Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sundown Reflections on In-Prison-Treatment-Programs

Lamenting the loss of funding for effective treatment
programming, my friend and former coworker, Sandy Mac, sent this last week during our email exchange:
Texas had one of the BEST - if not THE best treatment for offenders in the country in the early 90's. It was actually working - the stats were awesome and recidivism was down. The prison industry - building, building, and building was unnecessary - wow. Then, along came W - something had to be done. He and his band of men uncovered the waste of money - all that $$$ spent on a bunch of convicts. Those wasteful liberals - had to get them out so things could return to normal. Building, warehousing, and what the heck - libraries for convicts? So here we are - 2007 - the prisons are overcrowded, recidivism is back up, and by God - we need to build more prisons. Lets feed the monster - all the way with Gateway. Don't get me started!
Just after the Bush Adminis
tration's new model for "compassionate conservatism" was announced back in 2001, it seemed that Texas state funding for in-prison rehabilitation programs began drying up quickly. Certainly "compassionate" has a higher meaning than the context within which they were using it. We discussed the dangers and the likelihood of increasing recidivism rates that would end up costing the state exponentially more in the long-term.

For example, according to recent news reports, the State of California has learned its own hard lessons. They are having to build new prisons at a rate that can't keep up with their increasing recidivism rates -- the highest in the country, thanks to Gubanator Schwarzenegger's manly, ge
t tough, make 'em lift weights and eat hamburger helper attitude -- non-girly in the extreme. So they are having to farm-out their prison population to out of state private prisons.

Everyone should know by now that, since President Dubya says he listens to the Lord whispering to him in his pillow prayers, and that since he told us all how he recovered from alcoholism years ago -- the old boot strap method by which he now pulls on himself at night as well, thanks to Laura's screeching about his continued "relapse drinking" -- surely when he tells us that anyone with enough will power can do it as long as they are "reborn just like me" , then "Faith-Based Programs" should work even better than "gub'ment assistance" and (here's the kicker) they would be cheaper. We thought that's what he meant!

When someone uses the term "Faith-Based Program," I cringe! It usually means the rug is coming out from under your science-based, proven-effective, government funded treatment program. Throughout his administration, at the same time Bush -- goosed by Karl Rove in everything public -- was encouraging that good ol' dependable, bible-belt-rapture-believin', conservative-votin', metaphorical wing-nut Church Lady to "go out, hit 'em over the head with your purse and convert those sinners, those drug addicts and low-bottom alcoholics in need of baptism and salvation...with a bowl of soup and a sermon," with a wink and a nod, he was sending a clear message to the counseling profession:

Sandy feels pretty much the same way I feel about "faith based programs" [The moral model of the Post-Victorian Era]:
What I love is this NEW prison reform. I know, I know - lets put treatment in the prisons. Lets follow it up with transitional living and aftercare. Lets put a bunch of untrained Christians into the prisons - hold some hands, give them stuff - give them bibles - take um to chirch - that'll work. oh man - here I go - on MY soap-box. I sure do miss our discussions. I miss our debates where we are on the same side but arguing the same point - lmao.

What she is being sarcastic about here is the "righteous approach" to treatment: "If you just would repent of your sins you wouldn't have to drink so much." Notwithstanding my own daily awareness of my human shortcomings, a model that both shames and lectures someone with a physical illness, such as is the case with the disease of addiction, stands little chance of success. It's not even "Christian" in my own estimation.

As do most of us in the helping professions, Sandy holds an experience-based opinion concerning the success rates of such hellfire approaches as we've seen all over Texas in the isolated circles of the conservatively evangelical. Faith-Based has come to mean "treatment on the cheap," the now familiar George Bush half-assed approach to effectiveness and accountability.

In fact, this is how personally successful George has been pulling on his on his bootstraps out of town while pandering to right-wing Christians back home about how "reborn" he is:

This article is from a KXAN-TV Austin report on the issue:

Those who serve time behind bars often find themselves right back where they started. It's what many drug and alcohol treatment facilities focus on, keeping prisons from becoming a "revolving door."

Seventy-seven percent of people who go through treatment programs after prison never return to prison.
But probationers that don't have a 15 percent chance of making it in society. Still, there are only a limited number of treatment facilities in Texas. And that's something center directors say needs to change.

Their lives have been torn apart by drugs and alcohol, but some recovering addicts have learned to live again. Each of them has completed treatment programs at the Central Texas Treatment Center, and each of them reflect on what life would be like without the center.

"I'd probably be dead or in prison," said recovering addict Lori R.* "I truly believe that."

"I have my integrity back," said Crisene C.,* "I'm honest. I owe my life to this center."

The Central Texas Treatment Center has gone from 60 to over a hundred beds. It's at its capacity right now, and there's a waiting list.

Several years ago, the state cut funding to drug treatment. Now directors say the state needs that back.

"If you want your folks working and paying taxes and raising their families, then by all means, they need to come to treatment," said Kay Baker, Director, Central Texas Treatment Center.

"If you want them in prison watching TV, wasting taxpayer dollars, then don't send them to treatment."

Directors say that 77 percent of those that complete probation never have to come back. And cutting these programs hurts everyone, they say, because you never know how close drugs and alcohol can hit close to home.

* * *
*[For the sake of their anonymity, I have edited out the last names of the people in recovery who contributed to this report.] -- progress

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