On Location: ACA 138th Congress of Correcton

Although the 2008 celebration of Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras season had long since faded into hazy memory, traditional string beads and quintessential jazz were in no short supply down in the French Quarter — along with the obligatory plate of Jambalaya and occasional medicinal bourbon — as more than 220 exhibitors and 2,000 attendees descended on a sultry New Orleans for the American Correctional Association’s 138th Congress of Correction.

With the theme of “Being ready for any challenge,” the six-day gathering offered ACA members a multitude of seminars and workshops covering a broad range of topics on preparing for and dealing with emergency situations.

Supplementing core presentations, the congress featured a host of additional seminars on issues from evidence-based facility design and emerging security technology to the aging inmate population and facility overcrowding.

The healthcare professional interest section included presentations on the development of mental health care, the maintenance of disease management initiatives, reducing pharmaceutical program costs, and reconciling security and treatment functions in the correctional environment.

Seminar Highlights
Improving Performance Through Evidence-Based Design

Dita Peatross, Ph.D., a senior planner with international design and construction firm Gleeds, presented an overview of evidence-based design, its origins and applicability to corrections, and potential impacts and benefits.

Mark Goldman, M.Arch., of Atlanta-based architects Goldman & Associates, discussed recent findings in the area of evidence-based design and how evidence-based design can create an environment that better serves the needs of inmates, staff, administrators, lawmakers and the public without undermining the traditional correctional objectives of safety, security, efficiency and economy.

Attendees got a close look at AcornVac’s line of vacuum plumbing and drainage systems.

Melissa Farling, M.Arch., of Phoenix-based Jones Studio, discussed specific research on evidence-based design in corrections from the perspective of neuroscience and the environment’s demonstrated capacity to impact human brain chemistry, neurological functioning and behavior. Farling also surveyed a recent research project focused on evidence-based facility design and the application of neuroscience concepts and methods to correctional environments. Conducted by American Institute of Architects in association with the National Institute of Corrections, the project includes a pilot study carried out at Sonoma County Jail in Santa Rosa, Calif.

SVORI: Promising Re-Entry Findings

As the Serious Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative (SVORI) evaluation process nears completion, preliminary findings offer a degree of promise in combating recidivism, according to Pamela Lattimore, principal scientist at North Carolina-headquartered private research institute RTI International.

Up to 15 months after release, offenders participating in SVORI programs were doing moderately better than offenders in traditional programs across a broad range of outcome measures, according to the RTI evaluation.

Clara Curl, Washington State Community Corrections Division re-entry administrator, discussed her experience with SVORI and the implementation of new re-entry strategies in Washington.

Oldcastle Security attracted interest with its perimeter fencing and surveillance systems.

An estimated 66 percent of the approximately 650,000 offenders released annually from prisons and jails in the United States are re-incarcerated within three years of their release. Recidivism represents a fundamental challenge and critical issue for the criminal justice system, lawmakers, offenders and the general public.

In 2003, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services established the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative to reduce recidivism and also to improve offender outcomes in the areas of employment, housing and health.

The SVORI program provided more than $100 million in funding to almost 70 grantees for the development of innovative, effective programming, training and re-entry strategies delivered at the community level.

Crime 101

Criminal justice consultant Gabrielle Chapman, Ph.D., discussed current trends in crime, rehabilitation and re-entry, and evolving criminal justice system theory. Despite a tapering off in the overall crime rate during recent years and a return to levels similar to those found in the 1960s, problems of re-entry, recidivism, increasing incarceration rates and overcrowding continue to plague the criminal justice and corrections systems in the United States. Between 1980 and 2007, the inmate population increased 328 percent at the local level, 357 percent at the state level, and 717 percent at the federal level.

For Chapman, there exists a fundamental disconnect between criminologists and criminal justice theorists who drive and develop policy and criminal justice professionals and psychologists who work in the field and see the results of policy decisions first hand. Less than optimal communication, information and knowledge sharing, and collaboration among stakeholders are inhibiting the development and implementation of effective solutions to crime and recidivism.

Motor Coach Industries’ booth proved hard to miss for ACA members walking the exhibit floor.

Reviewing the evolution of modern theories of deviance, from social bond theory to social learning theory to Marxist/feminist analyses, Chapman discussed newer approaches to crime and antisocial behavior. The core elements and rationale of the reintegration model, for example, are similar to those found in the restorative justice movement.

However, several jurisdictions are moving toward a holistic approach to criminal justice theory and policy in search of a comprehensive solution to crime and recidivism. Washington and Tennessee, for instance, are enjoining independent actors and state agencies across an entire spectrum of social domains, from employment to corrections, mental health to criminal justice, housing to education, in an effort to generate effective, comprehensive solutions to crime and recidivism and positive, long-lasting offender outcomes.

Cole Carter, JD, assistant general counsel for Corrections Corporation of America also reviewed recent criminal justice trends in the United States. With sentencing laws and probation and parole rates representing the two primary driving factors for the field of corrections, Carter examined the sentencing implications of landmark court decisions, from Burns v. United States in 1991 to the 2008 ruling in Irizarry v. United States.

Steve Owen, public information officer for Corrections Corporation of America opened the presentation with his perspective on the general public’s perception and the media’s portrayal of crime and the field of corrections.

Seminar Snapshots
Evaluating Emerging Security Technologies

ACA President Gary Maynard lends a hand during the member prize drawing.

Alexander Fox, Massachusetts Department of Corrections’ director of security technologies, and a Federal Bureau of Prisons’ security technology specialist, offered a survey of emerging technological trends and initiatives designed to enhance security operations in the corrections setting. The presentation also provided examples of successful programs and methodological processes for the assessment of the potential impact and effectiveness of security technologies.

Infection Control: MRSA

With infectious disease a constant and growing threat in the field of corrections, Edward O’Brien, D.O., medical director for the Iowa Department of Corrections, discussed the dangers and risks of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Inmates are categorized as having high-risk potential for infectious diseases and jails and prisons throughout the United States suffer significant and potentially critical MRSA outbreaks every year due to the large number and throughput of inmates and the high-density, frequent-contact environment of facilities. The presentation surveyed essential strategies and protocols in the prevention, management and containment of MRSA infections within the secure environment of a correctional facility.

End of Corrections As We Know It

Examining recent experiences of the Correctional Service of Canada and those of the Scottish Prison Service, the workshop addressed the potential fundamental transformative impact that independent reviews can have on a jurisdiction’s correctional mandate and operations. With perspectives from CSC Commissioner Don Head, Jim Laplante, senior member of CSC’s transformation team, and Tony Cameron, former SPS chief executive and president of the International Corrections and Prison Association, the presentation looked at the circumstances that lead to the instigation of the reviews, the subsequent recommendations of the review bodies and the strategies implemented in each case.

Illinois Success in Reducing Recidivism

Since 2004, Illinois lawmakers implemented statewide parole reforms that have generated a 23 percent reduction in general parolee arrests and resulted in the lowest parolee conviction rate in state history. The Sheridan National Model Drug Prison and Re-Entry Program, one of several programs established as part of the parole reform effort, reported a 40 percent reduction in recidivism among parolees with substance-abuse issues.

ICE: Alien Detention and Removal

With immigration and residency violation-related detention, enforcement and deportation on the increase, Mary Loiselle, B.S., assistant director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, discussed the key elements of ICE’s Detention and Removal Operations program, which is designed to provide custody management in support of the removal of illegal aliens. The DRO office also facilitates the processing of aliens through immigration courts and enforces deportation from the United States.