JPA Assessment and IDOC Program Changes

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Message from the Director

Since being appointed Director, I stated we as an agency were going to be in a constant state of improvement. I said we were going to continually evaluate what we do, welcome the insight of others, and not be afraid to unearth areas where we can improve and make changes when appropriate. I also said we weren’t going to talk about it—we’re going to be about it. We are fortunate to have a Board of Corrections that fosters, and frankly demands, this type of environment.

In February of this year, we asked the Council of State Governments to come in and evaluate our cognitive, substance abuse and sex offender programs. This review was conducted through the Justice Program Assessment (JPA) and consisted of a team of experts led by Bree Derrick, a licensed mental health clinician with extensive experience in corrections programming and evidence-based practices. Over the past six months, the team observed the delivery of programs, met with staff and inmates, reviewed program curriculum and researched the programs we deliver. They also met with community providers and reviewed the Presentence Investigation process.

That review is now complete. Some of their findings were already known to us – our treatment staff are dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable about the programs they deliver, and our assessment process is thorough and validated. We also weren’t surprised to hear from them what we’ve heard from many of you – our pathways are confusing, complex and redundant.

Still, other findings showed more room for improvement. Nine of the twelve programs we offer are backed by outdated or limited research, and research has demonstrated the community model in our Therapeutic Communities (TC’s) can be counterproductive to achieving positive results.

What’s next? We’re viewing these findings through the lens of doing what’s best to enhance public safety, and the findings about TC’s require our immediate attention. Effective today, September 17, 2015, we are discontinuing all Therapeutic Communities. Inmates presently in a TC will continue to receive the core treatment programs currently offered in a TC but absent the community model. Community models existing elsewhere in our system also will be discontinued today.

JPA’s findings and recommendations about pathways and the substance of our programming will require thoughtful planning to address. JPA is recommending we simplify our programs by providing a smaller but more impactful group of core evidence-based programs consistently across our institutions and the community. We agree, but getting there will take some time and planning.

It’s important to note these findings are about our pathways and programs, not the people implementing them. Change can be scary, but we have no intention of reducing our treatment staff. In fact, we’re confident less confusion and greater consistency in our system will help all of us be even more successful at providing meaningful opportunities for change and making Idaho safer.

This is an exciting time to improve programming while also shining a spotlight on the importance of the services our treatment staff provide.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but the end result will be great for our system. Our IDOC staff members are communicating these changes to inmates today. We are also distributing several question and answer documents to staff and inmates so everyone understands what these changes mean to them. Lastly, families and friends of inmates should refer to the FAQ's posted below for additional information.

Kevin H. Kempf

Story published: 09/17/2015
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