Rehabilitation Programs Will Help Offenders Change-And Enhance Public Safety

By Blanc, James Le | Corrections Today, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Rehabilitation Programs Will Help Offenders Change-And Enhance Public Safety


Blanc, James Le, Corrections Today


Safety and security are two words used more than any others in the corrections field; oftentimes they are used interchangeably. They form the core of mission statements, goals, philosophies, department regulations, state statutes and much more. Practically everything that is experienced on a daily basis in corrections plays a part in the overall safety of our correctional environments and communities.

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Public safety is at the top of all our lists. Correctional facilities and community corrections offices must always operate in a manner that provides optimum protection to the public. While we cannot prevent all adverse behavior, there are many ways we can gauge risk for those under supervision, whether it be in our prisons and jails or in our communities. One of the more successful ways to do this is through risk assessment tools for offenders. Many states have implemented risk assessment to successfully manage offender populations and to properly utilize limited resources, including money and staff. Offender risk assessment also promotes staff and offender safety. Knowing previous crimes, mental health history, education level and other important details about an offender helps prison staff determine housing and work assignments and placement in certain types of programming and group therapy. Updating the offender risk assessment on a regular basis and having that information follow the offender to community supervision gives community corrections staff a good picture of the type of offender they are dealing with and what will lead that offender to reentry success.

ACA accreditation is another major contributing factor in overall correctional safety. Standards protect offenders and staff by describing the conditions to be achieved and sustained relating to physical plants, injury prevention, environmental conditions, crowding and emergency management, among other things. Training standards further contribute to safety and security through training requirements designed to create the skilled staff needed to meet security challenges. In Louisiana, this training has been particularly important during natural disasters. Training and emergency preparations truly enhanced our ability to implement emergency evacuations, provide services to those evacuated and sustain operational security.

Sharing best practices helps spotlight success stories. It is safe to say that when we find something that works, it is in our best interest to spread the knowledge and training to others. Arguably, no one in the corrections profession did a better job than Reginald Wilkinson, former director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. In his tenure as president of the American Correctional Association, Wilkinson promoted the best practices concept regularly. His innovative programs in Ohio no doubt are reflected in many operations within our own departments today. …

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