Sunday, August 17, 2008

County considers in-custody drug treatment program for parolees

Contra Costa is a step closer to providing low- and medium-security jail space for a state-funded in-custody drug treatment program offering profits and some drawbacks.

Law enforcement officials hope providing up to 90 beds at the West County and Marsh Creek detention facilities to mostly Contra Costa-based parolees will drop the recidivism rate by as much as 20 percent.

There are concerns, however, that the program could deny treatment to law-abiding people with substance addictions. Those addicts would compete for limited residential-based treatment beds against parolees with the state's better funding, Contra Costa's alcohol and drug services director said Thursday.

"If they're overwhelmed with people coming out of jail and prison, an everyday citizen — that member of the public who just wants to get treatment for addiction without having run afoul of the law — will have a hard time finding a place for treatment," said Haven Fearn.

The county sheriff's office sees it differently: Bringing into the new program people now spread around the state will free up residential treatment spaces, said sheriff's Cmdr. Joe Caruso.

Contra Costa County has 265 parolees in community-based treatment programs around the state, he said. Of those, the new in-custody program would take 60 men and 30 women into the two county lockups, he said.

What both sides applaud is substance treatment rather than incarceration in the hope Advertisementof lowering the high number of repeat offenders.

"Every one of those individuals may end up returning to state prison, but before that happens they come into our local custody," Caruso said. "They become our local responsibility and our local cost."

The county jails about 2,088 inmates, 1,581 of them for a drug or alcohol offense. More than 600 parolees annually return from state institutions to live in Contra Costa.

The program's $2.5 million cost — with all beds filled — would be paid by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The sheriff's office estimates operational and staff costs would be $1.6 million, including salaries and benefits for three deputies. Leftover revenue could be applied to jail improvements and needs, remodeling, security upgrades and jail expansion.

In programs started in seven other counties, 90 percent of available beds are filled.

Participating parolees in the Contra Costa program will have committed violations as a result of drug- or alcohol-related dependency. Parolees with a Contra Costa address will receive priority. The program would consist of 60 days of in-custody treatment, followed by 30-day residential rehabilitation and then 60 days of out-patient care, such as attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

A federal district court ruling last year ordered the state to expand its in-custody drug treatment program from 288 beds to 1,800 state beds by this year.

"The state believes the program is most successful when "... the programs are done in a custodial setting and they are willing to pay for those 60 days," Caruso said.

Although overcrowding is an issue in many jails and prisons, the county has space in its minimum- and medium-security jails, Caruso said. If that changes or the state funding dries up, the program stops, he said.

Santa Clara County put 100 beds in the program and its county director of alcohol and drug services shared Fearn's concerns.

"While it is called treatment, it is really educational in nature," Robert Garner said in a letter to Fearn. "And in fact, the state's in-custody treatment has been viewed as being a major failure. "... It is the re-entry that is usually the problem."

Contra Costa has 333 residential beds available to addicts. The county has enough money to fund 176 beds. The 30-day mandated post-jail residential care for parolees will have them vying for limited beds with non-criminal addicts, Fearn said. The county has about a two-week waiting list for a 90-day residential treatment bed, he said.

"There will come a day shortly where (the parolees) will have to wait for a bed too," he said.

Fearn rests his hopes with Proposition 5, a November ballot measure that would increase funding for treatment and move the state away from jailing nonviolent drug offenders.

The Contra Costa program, pending a final agreement with the state, could begin as soon as September and run through 2011. Coincidentally, the state contracts the Contra Costa County Office of Education to run its in- and out-of-custody drug treatment programs throughout the state.

  • N.B. inmates training to be oil rig workers
  • Piepho’s strong mail-in response helps beat former boss
  • Contra Costa supervisors to vote on five-year, $250,000 a year pact with new administrator
  • Contra Costa supervisors to vote on five-year, $250,000 a year pact with new administrator

    Intervention services said...

    Drug addiction treatment is intended to help addicted people to stop compulsive drug seeking and use.
    Florida Intervention Services