Collateral Consequences of Convictions

(Chicago) – TASC submitted comments for the May 19 briefing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Effects on Communities.

The briefing focused on the barriers to successful community reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals. According to the Commission, “They may face numerous barriers to reentry, including denial of governmental assistance designed to assist with finding employment. These collateral consequences affect families of the formerly incarcerated in a multitude of ways. For decades, communities of color have been disproportionately represented in the rates of felony convictions, and therefore are hardest hit.”

These barriers are mirrored in Illinois, and are experienced by TASC clients, even decades after they have paid their debt to society and resumed a law-abiding life. Barred access to employment and housing opportunities also create added challenges for individuals who are also striving to overcome substance use and mental health disorders.

Below is a synopsis of TASC’s comments, offering observations from decades of experience working to support diversion to community-based behavioral health treatment for men and women involved in the justice system, as well as reentry support following release from incarceration:


[Barriers to reentry and disproportionate minority contact are among] the reasons that TASC actively pursues strategies and opportunities that reduce the number of people entering the justice system. We seek to divert people away at every intervention point, and we promote avenues to health and recovery in the community so individuals do not return to the system.

We worked with and drafted reports on behalf of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study (DJIS) Commission and Illinois Racial and Ethnic Impact [REI] Research Task Force) to evaluate and address disparities in the justice system. We conducted several surveys of diversion programs across the country and in Illinois that prevent criminal convictions on record, offering observations and recommendations for improvement and expansion.

We seek ways to improve access to healthcare coverage for those who come in contact with the justice system. Recently we have collaborated with jurisdictions in exploring law enforcement diversion practices for drug-involved individuals, a need that has become even more visible and accentuated in the midst of the opioid crisis.

We recognize that there are many individuals in the justice system who are less likely to return to the system if they have access to behavioral health services, and we know that a criminal record acts as a barrier to recovery, restored citizenship, and community reintegration. Improving access to and connecting justice-involved populations to community-based services may help reduce the racial disparities that exist throughout the criminal justice system. It is good health policy. It is good justice policy. It is good public policy.

In our decades of work in these fields, we have made a number of observations about the state of safe, responsible criminal justice diversion that we hope will inform the Commission’s work.

  • The criminal justice system has become a de facto societal response to substance use and mental illness. Across the U.S., criminal justice systems are managing record numbers of people, with rates of substance use and mental health disorders that are much higher than those among the general public. More jurisdictions are focusing efforts to leverage resources toward management of these disorders in the community instead of the justice system, seeking to prevent taxpayer costs associated with incarceration and recidivism, as well as to support restored citizenship and second chances.
  • Numerous factors have led to broad-based calls for criminal justice reform. In recent years, a confluence of factors has created fertile ground for broad-based improvements to criminal justice policy and practice. These factors have included overburdened courts, crowded jails and prisons, strained government budgets, advances in the science of drug use intervention and recovery, shifting public attitudes about drug policy, awareness of the negative and residual impacts of justice involvement on families and communities, attention on the disparate burden of justice policies on racial/ethnic minority communities, and a preponderance of research on the effectiveness and cost efficiency of alternatives to incarceration.
  • Diversion policy should be focused on systems rather than programs. Modern justice policy is beginning to adopt public health strategies, focusing on broad-based, systemic intervention, and the application of the minimum but appropriate amount of supervision, sanctions, accountability, services, and resources to achieve the intended result.
  • Meaningful diversion can happen at any point before conviction. Initiatives can occur at points of contact with law enforcement, prosecutors and public defenders, pretrial services and probation, the judiciary, and even the jail. In cases where diversion before conviction isn’t an option, treatment-based alternatives to incarceration can prevent recidivism, taxpayer costs, and deleterious effects of confinement.
  • Evidence-based practices should inform decision-making. The most effective response to justice-involved individuals with substance use and mental health issues is a locally defined balance of supervision, accountability, and community treatment and support. What is deemed appropriate should be driven by the ever-expanding base of research and data regarding which intervention models best serve a given population at a given point of justice involvement. A risk-needs-responsivity (RNR) approach offers particular promise in this context. Considered a best practice for criminal justice populations, this approach assesses both the risk of recidivism as well as needs related to substance use, mental health, and other social and environmental conditions, and determines the appropriate type and dose of treatments and other services necessary to maximize justice and health outcomes.
  • Responses should be data-driven, which may mean changes in methods and resource allocation related to data collection. Justice, health, and community resources should be allocated to those programs that demonstrate the greatest capacity to reduce recidivism, protect public order and safety, promote public health, and promote equal and fair access to alternative options, while also mitigating the need for costly justice supervision. These determinations will be most successful if uniform data are collected and used—including measures related to the race/ethnicity of participants—and if programs take formal steps to develop standardized outcome measures (cost-, public safety-, and public health-based), and measure, analyze, monitor, and share results.
  • Arbitrary prohibitions on eligibility are counter-productive. Many jurisdictions still set limits on participation in diversion programs based on offense history or type, such as accepting only people with first-time or “low-level” offenses. Instead, jurisdictions can adopt strategies and interventions that focus on those individuals most likely to recidivate, and that consider factors other than just current charge and criminal history in determining an intervention plan (for example, through the use of individualized risk and needs assessments). The next generation of diversion programs should be able to determine and provide the appropriate level of services and justice supervision for each individual.
  • The field is continuing to evolve. The development of a common, shared language to discuss diversion and alternatives to incarceration is still in process. The need for clarity and specificity around the description of programs and models will be of increasing importance in the growing exchange of ideas, innovations, and best practices.

We are committed to continuing our work to connect people involved in or at risk for involvement in the justice system with community-based treatment and services for behavioral health conditions, to promote and support diversion and alternative options that prevent criminal convictions on record whenever appropriate and possible, and to advance policies and practices that reduce disproportionate minority contact with the justice system.

Governor Rauner Signs Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Legislation at TASC

(Chicago) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, accompanied by bill co-sponsors State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) and State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-92), signed bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation at TASC on March 10.

SB2872, also known as the Neighborhood Safety Act, increases trauma recovery support services for crime victims, strengthens judicial discretion to mandate individuals to probation and addiction treatment services in the community instead of prison, and expands opportunities for rehabilitative programming within Illinois prisons.

Watch a video of the March 10 bill signing here, including remarks from Governor Rauner; Senator Raoul; Representative Gordon-Booth; John Maki, executive director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority; Lisa D. Daniels, founder of the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Justice; and Lenore Anderson, president of the Alliance for Safety and Justice.

The legislation advances recommendations of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform in its final report, including giving further discretion to judges regarding whether certain offenses may be appropriate for probation.

“By increasing access to rehabilitation services and alternatives to incarceration, this bill helps to support families, build communities, and reduce the number of people in prison and associated costs,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez, a member of the Governor’s commission, which seeks to reduce Illinois’ prison population by 25 percent by 2025.

“TASC strongly supports these legislative reforms,” said Rodriguez. “We applaud the Governor, Senator Raoul, Representative Gordon-Booth, all the bill co-sponsors, and our community partners for their leadership in bringing about these important reforms.”

Governor Rauner signs SB2872 at TASC. Left to right: John Maki, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority; IL Senator Kwame Raoul; IL Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth; IL Governor Bruce Rauner; Lisa D. Daniels, Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Justice; Lenore Anderson, Alliance for Safety and Justice.

TASC Co-Convenes First-Ever National Summit on Deflecting People from Arrest

(Alexandria, VA) – Criminal justice, behavioral health, and public policy experts from across the country convened on March 1-2 for the first-ever national summit focused on strategies to deflect people with drug problems and/or low-level offenses away from the justice system before they enter it, and into behavioral health services instead.

Participants tweeted with the hashtag #Deflection2017, including a concise summary of the event from the Pretrial Justice Institute: “Big ideas. Big partners. Big conversation. #Deflection2017.”

Police, prosecutors, treatment/clinical experts, researchers, and representatives from national law enforcement and behavioral health associations discussed alternatives to arrest for low-level offenses, as well as new methods for confronting the opioid crisis and addiction, focusing on treatment-based solutions through which police can partner with behavioral health service providers in the community.

Hosted in Alexandria by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the two-day 2017 Deflection Summit was convened by the Center for Health and Justice at TASC and the Civil Citation Network. The summit was sponsored by C4 Recovery Solutions, IACP, and Ad Care Criminal Justice Services.

Pre-booking or pre-arrest diversion initiatives—also called deflection—offer practical strategies for reforming the front end of the criminal justice system and preventing cycles of arrest and incarceration of people with treatable substance use or mental health issues.

Depending on local community needs and behavioral health capacity, police deflection programs across the country have varying designs, but their goals are consistent: to continue to promote and enhance public safety while also responding more effectively to substance use and mental health problems, and to low-level offenses. These solutions help reverse the tide of people with nonviolent offenses entering the justice system.

In his March 2017 article in Police Chief MagazineJac Charlier, who directs national justice initiatives for the Chicago-based Center for Health and Justice at TASC, describes a number of deflection models currently in place throughout the country, including programs within the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) network; Seattle’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD); Baltimore’s Stop, Triage, Educate, Engage, Rehabilitate (STEER) program; citation in lieu of arrest; and drug overdose response teams, such as Lucas County, Ohio’s Drug Action Response Team (DART). Each of these programs, along with several others, brought forth their direct experience and insights at the deflection summit.

“Even a first-time arrest for a misdemeanor offense can end up having lifelong consequences, especially in employment,” said Greg Frost, president of the Tallahassee-based Civil Citation Network, a program offering counseling, education, and community service in lieu of arrest. “If people complete our program successfully, they can avoid an arrest record and the negative consequences that go with it.”

Robert Ryberg, CEO of C4 Recovery Solutions, an international not-for-profit working in substance use and addiction, explained, “Deflection is a key strategy for helping individuals access treatment services, especially those who have not yet self-identified as needing treatment and who are pursuing life strategies that often result in criminal activity. ”

“Police crisis intervention models for responding to mental health emergencies have been successful for many years, and deflection initiatives build from that experience,” added TASC’s Charlier. “Deflection programs are specifically designed to prevent people from going into the justice system when they can safely instead be connected directly to treatment services in the community. It’s a win-win for better safety in the community, for law enforcement, and for the people who get the help they need.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 144 Americans die every day from a drug overdose, including 91 from an opioid overdose.

“Especially in this time as our nation faces the opioid epidemic, we can save lives by deflecting people to treatment,” said Charlier.

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Fundamentals of Alternatives to Incarceration

(Chicago) – In the United States, the majority of people who come into the criminal justice system have a substance use problem, which is a treatable health condition. As a response to non-violent offenses related to drug use and addiction, there are many alternatives to incarceration that are more effective and less expensive than keeping people behind bars.

“Program models are not enough,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “What’s much harder to sustain—but what’s necessary if we want to achieve real impact—are whole systems where justice partners and health services in the community work together by design.

“Too often,” she added, “the justice system is the first place where people have a chance to get drug treatment and other health services. Adequate health services must be available in the community far before people reach the point of incarceration.”

For cash-strained governments, overburdened justice systems, and communities and families suffering the consequences of addiction, alternative sanctions for non-violent, drug-related offenses make sense.

First, incarceration is costly. In Illinois, it costs an average of $38,000 to keep someone in prison for a year. A single day in the Cook County Jail costs an average of $143, and even more in the segment of the jail that detains people with serious mental illness.

To borrow a term from the medical field, incarceration is iatrogenic, meaning that in and of itself it is harmful. Incarceration usually leaves people worse off—in terms of recidivism risk, job and family disruption, financial destabilization, and more—than when they went in. Even three days in jail has deleterious consequences.

Furthermore, without intervene early on, there are costs and consequences of a criminal conviction that last far beyond the period of incarceration or probation. The American Bar Association keeps a record of these consequences in each state.

Like other chronic health conditions, substance use disorders are treatable. It is estimated that 23 million people in the United States once had an alcohol or drug problem and no longer do.

Among individuals with a drug problem who were sent to TASC’s court and probation services, there was a 71 percent reduction in arrests for drug and property crimes over a two-year period after program enrollment.

“We know that addiction is treatable,” said Rodriguez. “We know that incarceration is expensive and iatrogenic. We also know that there are effective alternatives to incarceration. For these reasons and more, it makes sense to divert eligible individuals with substance use problems out of the justice system and into treatment and recovery support services in the community.”

There are numerous evidence-based practices and policies for preventing and stopping cycles of drug use and crime. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University, and TASC’s Center for Health and Justice are among many entities that publish and promote what works.

“What we know from extensive research and experience is that interventions must be matched to individuals’ risks for reoffending and their clinical needs,” said Rodriguez. “Mismatched interventions—such as the wrong level of care or supervision—not only waste resources, but actually can have the opposite of the intended effect.”

Sept. 14-16, 2016: TASC and partners welcomed guests from international agencies for a three-day site visit focused on diversion initiatives, jail interventions, and sentencing alternatives in Cook and Lake counties. Left to right: Antonio Lomba, Organization of American States; Chritharth Palli, India judiciary; Melody M Heaps, MMH & Associates; Pamela F. Rodriguez, TASC; Charlotte Sisson, U.S. State Dept.; Richard Baum, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

Sept. 14-16, 2016: TASC and partners welcomed guests from international agencies for a three-day site visit focused on diversion initiatives, jail interventions, and sentencing alternatives in Cook and Lake counties. Left to right: Antonio Lomba, Organization of American States; Chritharth Palli, India judiciary; Melody M. Heaps, MMH & Associates; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Charlotte Sisson, U.S. State Dept.; Richard Baum, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

National TASC Conference Showcases Local Diversion Programs

(Chicago) – Several criminal justice diversion programs in Illinois were showcased at the recent annual conference of National TASC, an association of programs that connect justice systems to community-based treatment.

TASC, Inc. of Illinois served as the host organization for the national conference, which took place in Chicago and drew attendees representing programs in states from North Carolina to Hawaii. One of the conference themes was the importance of diverting people with non-violent charges away from traditional criminal justice processing and into services in the community.

Although diversion is not a new concept, public opinion, health coverage brought about by Medicaid expansion, and bipartisan efforts toward criminal justice reform have propelled such initiatives to the forefront of public policy. The goals of such programs vary depending on the jurisdiction, but most aim to reduce the numbers of people going into the justice system, reduce jail stays, strengthen connections to health and supportive services in the community, and reduce recidivism.

Illinois Diversion Programs Highlighted

At the conference, held April 25-27 at the Westin Michigan Avenue, experts who have implemented front-end diversion programs in Illinois offered their experiences and strategies for developing these initiatives. Chief Eric Guenther, public safety director for the Village of Mundelein, and Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim described their collaboration in implementing smart-on-crime approaches. Motivated by the dramatic increase in opioid overdoses and deaths in the area, they are leading the development of a collaborative effort to divert people with drug problems to community-based treatment rather than arrest them. Similar programs are being designed and implemented across Illinois and the country, inspired by the Gloucester, Massachusetts, Angel Program launched in 2015.

“We have been losing a lot of young people to overdose deaths all over our county. We had to come up with a new way of dealing with this [opioid] epidemic,” said Nerheim. “The vast majority of people who come into the system are going to be back with us—back in society—and we want them to be productive members. Everyone should have the opportunity for a second chance.”

Chief Guenther noted the importance of building trust between the community and law enforcement, so that community members feel comfortable coming to the police department for help. He remarked on the police department’s unique ability to engage people any time of day, any day in the year. “A person may decide at 2:00 a.m. that they want out [of addiction], and having to wait until 8:00 a.m. may mean that we lose that window.” Guenther also stressed that planning processes should include people in recovery to ensure that programming and messaging will appeal to individuals who need help.

Mark Kammerer, the alternative prosecution/sentencing unit coordinator at the Cook County, Illinois, State’s Attorney’s Office, described the array of programs in place to divert people out of traditional case processing, noting that his office has been operating diversion programming in some fashion since the 1970s. “We now have interventions for people with the least extensive criminal background to high-risk, high-need individuals. One size does not fit all, so we offer a continuum of interventions. The goal is to identify and screen people to get them into diversion programs sooner, rather than later, in the criminal justice system.”

TASC Vice President George Williams, who offered the conference’s opening remarks, spoke of TASC’s 40-year history in advocating for people who need help, and emphasized that clients, constituents, friends, and family members are at the heart of this work. “Everything we do in this room is for the rights, interests, health, and needs of the men and women who have come through our doors,” he said.

New Opportunities via Medicaid Expansion

“Diversion programs are surging in popularity and evolving in response to current needs,” said Laura Brookes, policy director at TASC. Introducing the panel discussion, Brookes offered that the justice system can divert many people who represent a low public safety risk to programs in the community, stemming the tide of people coming into the system at the front end and throughout it.

“Now is a particularly exciting time to be involved in this work, not only because of the broad support for much-needed reform, but also with the expansion of Medicaid in many states under the Affordable Care Act,” said Brookes. “This means that local and state governments can save justice and corrections costs by establishing connections to Medicaid-reimbursable behavioral health and medical resources in the community. These resources can help increase diversion, as justice systems become confident that many of people they are diverting will be able to access the care they need and reduce offending.”

The benefits of diversion programs were highlighted at the 2016 National TASC conference.

Benefits of diversion programs were highlighted at the 2016 National TASC conference in Chicago.

Governor Rauner Boosts Criminal Justice Reform; Solutions Include Diversion and Alternatives to Incarceration

At the signing of executive order establishing criminal justice commission, Governor Rauner greets Mike Torchia, director of Court Services for Sangamon County Adult Probation.  (Photo by TASC.)

Governor Bruce Rauner (right) greeted Mike Torchia, director of Court Services for Sangamon County Adult Probation, at the February 11 signing of an executive order establishing a criminal justice reform commission. (Photo by TASC.)

OP-ED: Governor Bruce Rauner signed an executive order on Wednesday to establish the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. Given that Illinois’ prison population has grown by 700 percent in the past 40 years, the commission will make recommendations to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent.

At the same time, the Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee, created last May and chaired by State Representative Michael J. Zalewski (D-23) and State Senator Michael Noland (D-22), recognizes the need to reduce incarceration of individuals with non-violent offenses and those with mental illness and addiction.

These initiatives by the Governor’s office and the General Assembly are critical and timely. They can be accelerated by leveraging proven solutions already working in Illinois.

First, sound reforms must recognize that the Illinois prison system is one of largest under-funded health operations in the country. Half of adults in prison have a mental health problem, and two thirds of adults in jail and prison have a substance use disorder requiring intervention. Many have co-occurring conditions. However, failed policies of the past 40 years have favored incarceration over treatment, driving prison and jail crowding and the clogging of courts.

Second, to slow the flood of non-violent offenders who churn through Illinois prisons, prosecutors and judges across Illinois must have means to systematically identify and divert non-violent defendants who have substance use or mental health conditions out of the justice system and into licensed treatment programs in the community.

More than 31,000 people were admitted to Illinois prisons in FY 13 (the most recently published data), with an estimated 57 percent sentenced for non-violent offenses eligible for diversion. Meanwhile, Illinois is paying $21,000 per year to incarcerate each of these men and women, when treatment and case management are only one-fifth that cost. No Entry diversion policies and programs—from “drug schools” to mandated community-based treatment with case management—reduce recidivism, save system and taxpayer costs, and address the behavioral health and social issues that often contribute to criminal behavior.

Last year, for example, TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) diverted more than 2,000 non-violent defendants away from prison and into supervised drug treatment in the community, saving the State of Illinois $35 million.

We know what works. To achieve real reform and cost savings, Illinois must bring these proven approaches to scale.

Pamela F. Rodriguez

President & CEO

TASC, Inc.

 

Sangamon County Drug Court Celebrates Four Years

The Sangamon County drug court team - including TASC and county staff, as well as treatment providers - celebrated the county's fourth drug court graduation with a guest appearance by Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL13).

The Sangamon County drug court team celebrated the program’s fourth anniversary in October.

(Springfield) — The Sangamon County drug court recently celebrated its fourth year, graduating three participants and commending the successes of past graduates.

The October 24 celebration took place in the Springfield courthouse, drawing graduates’ families and friends, past graduates, and drug court staff.

The goal of the drug court, presided over by Circuit Judge Peter Cavanagh, is to reduce the cycle of arrests and incarcerations among participants via comprehensive clinical services provided by a team of partners.

Speakers at the graduation included Judge Cavanagh, drug court staff, and program graduates. In addition, Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL13) made a guest appearance, commending the drug court for its life-changing work and congratulating past and present graduates.

“Life is about second chances,” said Davis. “You [graduates] can achieve any dream you have. Believe in yourself and dream big.”

Since 2010, the Sangamon County drug court has held three graduations that celebrated the success of 12 graduates. None of the first 12 graduates had been re-arrested or tested positive for any illicit substances, according to a 2013 report of the county’s drug court implementation and program outcomes.

The Sangamon County drug court was created in October 2010 as a plan for more effective and coordinated programs and services for people with substance use disorders. It features communication and service linkages across criminal justice, mental health and addiction treatment, and community services.

Drug courts typically are built on collaboration among judges, prosecutors, and community-based drug treatment providers. Sangamon County’s program is distinct in that the team also includes a representative from the defense bar and a local mental health representative.

As part of the drug court team, TASC conducts clinical assessments of eligible participants and provides input on treatment progress and successful community reentry.

A cost-effective alternative to traditional court case processing and sentencing for eligible participants, the drug court seeks to improve public safety, reduce recidivism rates, reduce crime and substance use, and engage resources and service partners in the community.

The Sangamon County drug court has been funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and, most recently, Adult Redeploy Illinois.