We assess and classify the needs of people in prison and under community supervision to then provide programs that help decrease recidivism.
For the last 15 years, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections has been working to reduce its incarceration rate, currently highest in the nation per capita. According to a 2009 Pew study, 1 in 26 Louisiana adults are under correctional control, compared to 1 in 31 nationally. In 2013, Louisiana ranked 5th nationally among states in highest violent crime rate, 3rd highest poverty rate, and 4th lowest in percentage of adults with a high school diploma.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Louisiana’s incarceration rate is the highest in the nation per capita, 816 people incarcerated per 100,000 residents compared to 471 people incarcerated per 100,000 residents nationally. When only incarcerated adults (18 and older) are considered, the incarceration rate rises to 1072 people incarcerated per 100,000 residents in Louisiana compared with 612 people incarcerated for every 100,000 residents nationally. As of December 31, 2015, Louisiana’s the number of adults in prison stood at 36,377, with 72,176 under probation and/or parole supervision.
Roughly 50 percent of the people serving prison sentences are assigned to state correctional facilities, while the other half are assigned to local-level jails and transitional work programs. Each year, approximately 18,000 people release from state prisons and jails to communities across Louisiana. Many face challenges of finding a place to live, finding employment, and accessing services and programs that will assist them in successfully reintegrating into their communities.
Within five years, nearly 43 percent of people who are released from prison will return to prison, either for violating the conditions of their supervised release or for committing a new crime(s). The five-year recidivism rate for the total DPS&C population, while still high, is an improvement from the five-year recidivism rate in 2008 (48 percent), when the Department began focusing on standardizing and expanding reentry programming as well as utilizing evidence-based programs and policies to drive decision-making.
To make significant progress in reducing incarceration and recidivism costs, both in dollars and in negative impact to victims, communities, and families, the Department focused on reaching people serving DPS&C prison sentences on the local level because these individuals were traditionally left out of programming opportunities offered at state correctional facilities. The Department, in collaboration with Sheriffs, opened nine Regional Reentry Programs to offer the Department’s Standardized Pre-Release Curriculum 2010 and Certified Treatment and Rehabilitative Programs (CTRP), which allow people in prison to learn basic work readiness preparation, money management, substance abuse education and treatment, parenting, anger management, and other life skills prior to their release.
The Department has embraced the Transition from Prison to Community Model recommended as an evidence-based best practice by the National Institute of Corrections. This model establishes a continuum of assessment, classification and case planning, and programs designed to address the “criminogenic risks and needs” of people in prison and under community supervision.
“Criminogenic Risks” are those risk factors that research shows increase a returning resident’s likelihood of recidivating and returning to incarceration. “Criminogenic Needs” are those needs that must be addressed to mitigate this risk of recidivism. While no program, or continuum of programs, can eliminate risk or guarantee a given person will not recidivate, addressing criminogenic risks and needs is considered the best use of resources to increase success for the returning resident.
There are three phases to the Department’s Reentry philosophy:
Phase I – Getting Ready (Reception and Diagnostic)
The institutional phase describes the details of events and responsibilities occurring during the person in prison’s imprisonment from admission until the point of eligibility for parole or release. This phase is designed to encourage and assist people in prison in making positive use of their time while in custody by learning skills through education and job training programs, developing new behaviors, addressing deficiencies, and developing pro-social thinking patterns to create a positive future for themselves and their families.
This phase involves the first two major decision points:
1. Assessment and Classification (Risk, Need, and Responsivity)
The Department begins active planning for reentry when a person undergoes custody admission through the reception and diagnostic process. All people serving prison sentences in state institutions are evaluated to determine their specific needs.
In order to identify the rehabilitative needs of a person in prison, an assessment of that person’s risk of recidivating and criminogenic needs must be conducted with a validated assessment. This assessment should incorporate an identification of “responsivity” factors, which are the potential barriers to learning such as mental health issues, learning disabilities, or learning styles. This assessment provides the basis for individualized case planning to address identified needs and responsivity factors consistent with the Fundamental Principles of Evidence-Based Correctional Practice.
The Department implemented the Louisiana Risk/Needs Assessment in 2005 and established Reentry Accountability Plans (ReAPs) and Probation & Parole Supervision Plans as individualized case plans designed to address identified risks and needs. The assessment process also includes a thorough medical and mental health examination, educational assessment, alcohol and drug screening, social history, and criminal history. Inquiries are made into the person in prison’s work history and identification needs.
People housed in local jails are screened for medical, mental health, and substance abuse issues in compliance with the Department’s Basic Jail Guidelines, but do not currently receive the same level of assessment and case planning as those entering state institutions.
2. Reentry Programming
Program assignments are recommended to reduce risk, address criminogenic needs, and build on strengths. Program participation assists people in prison in making positive use of their time while in custody by learning skills through education and job training programs, developing new behaviors, addressing future deficiencies, and developing pro-social thinking patterns to create a positive future for themselves and their families.
The Reentry Committee, comprising staff across various disciplines (classification, mental health, medical, education, and security) at each institution reviews and initiates reentry planning for people entering their facility. People in prison are assigned to programs based on their assessed risk level, medical or mental health needs, and length of sentence.
Institutional Staff prepare an individualized Reentry Accountability Plan (ReAP), which identifies the needs of a person in prison in the following areas: classification, job assignment, education, vocational, identification, therapeutic programs, medical and mental health, faith-based programming, victim awareness, family support, and stabilization. These plans are updated periodically to ensure the person in prison is completing the goals envisioned for him or her and to make planning adjustments as circumstances warrant. Prior to release, people in prison are provided with an intensive period of preparation, including release preparation programming.
Phase II – Going Home (Institution):
The transitional phase begins before the imprisoned person’s target release date. In this phase, highly specific reentry plans are created. Within three years of an imprisoned person’s discharge date, the Transition Specialist and Reentry Committee review the ReAP and prepare the imprisoned person to complete programs recommended in the ReAP and enter the Department’s Pre-Release Program.
Every eligible person being released from a state prison, Regional Reentry Program, or a local jail pre-release program participates in the Standardized Pre-Release Curriculum 2010, which is a complete reentry program addressing topics such as work readiness and employment preparation, money management, and victim awareness to name a few.
A major part of the Department’s reentry curriculum calls for returning residents to have identification, social security cards, and birth certificates upon release, all of which increase their chances of being ready for employment right away. During this period, the Transition Specialist begins assembling at least two forms of identification to support the returning resident’s release. If necessary, a replacement birth certificate and/or Social Security card is requested.
When the person in prison is within six months of release, or as part of completing the DPS&C’s Standardized Pre-Release Curriculum 2010, a Louisiana State Identification Card is created through a MOA with the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles utilizing these other forms of identification. Additionally, if eligible, a person within three years of release may be directed into a Transitional Work Program (TWP) (formerly work release) following completion of the pre-release curriculum.
Phase III – Staying Home (Probation and Parole/Community Corrections)
The community phase begins the moment the returning resident is released from prison and continues until he/she is discharged from community supervision. In this final phase, it is imperative that returning residents receive support in their transition into the community and in remaining productive members of their communities. This is accomplished by monitoring their behavior, identifying and referring them to community programs, and developing and growing partnerships with volunteer groups, local law enforcement, faith-based groups, and other community and service providers that can assist the returning residents in maintaining stability.
Over the last decade, the Department organized and standardized programs and services in state prisons addressing criminogenic needs to better prepare returning residents for a successful reintegration into their communities. In 2010, as some local jails began to offer these programs to returning residents, the Department instituted the Certified Treatment and Rehabilitative Program certification process to ensure the programs implemented in state prisons and local jails were evidence-based and standardized. People in prison are provided the opportunity to participate in a variety of evidence-based programming designed to address the criminogenic risks and needs identified in their ReAP.
Providing standardized, evidence-based programming improves public safety, reduces recidivism, decreases victimization, and reduces the financial burden of the correctional system. To provide an incentive for people in prison to take advantage of these programs, a specified amount of credit toward early release is earned by eligible program participants for completing each program. People in prison can earn up to a maximum of 360 days of credit pursuant to LA R.S. 15:828(B). Successful participation and completion in these programs enable the eligible program participants to release to probation/parole supervision earlier and better prepared, also providing a savings to Louisiana taxpayers. The Department maintains a comprehensive listing of all available Certified Treatment and Rehabilitative Programs (CTRP) in a Catalog of Rehabilitative Services.
Since approximately 48 percent of people in prison do not have a high school diploma or equivalent at intake, it is important to provide educational programming to people in prison, as well as to people released to community supervision or placed on probation. The Department of Public Safety and Corrections — Corrections Services is required by R.S. 15:828(A)(1) to establish programs, including educational and career and technical education training, for the rehabilitation of all individuals committed to and in the physical custody of the Department, consistent with available resources. Additionally, R.S. 15:828(B) requires the Department secretary to prescribe rules and regulations in the facilities and institutions under the Department’s jurisdiction to encourage voluntary participation by imprisoned people in literacy, academic (Adult Basic Education and High School Equivalency preparation), and career and technical education programs. As outlined on this website, the Department provides educational opportunities in the areas of:
The Department also provides special education programming through the Louisiana Department of Education Special School District to people in prison who qualify by age criteria and have behavioral, emotional, and/or learning disorders as diagnosed by a Special School District diagnostician. These classes are offered in conjunction with other literacy, ABE, and High School Equivalency preparation programs according to the student’s academic achievement level.
Job skills training and employment readiness are major components of a returning resident’s successful reentry. A significant percentage of people who enter prison are not employed at the time the crime was committed. The utilization of career and technical education programs by returning residents greatly improves their marketable skills.
At the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, highly-skilled people in prison serve as mentors and are employed to help teach automotive and construction training classes. These classes allow unskilled people in prison to receive training in order to attain an Industry-Based Certification (IBC) in their chosen field. Certifications through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) are offered to people in prison as they complete the training program. These programs assist people in prison in attaining employment after release.
The Department partners with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) to offer people in prison faith-based course work leading to an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Theology. This program has proven to enhance imprisoned people’s social skills and quality-of-life.
Through a partnership with the Louisiana Community & Technical College System (LCTCS), people in prison are able to earn college credit in vocational-technical training fields. Through classroom instruction and hands-on training, vocational-technical education programs focus on the development of entry-level employment skills for people in prison. The Department offers the vocational programs at various institutions.
Through a Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative, Ashland University and Wiley College offer pell-funded college degree programs to eligible participants at the state facilities. These programs are part of a US Department of Education’s experimental study and have been in existence since 2016.
The Department currently has focused attention on implementing Industry-Based Certification programs. Through this new initiative, programs such as Heavy Equipment Operating, ServSafe, NCCER, IC3, Computer Coding, and many others are in effect and allow people in prison for short and long time periods to participate and earn Nationally recognized credentials. These credentials help make people in prison more employable upon release.
80% of people remanded to DPS&C custody have substance abuse issues that contribute to their criminal behavior. It is imperative that the Department provides treatment and education for people in prison with a substance abuse disorder and subsequently link them with community substance abuse treatment services upon release.
People in prison and under community supervision are provided the opportunity to participate in a variety of substance abuse education programs including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Living in Balance, and Celebrate Recovery.
The Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Treatment Program, housed at Bossier Parish Correctional Center, provides a therapeutic community approach to house, treat, educate, and reintegrate returning residents with identified substance abuse challenges.
Most people in prison have a values base that is inconsistent with what it takes to adjust in society. This often results in poor and often anti-social decision-making, which is reinforced by anti-social peers and associates. It is imperative that the Department provides faith-based and character-based programs to offset these deficits.
Faith-based programs can help a returning resident prepare for a successful reentry by establishing a spiritual foundation from which he/she can make sound, moral decisions. Furthermore, people in prison who are assessed as high or moderate risk require structured, cognitive-behavioral programs to provide them with pro-social decision-making skills. Examples of these programs used by the Department are Moral Reconation Therapy and Thinking for Change.
Corrections chaplains work with hundreds of volunteers that form the core of religious programming to support changes toward a pro-social identity. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) offers positive, life-affirming television programming around the clock, free of charge to all state correctional facilities. The Department has three Faith and Character-Based Dormitory (FCBD) programs, aimed at maximizing the power of personal faith, reinforcement of pro-social decision making, and positive role models through mentoring.
Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) became a model for other prisons systems in the country when it partnered with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) to open a Bible College on the grounds of the maximum security prison. The seminary, established in 1995, offers two college-level degree programs: a two-year associate degree in pastoral ministries and a four-year bachelor’s degree in theology. As many of the people imprisoned at LSP are serving life sentences, the Department sees their role in the reentry process as mentors – helping other people in prison transition back into the community. Some imprisoned people who have earned degrees through the NOBTS program serve as missionaries or chaplains at other prisons to strengthen religious and moral programming.
Approximately 50% of people serving state prison sentences are assigned to local-level (parish) jails. State correctional facilities have historically offered a variety of educational, vocational, and other programming to people in prison while those housed at the local level rarely received such programming. Since people who are housed in local jails account for approximately 75% of the number of people released each year, it was crucial that the Department expand programming at the local level.
Regional Reentry Programs
Over the last six years, the Department has established nine Regional Reentry Programs across the state, with two additional programs to be established by 2016. These regional reentry programs operate in conjunction with local sheriffs and are designed to reach individuals who are within one year of release or in a Transitional Work Program assignment, and returning to a specific region. This regionalized approach enhances the program’s ability to engage community supports, such as treatment providers, educational opportunities, and family and faith-based programs. Each Regional Reentry Program provides participants with the Standardized Pre-Release Curriculum 2010, two forms of identification, residence and employment plans, and connections to needed post-release resources in the community.
Local Jail Corrections Transition Specialists
In 2014, the Department expanded reentry programs and services in local jails by assigning 20 Corrections Transition Specialists to those local jails housing the largest number of people serving state prison sentences. These specialists conduct risk/needs assessments, provide CTRP instruction in programs such as Thinking for Change, Anger Management, and Parenting, and assist in transitioning imprisoned people to the Regional Reentry Programs appropriate for them. These specialists create a more structured and evidence-based approach to assessing and addressing the needs of people who are serving state prison sentences but are housed in local jails.
Local Jail Literacy & Adult Basic Education Programs
Thirteen local jails and detention centers currently report adult education students to the Department. These local jails are in turn provided an instructor and resources to provide basic adult education to eligible people. A number of other local jails partner with local school boards to provide adult basic education opportunities for eligible people in their jails.
Prison Enterprises (PE), a division of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, operates a diverse group of industry, agriculture and service programs located at eight correctional facilities throughout Louisiana. Correctional Industries is a unique blend of business and government providing a public service. These industries offer jobs that teach people in prison valuable skills, as well as a work ethic and a sense of responsibility; all of which are vital for eventual reentry to society and the security of the institutions.
In addition to employing people in prison, PE strives to provide quality products and services to our customers at competitive prices. The trades people in prison learn through Prison Enterprises’ operations include, but are not limited to, sewing, carpentry, welding, printing, embroidery, silk screening, and farming.
Visit the Prison Enterprises website for more helpful information and a product catalog.
Certain people in prison may be eligible to enter a transitional work program (TWP) from six months to four years prior to release from incarceration, depending on the offense of conviction. Generally, people convicted of sex offenses are precluded from participation in the transitional work program.
People who are approved for the program are required to work at an approved job and when not working they must return to the structured environment of their assigned facility. Probation and Parole Officers are assigned monitoring responsibilities for contract TWP’s. This may include conducting random drug screens and random shakedowns of the facility. Additionally, probation and parole officers are part of the auditing teams that conduct annual audits of TWP facilities.
TWP’s are successful in assisting an imprisoned person with making the transition from prison back into the work force. Approximately 10% to 20% of people in TWP remain with their employer upon release. The TWP is also utilized as a valuable alternative for people who commit a technical parole violation, in lieu of sending them back to prison.
Benefits of TWPs
Placement of an individual in a TWP is much more cost effective than traditional incarceration. TWP participants become taxpayers, not tax consumers and are able to pay victim restitution, child support, court costs, and fines. A long-range reentry objective involves increasing the number of TWP beds.
The Department was awarded the Justice Reinvestment Initiative – Maximizing State Reforms grant from the Department of Justice in 2014 to create and implement an automated risk, need, and responsivity tool to inform structured decision making and identify criminogenic needs for all criminal justice stake holders. The Department partnered with Louisiana State University School of Sociology to create and validate the tool, which was named the Targeted Interventions Gaining Enhanced Reentry (TIGER).
The Department partnered with the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency (MCCD) to engage in strategic planning and revision of the reentry case planning continuum known as the Louisiana Prisoner Reentry Initiative. MCCD has worked with several states to improve objective assessment and decision making, as well as case planning and systems integration. An Implementation Steering Team (IST) involving staff from all disciplines and sections of the Department was brought together to work on the creation of a System Blueprint and Logic Model, as well as a Strategic Planning Framework for Prisoner Reentry.
The outcome of the work on the LA-PRI is a unified Reentry Accountability Plan (ReAP) which guides the returning resident and Departmental staff, and also other stakeholders such as courts, the Parole Board, local jails, and community resource providers. This case plan improves pre- and post- release programming and intervention planning, as well as better informs structured decisions of the courts and Parole Board. The LA-PRI IST continues to meet on a quarterly basis to work on the ReAP and ensure that it not only fully utilizes the TIGER, but informs the development and automation of the TIGER.