Hoping to broker a small 40-bed program into a possible national model, the Hudson County Freeholders are seeking to promote the recent successes of a drug rehab program in the Integrity House Inc. correctional facility in Secaucus.
In early October, the Freeholders awarded a professional services contract with Integrity House Inc. to provide residential substance abuse treatment for women at the Hudson County Correctional Center from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013 at a cost of $311,369.
But the program’s numbers since 2009 appear to have shown a remarkable success rate at keeping women who go through the program from re-entering jail.
Over the last three years, of 175 individual sent through the program, only 36 have been rearrested, which is recidivism rate of 21 percent compared historically to 50 percent.
Re-arrests are recorded into a statewide system showing individuals that are rearrested anywhere in New Jersey.
“This seems to be a very cost-effective program if you are reducing recidivism by more than 30 percent through this program,” said Freeholder Bill O’Dea, suggesting that the county might find private philanthropic dollars to expand the program so that more female inmates can enter the program.
“It is obvious that the long-term savings to us is substantial,” O’Dea said. “But there is also long-term savings to the state because not shown here is the severity of criminal activity. Not only will people not be rearrested, but if they are, they tend to be rearrested for a more serious offense which involves a longer prison term and a sentence in state prison.”
Hudson County Correctional Facility Director Oscar Aviles said that in the in the three years leading up to 2009, 50 percent of the women who were released from Hudson County jail reentered a jail someone in the stat e of New Jersey within three years.
This figure is based on anybody coming back to a correctional facility, he said.
The State of New Jersey has a system called CTIS into which all 21 counties and the state put data.
If a person is incarcerated in this state, regardless of what system, his or her name is entered into this data base.
“It is obvious that the long term savings to us is substantial.” – Bill O’Dea
Once the jail received a Second Chance grant from the federal government, it started to track these people for three years.
When the grant application was written, it was based on the current percentage for recidivism for three years leading up to 2009, which was 50 percent. Starting in 2010, the prison tracked the women annually. This keeps records of any women who enters a county, state or federal prison in the State of New Jersey.
O’Dea suggested that the county develop a full report on the program that could be used in the pursuit of additional revenues – even private funding – that would allow the county to expand this program.
The program focuses on women who struggle to get reintegrated into general society. Many do not know how to interact, how to get jobs, or how to set themselves up to keep from failing. Many are still addicted to or are drawn back toward drug use.
According to former Governor Jim McGreevey, who represents Integrity House and spoke on its behalf last year, this program addresses many of the needs women face.
“The program we’re doing, I think, is breaking new ground because when you look to the number of incarcerated persons, upward of 78 to 80 percent have addiction issues,” McGreevey said.
In New Jersey, two-thirds of inmates released to the general population are back behind bars within three years.
McGreevey said Hudson County has one of only two programs like this in the state.
Aviles said the program provides 40 beds for women and another 40 beds for men. While the women’s program is paid for by a federal grant, the men’s program, which also involves mental health treatments, is funded through The Hudson County Inmate Welfare Trust Fund, which puts a surcharge on items purchased by prisoners in the facility commissary, so that prisoners themselves are paying for their own treatment. Approved by the New Jersey State Commissioner of Corrections, the fund currently has about $850,000 in it.
A male program was approved by the Freeholders last June.
Aviles said staff from Integrity House has people who go to the jail where they treat the inmates.
Legislation sponsored by state Senators Ray Lesniak and Sandra Cunningham would change the status of programs like this, allowing this facility to be licensed as a drug treatment center for impatient treatment, according to Aviles. Part of that legislation would lift the ban.