s
responsibilities and roles. In my view, the
elements of effective approaches to substance
abuse treatment require this understanding.
Let’s examine each, crossing over from
treatment staff to custody staff:
Treatment and custody, seeing and understanding each other - that is the true spirit of
- Individual treatment plans that are multi
disciplinary: Offenders may require, as
part of their treatment plans, to be enrolled in several programs-including
education, life skills, and religious
- Matching offenders with supervision, control, and treatment programs that are
appropriate to their assessed needs: Some
offenders may be assessed by treatment
staff as needing different levels of supervision and control. For example, some may
need to be in more secure housing in the
general population while others may be
classified appropriate for direct supervision.
- A full range of services, from substance
abuse education to intensive residential
treatment: This is a multi-tasked approach,
and some offenders may be transferred to
residential treatment. However, if some
are security risks, it is the duty of the
custodial staff to enforce discipline,
maintain close supervision and if necessary
to remove the offender from programs.
- Pre-release treatment programming: A
critical approach to treatment is the reintegration- the return - of offenders to the community. Custody staff should make treatment staff aware of good candidates for
work release and electronic incarceration
programs. Offenders that adjust well to
incarceration obey the rules and put forth a
sincere effort to change their behaviors
should be known to staff.
- Integrated treatment and custody staffing:
Therapeutic community units or treatment
units as well as classrooms and volunteer
activities must be supervised closely by
custody staff. Treatment staff, including
volunteers, and custody staff should know
and respect each other’s responsibilities
and job tasks in the facility.
- Use of incentives and sanctions to increase
offender motivation: Offenders who break
the rules should be reported and
disciplined. Depending on the violation,
they could be given a second chance. Also,
incentives and rewards can be given such
as an offender making trusty or earning
extra good time per agency policy.
incentive is to inform offenders if they do
well in a treatment program, they may be
recommended for work release or
electronic incarceration to the sentencing
judge or the community corrections
- Self help groups to provide adjunct services
for treatment and aftercare: Volunteers are
an important resource as they provide
assistance for treatment staff and are a
liaison to community resources.
Volunteers must be properly trained in
security, working with inmates and
communicating with staff.
- Targeted programs for special needs
offenders: Some programs are very
specific, depending on the needs of
offenders. Progress may be slow, and
offenders, especially the mentally ill, may
relapse. Custody staff must be aware of
this and tolerant. However, safety of staff - all staff - and offenders is still of primary importance.
- Education and treatment for relapse prevention: Being given a second chance is
frightening to some offenders. The “pull” of the street-criminal associations, alcohol and drugs, etc. is strong. Offenders must be supported and encouraged as much
as possible to “stick with” treatment programs.
Lt. Gary F. Cornelius retired from the Fairfax County (VA) Sheriff’s Office in 2005. He is a long time member of IACTP and is the co founder with Tim Manley, MSW, LCSW of ETC, LLC: Education and Training in Corrections.
He has written several books on corrections, including The American Jail: Cornerstone of Modern Corrections, from Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. His latest book, The Art of the Con: Avoiding Offender Manipulation, Second Edition is due to be published by the American Correctional Association in late 2008. Gary can be reached at 571-233-0912 or at firstname.lastname@example.org