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

Teenagers 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: Corrections.com 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


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