Using Interprofessional Collaboration to Restructure Detention Program Delivery
Lowe, Mitzi A., Parks, Joe, Tilkes, Charlotte, Corrections Today
Jails across the nation are being called upon to help develop a coordinated community response to domestic violence and substance abuse. Media coverage, court records and crime statistics suggest that a substantial proportion of the domestic violence that occurs involves people with substance abuse problems in underserved (poor) populations. (1) Intervention, such as mental health assessment/treatment, social services and educational/vocational assessments, with this population rarely occurs once someone is convicted and sentenced to jail; treatment may be mandated by the courts upon release.
Representatives from the Fresno County Sheriff's Office jail program and California State University, Fresno have developed a collaborative approach to address the issues of sentenced batterers and substance abuse offenders. The collaborative's goal is to use the knowledge and resources of the community, human services agencies and the university to collectively address issues that prevent the successful transition of offenders back into the community. Concern for community safety led the collaborative to conclude that single agency responses cannot effectively address complex community problems.
The historical background of the corrections and social work relationship indicates that for more than a century, social services have been a key part of corrections, and serving crime victims and offenders has been a major emphasis of social work often working independently of one another. Correctional and social work agencies have served the same target groups with varying success, according to Charles Dean's 1999 publication, Social Work and Police Partnership: A Summons to the Village Strategies and Effective Practices. Despite these professions being near adversaries, there is a growing, if not universal, consensus that human services institutions and correctional institutions must collaborate. (2)
The number of returning offenders is on the rise, the needs of inmates are greater than before, and jail programs have retained few rehabilitation services. When personal and family problems escalate to a level that requires criminal justice intervention, they become the community's problem and require a communitywide response. A collaborative approach provides the necessary boundary spanning for multi-agency involvement to address the serious implications of domestic violence and substance abuse. In recent years, more attention has been directed toward broadening the response to this jail population to include a more comprehensive community response, leading to the implementation of programs and policies that improve interagency cooperation.
The development of a social work, education and corrections collaborative offers a new way of thinking about the familiar concept of "continuum of services." Collaboration is both a process and an outcome in which shared interest and/or key stakeholders address conflict that cannot be addressed by any single agency, together. Throughout history, social work has been teaching and advocating for interdisciplinary collaboration using the concept of a social systems approach to practice. (3) Collaboration diverges from former practices of competitiveness and divisiveness that often resulted in a lack of cooperation within and between agencies. The following definition of collaboration was used by the members of the Fresno collaborative: "Collaboration involves two or more groups joined together to achieve common goals in a relationship that is mutually beneficial and well-defined. It includes commitment from all members to the relationship and its objectives. Power, authority and accountability are shared and mutual respect is held for each of the participating groups." (4)
This definition has served as a guiding light throughout the project. Members of the collaborative realize they are in it for the long haul. What was once thought of as a short-term project has moved into its third year. …