Congratulations to Douglas County Jail officials for continuing to pursue new strategies to reduce the number of inmates who leave jail but soon find themselves back in custody.
Between 2008 and 2011, the county has been able to reduce the jail’s recidivism rate by 44 percent, according to Mike Brouwer, who oversees programs for inmates who are about to be released. Now the jail is adding therapy groups to its program designed to change the way inmates behave and make decisions. The goal is to help them find what one of the case managers called “alternatives to criminal thinking.” Identifying those alternatives, it is hoped, allows the inmates to make better choices after they are released from jail.
People participating in the new therapy groups are evaluated on factors including their criminal history, education, past employment and drug and alcohol use. The assessments help case managers better understand offenders, their risk for future criminal conduct and what treatment might help break that cycle. Similar training has been given to jail employees to identify undesirable behavior and how to deal with it inside the facility. Behavior problems by the kitchen staff, for instance, have been almost eliminated because underlying problems are being addressed instead of being allowed to fester until they become more serious.
Providing these assessments and counseling is not an inexpensive proposition for the county, but it pays off in the long run. When these efforts are successful, they save taxpayer dollars for law enforcement and jail operations. Plus, it is an investment in public safety as well as improving the lives of inmates, their families and others they come in contact with when they leave the jail.
Breaking the cycle of criminal thinking isn’t an easy task, but it’s essential to the successful re-entry of inmates leaving jail. The programs being pursued at the Douglas County Jail help improve released inmates’ chances of success, and that’s a step in the right direction.