Rehabilitative programs are key to reducing recidivism SanTan Sun News

Rehabilitative programs are key to reducing recidivism

June 9th, 2017 | by SanTan Sun News
Rehabilitative programs are key to reducing recidivism
Business
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By Denny Barney

There is not a lot to smile about in jail. It is a serious place where court-ordered punishment is delivered. But detention professionals know that punishment without hope for a better life does not always yield results. That is why Maricopa County Correctional Health and detention staff introduced a new program called MOSAIC.

Fifty-two inmates recently graduated from the program. When these men arrived at the county jail, they were classified as moderate- to high-risk for recidivism. That means if we do nothing but punish them for their crimes, they are likely coming back to jail. Those statistics are unacceptable to us here in Maricopa County. As a member of the Board of Supervisors, I have strongly supported Smart Justice initiatives that help us rethink our approach to incarceration. And MOSAIC does just that.

While many low-risk individuals are “scared straight” by their first overnight stay in jail, moderate- to high-risk offenders are the ones who cost you, the taxpayer, the most by returning to jail time and time again. So we are focusing our efforts on this group. The new seven-week MOSAIC program uses methods rooted in science to try and stop that revolving door of incarceration and release.

Why is reducing recidivism among this population so important? One reason is that better inmate outcomes mean real savings to taxpayers. More than half of the county’s $2.5 billion budget is committed to public safety and the courts. The data we collect about the success of MOSAIC graduates will help develop future programs and improve outcomes, reducing the costs of criminal activity in our county.

The other reason is to lower the societal cost. You may be surprised to learn that an estimated 90 percent of participants experienced trauma before engaging in criminal behavior. In the MOSAIC classes they talk about anger control, anxiety, regret, guilt, disappointment, sadness and abandonment by their parents. Some of them have lost their kids, their families, their jobs and their hope.

MOSAIC represents putting the pieces of a person’s life back together. In order to do that, the men and women in MOSAIC discover skills for addressing difficult emotions without using self-destructive behaviors. They are asked to consider how they ended up in jail, and how they can develop plans to ensure it’s the last time.

Guided by employees of Correctional Health Services, the Sheriff’s Office, and other partners, inmates are shown that the use of substances as a coping mechanism hasn’t helped their personal relationships or their freedom. Inmates are asked to make changes inside themselves. “I’ve learned more about myself in these seven weeks than I’ve learned my whole life,” one man told his graduating class.

When they leave our jails, life on the outside will still be rough. Our goal is that MOSAIC graduates will have skills that keep them from failing and returning to unhealthy behaviors. And because success upon release requires support, the county is also working with experienced community providers to assist with that transition to the real world.

By using newly acquired skills and self-understanding, MOSAIC graduates have a better chance at crime-free lives. It’s the result we all want to see.

Denny Barney is a Gilbert resident and Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.  

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