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Community Supervision VS. Incarceration Oped by Commissioner Cook

  • 18 January 2019
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1327
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To support the work of  this department and offer required continuing education credits, I hosted a six-hour training for county corrections department officers and counselors last November called “Breaking the Cycle — Understanding the Science of Addiction and the Humanity of Recovery.”

Our county correction department offices located in Georgetown, Round Rock, Taylor and the residential Central Texas Treatment Center in Granger employ over 100 people combined.

The treatment center is a 100-bed community corrections facility that specializes in intensive residential substance abuse treatment for high-risk probationers with felony convictions and serious alcohol or drug abuse problems.

This facility originally started with 65 beds in Georgetown in 1990, and in 2002, relocated to a larger building in Granger. Clients range in age from 17 to 70. The program serves offenders sent by courts from all over the state.

The Williamson County Juvenile Services is responsible for offenders ages 17 and younger.

The treatment center’s probationers participate in numerous treatment programs lasting 6 to 12 months. Probationers learn prosocial, drug-free behaviors through group and individualized counseling.

Counselors and volunteers provide 12-step recovery support meetings at the treatment center; outside community-based support meetings are also available.

A community supervision officer assists the probationers with re-entry into the community by helping them renew their driver’s licenses, get their social security cards, prepare resumes, search for jobs and visit sober living homes prior to discharge.

In 2017, 44 residents were employed within a week of their discharge.

Those leaving the structured environment of the treatment center are required to transition into sober living homes for an additional 90 days before being released. The county corrections department provides specialized aftercare officers to monitor the probationers during this transition period.

They also must frequently check in with community supervision officers and undergo drug testing.

For three years now, treatment center probationers leaving treatment have been appearing before the judge who sentenced them to treatment. They receive praise, recognition, a symbolic coin and a certificate of completion.

There is always applause from family members, friends and other defendants who attend these meetings, and a feeling of renewed hope in our criminal justice system.

Probationers consistently comment that this is the first time they have been in a courtroom without fear of being sent to jail.

In 2017, the treatment center served 275 probationers, with 86.5 percent successfully completing their program. In the most recent two-year post discharge study, 84 percent of our probationers were not reincarcerated within two years of discharge — the highest success rate statewide.

Morrison attributes this success to addressing both criminal thinking and substance abuse, the sober living home requirement, and intensive aftercare monitoring and drug testing.

In 2009, the county corrections department started providing outpatient substance abuse treatment through the state Treatment Alternative to Incarceration Program grant. Licensed counselors provide treatment services on a sliding scale or sometimes free.

The intensive outpatient 10-week (60-hour) program is held at the county annex in Round Rock.

A newer 12-week outpatient program for offenders needing less intensive treatment meets weekly and utilizes curriculum shown to be successful with mild to moderate substance abuse clients and those with some level of trauma.

In 2017, of 299 offenders who participated in the outpatient program, 90 percent completed it.

Although offenders sometimes choose jail time because they feel community supervision requirements are too onerous or expensive, probation fees in Texas have not increased since 2001.

Those who opt for direct jail sentences choose to have a conviction on their records and don’t receive the services that could help prevent future interactions with the criminal justice system.

Williamson County does its best not to over-supervise those who don’t need it. Sometimes offenders without substance abuse or mental health problems are placed in diversion programs with reduced requirements.

In 2017, our county’s felony revocation rate was 7.69 percent compared to the state’s 11.2 percent.

Our county corrections department is successfully redirecting lives away from crime.

 

 

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