Welcome to a special edition of Inside Corrections. Hopefully you will find
the time to read all the articles related to research, analysis, evaluation,
data collection and how that information is used in our profession. During
this time of a deepening recession, data driven decision making becomes more
I am obliviously bias when it comes to bragging on our DOC employees. Accolades go out to Dr. Mike Connelly, Courtney Charish, Chris Hyde, Renee Phillip and Bud Clark for being one of the finest evaluation and analysis units in the country. The quality of work and responsivity to requests are unsurpassed.
The DOC has always strived for transparency and with increased demands to quantify utilization of resources and every dollar appropriated the need to maintain a quality unit of evaluation and analysis is paramount. Directly and/or indirectly every employee in the DOC is impacted by this unit’s work. Resources are garnered through the utilization of data analysis whether it is justifying additional employees through workload data or decisions on expanding or eliminating programs through survival analysis or a gamut of other assignments.
The demand for data driven decision making was virtually nonexistent when I started in corrections 32 years ago. Now data drives our business. Everyone has data to prove their points and/or arguments. This is especially true in corrections where data is utilized to demonstrate what works or doesn’t work or to justify resources. Many times there is competing data where an entity is subjectively providing or interpreting data to drive a political agenda or to direct resources in an indefensible direction. In such cases, it is critical to have a unit that itself uses best practices in the collection, evaluation and interpretation of data. Also, as often stated, there are two sides to every story. Such is also the case with data as many times only providing a limited data set cannot represent the whole story. Again, this is another example to have a scientifically and statistically correct unit such as what we currently have.
Dr. Mike Connelly was directing the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission when
the director asked him to come create an Evaluation and Analysis (E&A)
unit. Director Jones saw a need for Evidence Based Practices (EBP), to make
the agency more data driven. The purpose of the E&A unit is to help management
with the development of evidence based practice, and encourage more data
driven decision making.
Dr. Connelly has been promoting his evaluation and analysis unit throughout the department. He wants the department to know the purpose of the E&A unit, its capabilities, and its successful project history involving every division and unit in the agency. In addition, he wants to get people to start thinking beyond the day to day, and start looking toward the future of the department. Finally, he feels there has been a steady increase in their use over the past two and a half years. The role of the E&A unit is evolving to meet these increasing needs; the value they bring to the table will increase with the future.
Dr. Connelly returned to the agency in 2006 when Director Jones appointed him to create the E&A unit. He had previously worked for the agency in the 1990’s when the Criminal Justice Resource Center (CJRC) was part of DOC. Currently, he’s working on EBP and whitepapers dealing with correctional issues. Whitepapers are specific research on a particular topic. One day to day job responsibility is managing the assignment of new requests to analyze so one analyst doesn’t have a more intense workload than the others. He wants people to know the unit is there and can be helpful to other units. He loves the challenges his job provides, and he is trying to bring the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to the forefront of research.
Bud Clark has been with the Department of Corrections for 33 years and his current job title is Data Analyst. Bud is in charge of responding to requests from other divisions and fulfilling these requests by providing the information. Currently he is trying to build a survival analysis model. Survival analysis is very much like recidivism except it takes into consideration the amount of time the individual was out. One of his accomplishments is he helped write the Personal Computer side of the Consolidated Record Card (CRC). The CRC was the former information system program that was used for over 12 years by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Within a few years Bud plans on retiring, he then plans to work for Barnes and Noble Bookstore.
Christopher Hyde has been with the department for four years and currently serves as the Data Management Coordinator. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Management Science Information Systems. He recently graduated in December with his Master’s degree in Business Management Administration. His background in education and extensive training make him an asset to the department. His main job responsibility is to manage and coordinate offender data for requests from media, legislators, and federal agencies. The information for these requests is frequently used to monitor and evaluate the conditions of the offender population. Chris is currently finishing up transferring the data collection for the Probation and Parole (P&P) Diversion Program management to COMIT. This program is a last resort for P&P offenders who are headed to prison. One of his accomplishments is the implementation of a system to track all E&A’s requests. It’s very common for someone to come in with a chart and ask questions about it (e.g. what it is, where did it come from, etc.).The system allows the analysts to pull the data and information on the request for that chart. This enables them to explain differences between that chart and another, and provide the requestor with detailed information about the request. Chris enjoys his position because he values his co-workers, likes networking with other DOC employees, and the day to day challenges.
Courtney Charish has been with the Department of Corrections for two years and serves as Statistical Analyst. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Sociology with an emphasis in Criminology. She specializes in data related to female offenders and mental health issues. These requests normally come from the Female Offender Management group and the Department of Mental Health. Currently she’s working on Labor Force Analysis for each facility to determine whether the population will be large enough in certain areas of Oklahoma to staff the prisons within the next 10 to 20 years. The data collected on this project will determine whether certain facilities will remain open, or if we will need to open a new facility and where? A recent accomplishment is her involvement in the Mathematica Project with the Department of Mental Health. This project was a major accomplishment for the E&A unit. Mathematica even received national news coverage. The Mathematica Project goal was to get Social Security benefits to inmates before they left the prison if they needed disability because of mental illness. Another accomplishment of Courtney’s was the employee survey project. This project was a challenge that used complicated, in depth analysis. The goal of this project was a way to look into each facility that would be an unbiased analysis to see where they needed assistance and also to see which areas they were excelling in. She takes pride in her job and chose to work for the DOC because she feels analysts who work for the state can have a larger impact on policies and change.
Renee Philips is the most recent addition to the E&A unit and serves as Statistical Analyst. She graduated in May with her Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. Renee is a Statistical Analyst specializing in probation and parole. The correctional field is nothing new to Renee. She formerly worked with Drug Courts and drug offenders before pursing her Master’s degree. Renee has been working on data requests dealing with probation and parole. She has been evaluating their supervision practices for EBP programs. She has also been working on program evaluations for training and staff development. Renee is currently excited about getting her feet wet in the statistical research world. She loves learning something new every day. Renee looks forward to taking on a new project of her own and being able to analyze it herself.
Some future goals of the E&A unit are that it would become second nature for the department as a whole to understand the importance of EBP and data driven decisions through documentation and data collection. Then use it within their division to measure success and make improvements when needed. The E&A unit wants this analytical process to become ingrained in the culture of the Department of Corrections. Dr. Connelly also wants the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to be at the forefront of research on a national level. The E&A unit’s research can prepare us for the future. It can provide an environment for our workers so they will enjoy coming to work and will allow us to provide for public safety better.
EVALUATION & ANALYSIS UNIT CONTACT NUMBERS:
The people who do the real work:
After new discharge planning processes were implemented by the Oklahoma
Department of Corrections (DOC), individuals with serious mental illnesses
were significantly more likely to be enrolled in Medicaid at discharge from
three Oklahoma prisons. The discharge planning processes are part of an initiative
called the “Mental
Health Reentry Program” that relies on collaboration among state agencies
and federal partners to help ensure that inmates with serious, disabling
mental illness receive services and disability support upon discharge from
DOC estimates that about 1,000 individuals, of the 8,000 offenders discharged each year, have some form of mental illness. All offenders identified as having mental illness receive some form of mental health reentry planning; the new program is targeted to help those individuals with the highest risk of disability and recidivism. About 200 individuals each year receive the intensive reentry planning services provided by the Mental Health Reentry Program.
These are preliminary results of a study by Mathematica Policy Research Inc., to be released in April 2009 by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The results were presented at the 2008 SAMHSA/Center for Medicaid Services Conference on Medicaid and Mental Health Services/Substance Abuse Treatment, which took place September 23-24, 2008. The research started in 2004. Mathematica researchers worked with Oklahoma to design, implement, and evaluate a program to ensure that adults with serious mental illness had health insurance coverage upon discharge from correctional facilities. Mathematica’s evaluation was supported by SAMHSA. Ongoing program activities continue to be supported by the state of Oklahoma.
With support from Mathematica, the program was collaboratively designed and administered by DOC, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA). Three discharge managers were located in three DOC facilities with mental health units. The discharge managers identify potential Medicaid enrollees at least six months prior to release. About four months before release, the discharge managers begin to work with the inmates to submit Social Security disability applications. Medicaid applications are submitted about two months before release.
About 60 days before an inmate is released, a collaborative community-based Recovery Intensive Care Coordination Team (RICCT) starts working with the offender. Each RICCT is composed of a certified case manager and a recovery support peer specialist affiliated with a community mental health center (CMHC). There are four RICCTs; two are based in Tulsa and two are in Oklahoma City. RICCTs work with ex-offenders with serious mental illness to help them transition to community living and receiving mental heath services from the CMHC.
The program is co-managed by Bob Mann, RN, LSW, coordinator of clinical social work services for DOC and Randy May, LPC, director of community-based services for ODMHSAS. In an interview with Bob Mann, OPEN MINDS On-Line News learned that the Mental Health Reentry program operates in the Joseph Harp medium security men’s prison; the Mabel Bassett women’s prison, and the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, a maximum security facility. Offenders identified during intake assessments who are eligible for the program, but in other facilities can be transferred to one of the three participating facilities.
Mr. Mann said that when the project started in 2004, it built on the state’s growing interest in providing better transition services for offenders with mental illness. In 2004, at the project kick-off, the executive leadership of DOC, ODMHSAS, DHS, and OHCA met to support the project and agree on goals for the project outcomes. This consensus at the executive level translated into regular meetings among agency staff to build trust and share information to implement the program. The information sharing has continued and in July 2008, DOC and ODMHSAS signed a robust information-sharing agreement that will allow both DOC and ODMHSAS unprecedented access to clinical information from records of state-funded treatment provided to mental health services consumers involved with DOC. The system will go live in December 2008.
The first step to implementing the program was developing understanding among the agency executives, so that policies would be congruent when implemented. Mr. Mann said the benefits of congruent policies and information-sharing has become especially evident in securing Social Security disability benefits for the participants. Nationally, about 39.7% Social Security disability applications are accepted without need for further information or revision. As of September 2008, about 89.6% of the Oklahoma program participants’ Social Security disability applications are accepted on the first submission. The end result is that inmates with mental illness leave prison and are immediately eligible to receive treatment and disability benefits. If the approvals are delayed, the community-based RICCT’s have access to flexible funding to help the ex-offender meet basic needs as a stop-gap measure while waiting for final approval.
We hope it is clear from this issue of Inside Corrections that much has been and can be done to promote the use and success of data, research, evaluation, and analysis in DOC operations and programming. It should also be clear that we know a great deal about what works and how to do it, given the proper support and resources from policymakers and the public. With these efforts, we can and will not only be more effective in administration but also more successful in meeting our public safety goals as well.
We also hope that you have had numerous lightbulbs go off over your head as you have read this issue, with ideas and concerns about how the Evaluation & Analysis unit might be able to help you answer questions you have been having about how well you are doing, how well you can show it, and what else might still be done. And, as you document successes or run across practices that look promising, please let us know as well so we can help you spread the word within the department and around the country. Together, we can make the Oklahoma Department of Corrections the premier corrections department in the U.S. on every positive measure that any of us can create.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue. We will look forward to working with you.
Any organization wanting to base its practices on actual evidence obviously
needs to know what the research and data say about those practices. Professional
associations such as the American Correctional Association, the American
Probation and Parole Association, and the Association of State Correctional
Administrators have websites with tons of information. In the last decade,
academic journals in criminal justice began to apply theory more to practice,
and journals such as Criminology & Public Policy and Justice Research
and Policy specifically oriented their work to policy and practice. The National
Institute of Justice strongly supported applied research and analysis at
the federal level as well. In addition, researchers and media outside criminal
justice but in related fields such as mental health, health, public policy,
education, psychology, and juvenile development contributed to the quickly
Most of that literature, however, focused on cases or programs specific to one or just a few jurisdictions that might be significantly different from what you face daily. So, while interesting, it might not fit what you are interested in doing or accomplishing. Fortunately, while the problem of relating what you do to the published studies may never go away, some research and reporting has been done pulling the respectable studies together into “meta-analyses” that combine the data and findings into much more useable results that apply across more boards. From this, within the last dozen years or so, we have been able to say with much more certainty “what works” and what does not. The following four reports pinpoint what works in corrections and criminal justice more definitively along with their major conclusions along with their websites for you to read more if you choose (and find their bibliographies of the individual studies).
This first really full-scale meta-analysis report, funded by the National Institute of Justice in 1996, investigated evaluations across virtually every major area of possible criminal justice practice, including corrections. Some of its findings have been challenged but most have been affirmed. Here are their conclusions regarding what the research at that time showed about what worked, what did not, and what still appeared to have promise across most criminal justice areas (you might even find the non-corrections related conclusions interesting!).
Programs For Offenders With Co-occurring Disorders: Jail diversion (pre- and post-booking programs)- 0.0%.
Programs For The General Offender Population: General and specific cognitive-behavioral treatment programs- 8.2%.
Programs For Domestic Violence Offenders: Education/cognitive-behavioral treatment- 0.0%.
Programs For Sex Offenders
Program Areas In Need Of Additional Research & Development
(The following types of programs require additional research before it can be concluded that they do or do not reduce adult recidivism rates)
Regarding community corrections specifically, in 2007, nationally known researcher Joan Petersilia discussed what works in community corrections for the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project as part of an interview in Report Three.
Q: Would you describe a few of the most effective community corrections
programs and the results they deliver?
A: First, it is important to note that probably 99 percent of all community corrections programs in the U.S. today have not been scientifically evaluated. So, identifying which ones are most effective is impossible. I suspect there are many excellent programs operating today (such as faith-based mentoring, etc.), which if subject to evaluation, might be effective. But the corrections literature includes evaluations mostly of large federally-funded programs, and most of those are services for drug-addicted felons. From that literature, we know that intensive community supervision combined with rehabilitation services can reduce recidivism between 10 and 20 percent. Some drug courts have also had similarly encouraging results.
Q: And what does the research say about ineffective programs?
A: We know more about what doesn’t work than what does. Research has shown that boot camps, house arrest, and routine probation and parole supervision do not reduce recidivism. But again, the majority of community corrections programs have never been scientifically tested so you have to view these results cautiously as well.
Q: In your view, what are the principles or themes that run through effective community corrections programs?
A: At the core of any good community corrections program is the use of an objective risk and needs assessment. Assessments allow correctional agencies to assign offenders to the programs that will most likely benefit them. The “risk” part of the assessment instrument assesses risk to reoffend, and that information is critical to assigning probationers or parolees to levels of surveillance and supervision, such as specialized caseloads, frequent drug testing or electronic monitoring.
The “need” portion of the assessment instrument identifies the subset of the offender population that research has shown will benefit from being in rehabilitation treatment programs. Research has shown that for high and moderate risk offenders, participation in treatment programs and services has high payoff, but for those with a low risk to reoffend, life skills programs are more appropriate. This is the most efficient use of scarce correctional resources as well as the best way to increase public safety. Of course, the next core principle is to make certain that the rehabilitation programs are of sufficient quality to make a difference.
There are now several scoring methods that rate the quality of rehabilitation programs along such dimensions as staff qualifications and training, use of a tested curriculum or program model, and use of cognitive-behavioral or social learning methods. These and other program characteristics have been shown to increase success.
In short, effective corrections programs must get the right offender in the right program. And then of course, we must continually evaluate costs and program outcomes and revise accordingly. Research over the last several decades also reinforces the importance of the community and familial supports as sources of informal social control.
Effective programs involve family and community members in a very real and proactive way. Effective programs recognize that government programs ultimately end, and the hand-off between the formal and informal systems is ultimately what determines success. In my opinion, community corrections agencies that collaborate closely with non-profits and other community organizations, who in turn work to integrate the offender’s family and social support system, will have the most success.
The process of determining and showing whether your programs, existing
or new, are accomplishing what you want from them can seem overwhelming.
Public policy courses and professional evaluators can make everything so
formal, general, and abstract that it may not seem like it is worth it to
go to the trouble, even assuming you have the time and resources. But the
process is not as bad as “experts” can make it sound.
Actually, there are only a few simple questions for you to answer to get yourself in position to do and provide a very good analysis of those programs and activities. Negative, ambivalent, or confused answers do not mean you have to give up, just that they need more work. Your first question, of course, is, well, what are those questions?
Here you go:
Okay, so it really was not just a few simple questions. Depending on what
you are doing or want to do, they can be pretty daunting, even crippling
or terminating. But these questions can all serve as a kind of checklist
for your thoughts and planning.
If/when you are required to justify what you do or want to change, if you have already answered these questions to yourself, you should be prepared for just about anything the folks you are working with may want to know.
And keep in mind that, in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, you do not have to answer all these things by yourself. You have colleagues across the department on the same team, you have Quality Assurance to help with the process questions, and, of course, you have us, the Evaluation & Analysis unit. We’re from the government and we’re here to help. Seriously.
Predicting where Oklahoma corrections will go in the future may be harder
than predicting Oklahoma weather. Who in 1970 saw all the prisons and offenders
under DOC supervision that we have today? Who could have predicted that the
state would not build a new prison for 30 years? With all the demands on
state revenue from infrastructure, medical care, education, mental health,
pensions, and other concerns, you wanna bet what DOC’s share of that revenue will be 20, 30 years from
now? Or how we will be supervising offenders? Or where? More electronic (satellite?)
monitoring and fewer cells? Tasering from space if a bracelet breaks its zone?
Will extension of DNA testing to frequent non-violent offenses like Burglary
II, as is now occurring in some states, bump our populations even higher? Will
the advancements being made in pharmaceuticals and bioengineering allow us to
break addictions or stop them from ever occurring, with the dramatic impact on
crime and corrections that would have? Or something no one has even thought of
yet? This is why most prediction is left to bookmakers.
Like the weather, though, the closer to the present we keep our predictions, the closer to the data whose trends we are using to predict, the closer we will likely be in foreseeing what the next few years hold for the department and for the state. With that in mind, let’s close this issue with a quick look at what near-term projections seem to tell us about special populations that may pose particular issues for us—specifically, aging offenders, female offenders, and Hispanic/Latino offenders.
Now consider this: Corrections Today in August 2008 published a report on a national survey including older prisoner health (Sterns et al., 2008). Among the authors’ findings:
Formal analysis of the aging offender population in Oklahoma extends to the mid-1990s. In 1995, Southwestern Oklahoma State University researchers examined DOC offender data from 1980 to 1994, breaking down increases in the 50 years of age and older population by race, gender, offense type, and percentage of total offender population. The authors concluded that Oklahoma and its DOC needed to pay greater attention to the growth of that age group:
More recently, in 2005, the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center produced
a report on “The Aging of the Oklahoma Prison Population: Implications
for Health Care Costs.” That report used 45 as the threshold age for “aging” offenders,
making it less comparable to other research on the topic which generally
uses the 50 and over threshold. However, its detail of the increase in the
45 and over population and projections of future growth paralleled that of
national and other state research. The report reviewed literature that indicated
high continuing rates of increase in health care costs and thus overall correctional
budgets due to the aging offender population. It also detailed statistics
showing that “the health care expenses for persons age 55 to 64 are
more than twice as much as those for the 19 to 44 age group” in Oklahoma’s
DOC. It further demonstrated that the increase in aging offender population
was due both to increased receptions within the age category and to longer
time served for offenders, particularly violent offenders. The average
age of prison receptions in Oklahoma had increased from 30.0 in 1990 to
32.9 in 2004. Finally, the report projected an increase in the 45+ population
from 5,651 in FY 2005 to 9,147 in FY 2015.
Finally, consider that an even faster growing offender population is those convicted of crimes for which they must serve 85% of sentence before receiving earned credits. 85% offenders have increased 114% over the last five years and project out to another 87% increase in the next five years if their numbers continue at past rates. This may not be realistic, given a possible plateauing effect on their intake which is often seen in these situations, but their extended time served before release will pile them up and keep their numbers a large percentage of the offender population. They have increased from 9% of the total offender population in FY 2004 to 17% in FY 2008. Given the length and public popularity of their sentences, these offenders will very likely maintain the high levels of aging offenders in DOC facilities for years to come.
Clearly, the offender population 50 years of age and older will concern correctional officials and government policymakers in Oklahoma for the foreseeable future. This will require greater attention to training, programs, materials, facilities, and care oriented specifically to this population and to its subgroups, such as female offenders, noted on the next page. This in turn means greater costs, perhaps 2-3 times those of the general offender population. Thus, even if general population growth plateaus or decreases in coming years, the costs of the “aging” offender population will keep necessary overall expenditures at current or higher levels. Oklahoma correctional officials and government policymakers need to continue planning for this future with the blueprints laid out by the research and analysis put forward in this paper. Failure to adjust appropriately will likely mean even higher eventual costs.
Oklahoma is known widely for its large per capita female offender population. Projections for its female offender population through FY 2013 indicate that ranking will remain high, if past rates remain the same.
Projected Female Offender Population
The 3,028 projection for FY 2013 represents an expected 11% increase from FY 2008, compared to a 10% increase expected for the total inmate population in the same time period at current rates. In response, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) has created a Deputy Director position dedicated to managing female institutions, facilities, and programs.
Research has shown that, as Oklahoma and other states attempt to deal effectively with their incarcerated females and reduce their numbers and rate of increase, they will have to face and overcome obstacles regarding “(1) treatment for substance abuse problems; (2) health care; (3) mental health issues; (4) violence prevention and post-traumatic stress disorder; (5) educational and employment services; (6) safe, secure, affordable housing; and (7) child advocacy and family reunification.” Fortunately, research and practice can provide examples for possibly successful reentry in the face of the specific needs of those offenders. Consider these examples:
• At the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, officials created a Female Offender Management Work Group. That workgroup led to “a new risk assessment form specifically for female offenders, increased staff training on trauma and gender responsive programming, an enhanced facility design that fosters social and mental rehabilitation, and new visitation rules that allow children to sit on their mothers’ laps. Other improvements include[d] the banishment of partitions for family visits and transition services following incarceration, including education services, substance abuse treatment, and housing assistance.”
• New Mexico’s “woman-centered approach for female offenders” featured “intensive gender-specific case management programming, a family literacy program designed to help mothers read to their children, a therapeutic residential program that focuses on a variety of female-specific issues, and Dolls Against Domestic Abuse in which female inmates make dolls for children who were present at a domestic violence scene and now live in a safe house. Other programs include regular therapeutic visits with children, overnight visitation for incarcerated mothers, creative writing and poetry for female classes, community work release, reentry planning, and televisitation. . . . Staff for the New Mexico Department of Corrections complete a 3-day training session on ‘Working with Female Offenders’ in order to raise awareness of women’s unique needs and issues.”
• Analysis of the Cameron neighborhood in Chicago, a poor but recently proactive community developing initiatives including an employment and case management program for female offenders, recommended the following for female reentry: “(1) a comprehensive and multidimensional assessment of psychological, social, and educational needs prior to release; (2) assistance with identifying family issues for family conferencing and negotiation; and (3) closer attention to job placement that enables women to gain income and gradual experience in the job market.”
• Several states, including Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, New York, and Ohio, have considered development and use of “certificates of employability.” These official certificates are issued upon release from correctional custody to offenders who, through their performance in prison (treatment, training, and behavior), can be certified as ready to perform productively in the workplace. These certificates can be used to defer or eliminate application of laws prohibiting felons from entering licensed or other credentialed professions. Since they are most likely given to low risk and/or non-violent offenders, a description that also applies to many female inmates, this policy option might prove most suitable for the female population, especially if piloted for testing prior to larger scale implementation.
• Research in 2008 indicated that outcomes for women in a prison therapeutic community (TC) or in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) “improved significantly on all variables in each of the outcome domains (mental health, substance use, criminal behavior, and HIV risk).” However, TC participants, with less exposure to sexual violence and with fewer prior criminal arrests, did better after six months on depression and posttraumatic symptom severity and in trading sex for money or drugs.
• Other 2008 research found that counseling programs such as Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET) and Present Centered Therapy (PCT), which “enhance women’s abilities to deal effectively with current challenges and relationships,” successfully reduced drop-out rates and levels of post-traumatic stress disorder for incarcerated females similarly to long-term therapies.
• Finally, in 2006 the former director of the National Institue of Justice called for a specific research agenda on these concerns “that is woman-centered, not offender-centered, and not even woman-offender-centered. As important as it is to understand the consequences of the increase in women in prison, and the intersection of drug abuse and the war on drugs on women, the ripple effects of this social experiment are far reaching and the research agenda must be just as far reaching.” In other words, the development and application of a top-flight research capability and Evidence-Based Practice for issues concerning incarcerated females could pay substantial dividends.
In addition, as mentioned above, consider the impact of combining the aging of offenders with the growing female population. One in 2004 noted the tendency of correctional officials to ignore gender differences, accusing them of “a pattern of benign neglect” of their needs and “the unique living environment, health care and programming needs of aging female inmates.” Likewise, others discovered that as the numbers of women in prison have increased, so have the number of older women behind bars. These older women present unique problems for institutions trying to meet their health care needs. We report findings from our national pilot study of federal and state prisons for women. Prisons report basic services for physical and mental health care, and most report having hospice services. However, those that house larger percentages or that expect to house larger percentages of older prisoners do not significantly differ in their approaches to assessing and providing health care from their counterparts. By failing to anticipate the increase in older women, prisons may be failing to provide for many of the health needs of this vulnerable population.
Thus, although the female inmate population may not be growing at the same rates as some of the other specific populations within DOC custody, they will clearly continue to present needs and issues that will require acute awareness and careful programming in the future.
The Sentencing Project in August 2003 published a report on a national survey of Hispanics/Latinos in U.S. criminal justice, including their status as offenders. Among the authors’ findings:
Hispanic Women Offenders
From the available research and recommendations, we can identify two basic
sets of needs for effective management and treatment of the Hispanic/Latino
offender population in Oklahoma corrections. First, because Hispanic/Latino
offenders may be identified as “white” or “black,” it
is clear that greater sensitivity must be paid to data collection and reporting.
Two chief means exist to denote Hispanics and Latinos: self-report and
intake officer determination. Neither is completely reliable. As a result,
some Hispanics and Latinos may end up classified as White or Black. Further,
categories of Mixed Race may not carefully enough distinguish those with
Hispanic/Latino heritage from others without that heritage. Special procedures
and sensitivity to this data problem should be developed if evidence-based
practice is to target this special population most effectively.
Second, along the same line, greater emphasis on bilingualism and on cultural awareness may be required in the future. This would certainly apply to correctional officers and case managers in institutions but could also involve counselors and treatment providers, educators, health care (physical and mental), and even top executive staff in the facilities. Reentry staff and probation and parole officers may also be included.
In any case, the Hispanic/Latino offender population in Oklahoma prisons is the fastest growing racial/ethnic population in DOC. While the numbers are not a large proportion of the total offender population at this time, their growth and rate of increase pose definite questions for effective and efficient planning and management of department institutions. Among the questions are (1) accurate and complete collection of data on their actual numbers and (2) sufficient awareness and application of necessary language and cultural needs to prevent inappropriate planning for and responses to the day-to-day operations of facilities with growing numbers of Hispanics and Latinos. DOC might address these concerns by assigning investigation and recommendations of future concerns and needs to a committee with a timetable for a report on the best ways to meet the challenges of this increasing population. DOC’s current Diversity Committee could be the platform from which this specific need could be addressed.
Hispanic/Latino offenders in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) have increased 45% since FY 2005 and project out to another 86% increase in the next five years if their numbers continue to increase at past average rates. This will take DOC from 1,721 in FY 2008 to 3,199 in 2013. No other racial or ethnic group of offenders is growing at this pace in DOC institutions. It is reasonable, therefore, to ask what, if any, special considerations and actions DOC might need to take to manage that population growth effectively.
Summing UpWe hope it is clear from this issue of Inside Corrections that much has been and can be done to promote the use and success of data, research, evaluation, and analysis in DOC operations and programming. It should also be clear that we know a great deal about what works and how to do it, given the proper support and resources from policymakers and the public. With these efforts, we can and will not only be more effective in administration but also more successful in meeting our public safety goals as well.