Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Receives Federal Grant to Study Impact of Diversion Programs

Diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration have been in the news a lot during the last several years, nationwide and locally.

Now comes word that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has received competitive grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice to study the impact of alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders with a drug and alcohol dependency. 

“We at PCCD are entrusted with ensuring that our programs and those we fund are effective and results-oriented,” said commission Chairman Josh Shapiro, a Montgomery County commissioner who was appointed to the state commission earlier this year. “This funding will allow us to measure the impact that these programs are having so we can continue working to improve the criminal justice system.”

Fifty-six counties throughout Pennsylvania receive PCCD funding in support of County Intermediate Punishment Programs that address alcohol and drug dependency among non-violent offenders. These programs support treatment as well as assessment, evaluation, case management, and supervision services for offenders, according to officials. The goal of these programs is to provide offenders with treatment to reduce recidivism rates, PCCD officials said.
Josh Shapiro/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

On average, PCCD supports the diversion of approximately 1,600 offenders annually from incarceration to Intermediate Punishment Programs, which equates to thousands of total jail days averted, officials said.
An initial study of the Intermediate Punishment Program also indicates a low recidivism rate for the participants (22%), demonstrating that the program has a positive impact on future behaviors.

The Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics has awarded PCCD $100,995 which will allow for a comprehensive study comparing offenders who participated in Intermediate Punishment Programs versus similar offenders who received incarceration sentences.

The study seeks to measure the impact of diversionary programs on recidivism in the Commonwealth against a control group. In addition, funds will be used for GIS-mapping projects to allow for greater accessibility for the public and decision-makers.

Just a note: Shapiro is also chairman of the board of commissioners in Montgomery County, where the court system has had a drug treatment court since April 2006. That program, funded by the county commissioners, is an innovative approach to disposing of drug-fueled criminal offenses in a way that offers participants intensive help to fight their addictions, encourages them to change their lifestyles and offers them the opportunity to earn a dismissal of the charges against them or to have their court supervision terminated early.

Participation in the program, which is voluntary, is at least 15 months long and may last as long as three years. The length of the program depends on how well an offender succeeds in dealing with the addiction and becoming a productive, crime-free citizen. The program, which is overseen by county Judge Steven T. O'Neill, typically has 130 participants at any given time.
Drug Court Gavel

Two years ago, I examined the county's drug court and found that, according to county statistics, between April 21, 2006, when the treatment court was implemented, and Dec. 5, 2012, when the program held its 43rd graduation ceremony, there were 186 graduates. During that time period, 33 of those graduates – or only about 18 percent – had been rearrested - meaning 82 percent of the drug court graduates remained arrest-free since their graduations. Non drug court addicts in the criminal justice system have a re-arrest rate of more than 60 percent, Judge O’Neill said at the time, echoing statistics cited by The National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

1 comment: