June 26 is International Day Against Drug Abuse; TASC Hosts Caribbean Delegation Visit of Model Justice Interventions

(Chicago) — To promote an international society free of drug abuse, June 26 is designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. As an active partner with national and international bodies committed to reducing substance use disorders and their consequences, TASC has been recognized as a model for advancing collaborative strategies to divert people with substance use disorders away from the justice system and into treatment and recovery in the community.

Most recently, in collaboration with criminal justice partners in Cook County, TASC hosted a delegation of high-level justice and health officials from Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica, who visited Chicago June 11-12 to explore innovative practices in implementing alternatives to incarceration.

Organized by the Organization of American States (OAS) with the support of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the Canadian Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP), the visit offered a unique opportunity for delegates to converse directly with leaders in Cook County (encompassing Chicago) who implement justice diversion practices.

As part of the OAS, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) provides technical assistance to OAS member states in the implementation of alternatives to incarceration. For the June visit, CICAD partnered in Chicago with TASC, and in New York with the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), both of which have earned recognition for designing, implementing, and promoting alternatives to incarceration.

In Cook County, the formal visit featured meetings with several justice leaders and dignitaries, including segments at the Cook County Jail with Sheriff Tom Dart; at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building with Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division LeRoy K. Martin Jr., Associate Judge James B. Linn, and Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli; and at the Chicago Police Department with 11th District Commander Kevin Johnson. The delegation also visited TASC’s Supportive Release Center near the jail, which offers an overnight stay and linkage to services for individuals with complex needs, and later met U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), champion of the landmark Second Chance Act.

Throughout the two-day visit to Cook County, discussions focused on diversion strategies, including care coordination and embedded case management, that guide men and women who have substance use disorders away from the justice system and into community-based treatment.

“Because TASC is baked into the criminal justice system in Illinois, the justice system presents a more human face—with a focus on the individual—and promotes public health and human rights,” said Ambassador Adam Namm, Executive Secretary of the of the OAS, who led the Caribbean delegation. “That is exactly what the OAS promotes as an organization. So there’s great synergy.”

“We are grateful to the support of the U.S. State Department’s INL, to OAS/CICAD, and to Global Affairs Canada for making important international exchanges like this possible,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “With thanks to our justice system partners, Cook County continues to be a model nationally and internationally, and we are glad to be able to help show the value and breadth of these collaborative efforts.”

For more than two decades, TASC has worked with federal and international partners to promote community-based systems of addiction recovery around the world. Among these activities, and through the leadership and support of INL, TASC has offered curriculum development and week-long training events provided by TASC teams in South Africa, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

In addition, TASC is a member organization of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, comprised of some 200 organizations from across the globe who are engaged in service delivery, advocacy, research, and evaluation at international, regional, and national levels. The VNGOC provides a link between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Vienna-based agencies involved in setting drug policy: the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Working together with local, national, and international partners, TASC is committed to shared goals of reducing substance use disorders and their consequences worldwide.

June 2018: TASC leaders welcomed OAS/CICAD delegation from Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.

Ambassador Adam Namm, Executive Secretary of the OAS, led the Caribbean delegation visit to TASC and alternative-to-incarceration programs in Cook County, Illinois.

TASC President Pam Rodriguez welcomed OAS/CICAD delegates and presented a breadth of program and policy opportunities available to implement criminal justice diversion programs.

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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.

New Law Removes Barrier to Restored Citizenship for Eligible TASC Clients

(Chicago) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has approved a bill aiming to prevent the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction for TASC clients who have successfully completed probation, including alcohol or drug treatment.

SB2601, sponsored by Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and State Rep. Sonya Harper (D-6), extends the time period during which qualified program participants can ask the court to have their sentence “vacated,” or cancelled. Only participants without a previous felony conviction on record who have not already had a judgment vacated under the program may request this option.

Under the old law, requests to have a judgment vacated had to be submitted within 30 days after adjudication of the case (i.e., within 30 days of the person being sentenced to probation). In practice, this often proved a nearly impossible condition to meet, with an arbitrarily short deadline. A judge is not allowed to grant this type of request until after a participant has completed TASC’s program requirements and been discharged successfully from probation, which usually occurs 12-18 months after sentencing.

Under the new law, individuals will have until 60 days following successful discharge from probation to submit a request. It takes effect on January 1, 2017.

“Now, people who have worked all the way through the program—completing substance use treatment and fulfilling all of the other conditions of probation—won’t be automatically blocked from embarking on a pathway to restored citizenship,” said Laura Brookes, TASC’s policy director.

TASC’s court program is a longstanding alternative-to-incarceration option available to judges under Illinois law for sentencing individuals with substance use problems who are charged with certain non-violent offenses. On average, Illinois judges divert approximately 1,800 people each year to probation with addiction treatment and TASC case management instead of sending them to prison, saving the state millions of dollars in prevented incarceration costs, and connecting individuals to the services needed to address the substance use problems often correlated with their offenses.

A criminal conviction results in a host of long-lasting collateral consequences that dampen prospects of securing a job, finding stable housing, obtaining employment training or education—the very things needed to attain productive community citizenship. The American Bar Association catalogues thousands of such collateral consequences, and Illinois policymakers have passed many measures designed to eliminate them or mitigate their impacts, such as options for criminal record sealing and expungement and certificates of good conduct or relief from disability.

 

TASC Model Recommended in National Drug Control Strategy

The 2010 National Drug Control Strategy includes specific mention of TASC as a model to help break the cycle of drug use, crime, delinquency, and incarceration.

Released by the White House, the strategy establishes five-year goals for reducing drug use and its consequences.  It was developed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) with input from federal, state, and local partners. 

With 50 percent of 7 million adult offenders in the U.S. classified as dependent on drugs, one of the strategy’s recommendations is that the infrastructure be developed to promote alternatives to incarceration when appropriate. Recommended actions include:

A. Enhance and Promote Diversion Strategies

B. Support Drug and Other Problem-Solving Courts

C. Promote TASC Model of Intensive Case Management

D. Foster Equitable Drug Sentencing

E. Promote Best Practices as Alternatives to Incarceration

Under the TASC recommendation, the National Drug Control Strategy reports:

 “Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) offers a state-level model for how intensive case management of drug offenders might work to reduce crime and incarceration and support reentry programs. In many states and localities, governments have provided access to treatment as an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders with substance abuse or dependence disorders. If clients meet eligibility criteria under the statute, TASC conducts an indepth assessment of their criminal justice history, the nature and extent of addiction, readiness for treatment, and likelihood of treatment success. Through a specialized system of clinical case management, TASC initiates and motivates positive behavior change and long-term recovery for individuals in criminal justice, corrections, juvenile justice, child welfare, and public aid systems.

“TASC case managers develop individualized service plans that include links to community-based substance abuse treatment, medical/mental health services, vocational/educational programs, and other needed social services. This approach has translated into substantial cost-savings through referrals to treatment and services. States should look to places that have effectively implemented the TASC process, such as Illinois and New York, and the Department of Justice will continue to fund alternatives to incarceration so that TASC and TASC-like processes can work effectively.”

In Illinois, TASC’s case management services increase the success rates of those mandated to treatment as part of their probation sentence. Clients who receive TASC’s services are twice as successful in treatment as other treatment clients in Illinois. Two thirds (64%) of TASC clients complete treatment successfully, compared to only one third (33%) of all criminal justice-referred clients in Illinois.

Please click here to access the full strategy.