Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Texas State Auditor States Some Prison Rehabilitation Programs Effective, Some Not

Texas State Auditor States Some Prison Rehabilitation Programs Effective, Some Not

by Matt Clarke

In March, 2007, the Texas State Auditor’s Office (SAO) released a report on five rehabilitation programs used in the Texas state prison system (TDCJ). The report found that three of the programs resulted in reduced recidivism rates.

The audit report was on the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP); Sex Offender Education Program (SOEP); Pre-Release Substance Abuse Program (PSAP); Pre-Release Therapeutic Community Program (PTCP); and InnerChange Freedom Initiative Program (IFIP). The program with the greatest effect was the SOTP, an 18-month, cognitive-behavioral-based treatment program which had a reincarceration rate 61.6% lower for its participants than that for eligible sex offenders who did not participate in the program.
Furthermore, 80% of those reincarcerated after completing SOTP had committed only technical violations of their paroles. SOEP and PTCP participants also had reduced reincarceration rates by about 20% and 30%, respectively.

On the other end of the scale, the PSAP program did not reduce recidivism rates for new crimes or technical violations and the IFIP, an 18-month, fundamentalist Christian faith-based program, reduced rearrest rates for new crimes, but did not reduce overall recidivism rates.

A major point in the report was that a lack of capacity and changes made by TDCJ to parole board program assignments resulted in prisoners spending more time in prison than necessary. Assignment to a rehabilitation program is generally a three-step process: the parole board assigns a prisoner to a program; TDCJ makes its own evaluation and its clinicians assign prisoners to programs according to their own priorities, which may be different from the parole board’s; then the State Classification Committee (SCC) reviews the program placement and may override it. The result is that parole board recommendations were not followed 41.3% of the time. This caused prisoners to remain in prison longer, increasing the crowding of Texas prisons.

The delay in release was caused by two factors. When the parole board assigns a prisoner to a rehabilitation program, it sets a “do not release before” date far enough into the future to allow completion of the program. If TDCJ assigns the prisoner to a different, shorter program, the prisoner will complete the program and still have to wait until the date set by the board arrives. If, on the other hand, TDCJ assigns a prisoner to a longer program, the prisoner will still be in the program when the date set by the parole board arrives and will have to wait until the program is completed to be released. The SAO suggested that the process used to assess and place prisoners in programs be improved. In typical bureaucratic fashion, TDCJ intends to add a second screening by the SCC to the front end of the process.

Another complication was the waiting lists of prisoners approved to participate in programs. Over 300 prisoners were on waiting lists for the programs evaluated in the report for so long that they no longer could complete the program before their target release dates. The situation was so dire that 485 prisoners were waiting on the 111 beds in the SOEP program. The SAO recommended that TDCJ increase the available program capacity. It agreed to “explore ways” to do so without committing to actually expand the programs.

The SOTP and SOEP programs had problems documenting the treatment provided participants. 79% of the SOTP participants’ files that were examined had no evidence of required individual therapy; 69% had no pre- and post-test results; and 22% had no closing summaries. 40% of the SOEP participants’ files had no pre- and post-test results. The SAO recommended that the SOTP and SOEP programs improve documentation of treatment and education.

The IFIP also suffered from a lack of sufficient documentation to allow the SAO to assess whether participants were receiving the proper level of treatment. Therefore, the SAO was unable to determine whether participants who had completed the program had met the criteria for program completion.

The SAO concluded that Texas had implemented some programs which have been proven by evidence-based research studies to be effective as well as a few which are not effective. Programs widely noted as ineffective include adult boot camps and Scared Straight programs.

Programs that were not specifically studied for the report were also noted as being effective. Project Reintegration of Offenders (RIO), when offered in both the pre-and post-release phases, resulted in an 80% reduction in recidivism over one year and a 75% reduction over three years. Basic, vocational and post-secondary educations have also been shown to strongly reduce recidivism rates. Source: An Audit Report on Selected Rehabilitation Program at the Department of Criminal Justice, Texas State Auditor’s Office, dated March 2007, available on PLN’s website.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login