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Criminal Justice Partnership Program update: making a difference in North Carolina.

In an effort to bring relief to North Carolina's prison population, lawmakers designed structured sentencing in 1994 to keep violent offenders behind bars, while sentencing less serious offenders to community supervision. It has been a decade since North Carolina adopted the Structured Sentencing Act and created the Criminal Justice Partnership Program (CJPP). Today, CJPP continues to play an important role in community supervision.

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"CJPP complements structured sentencing laws by preserving prison and jail space for violent and repeat offenders, while creating less costly punishments in the community for less serious offenders," said Robert Lee Guy, director of the North Carolina Division of Community Corrections. "With sentencing projections putting North Carolina's prison population at more than 44,000 by 2013, CJPP will continue to be utilized for offenders sentenced to probation."

Overcoming Budget Problems

Similar to many other states, North Carolina continues to face a growing prison population along with a tight budget. Recent budgetary figures reported by the North Carolina Department of Corrections show a daily average incarceration cost of $57.92 per inmate. The daily average CJPP placement cost is $7.41 per sentenced offender. Furthermore, constructing a new state prison is a $75 million investment plus another $25 million to operate.

CJPP has flourished in its programming and services for offenders and has managed to survive budget cuts to state and local funding since 2000. Thus, despite steady budget cuts since its 1994 inception, CJPP remains a viable alternative to North Carolina offenders and is still going strong.

Benefits for the State And Offenders

CJPP is designed for sentenced offenders who are given intermediate sanctions--punishments that involve more intensive supervision than traditional probation or parole. The program addresses the causes of criminal activity such as substance abuse, mental illness, and lack of job skills and education.

Harry Jones, county manager for Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), which has one of the largest partnership programs statewide, says this alternative to prison also provides a chance for citizens to make a positive difference by tutoring, mentoring or providing structured training to offenders. "Many of our CJPP clients have completed all requirements and have become productive taxpaying citizens, even volunteering their time to assist other offenders," Jones said. He added that housing a Mecklenburg offender in the county jail costs $91 per day compared to less than $15 per day for CJPP.

At the other end of the spectrum are two smaller, rural North Carolina counties. Jack Horton's 22 years of experience as a former county manager for Swain and Macon counties have given him a different perspective of CJPP. Horton presently manages Haywood County, which receives $70,204 in annual grant awards (versus $410,178 for Mecklenburg County). "I had serious doubts at first about the program's benefits," he said. "But I was convinced by our chief probation officer this program would benefit our county. Now we have a terrific program director, a committed advisory board and a supportive board of commissioners."

In tobacco-growing northeastern North Carolina, Lorenzo Carmon, manager of Edgecombe County, helps to fiscally oversee the CJPP grant amount of $75,311 and believes it is vital in this era of shrinking government aid to monitor programs carefully, pool resources and avoid duplicating services. "We've managed to forge a nice partnership with the local mental health agency to provide services for our CJPP clients," Carmon said.

The key word in CJPP is partnership because the state provides the grant-allocated monies based on a formula per county, and the counties provide any additional funds needed to make the program work. A local advisory board, selected by the county commissioners and comprised of judicial, law enforcement and community members, determines what type of programs to offer, what services are available in their community and how to spend the funds. Once the local advisory board is in place, these members select other members to serve a designated term on the board. County managers like Jones, Horton and Carmon are expected to serve on the advisory board since they interact with all aspects of state and local governments. They also understand their county's needs and limited resources.

Facing Challenges

In 2002, CJPP underwent its greatest challenge thus far. Because of a statewide fiscal crisis, the program faced possible elimination. The North Carolina General Assembly wrestled with the dilemma of continuing to support CJPP while struggling with a severe budget deficit. When the budget was not enacted on July 1, 2002, as planned, many of the local programs were forced to shut down or reduce admissions.

Taking a proactive stance, the Division of Community Corrections began identifying cost-saving measures in selected programs that exemplified CJPP's worth. Fifteen North Carolina programs that could use the division's personnel for case management functions within CJPP were identified. The Division of Community Corrections proposed to combine probation staff with federally funded Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime staff to perform case management. The move resulted in a savings of $344,490 and created a team approach that balanced control and treatment for offenders. The concept, which is still in place, is referred to as the Offender Management Model. Though some of the partnership programs had to temporarily shut down in 2002, most resumed normal operations. By 2003, more than 2,200 sentenced offenders statewide received treatment services.

Today, CJPP is active in 92 of North Carolina's 100 counties. Its initial $12 million grant is now $8.3 million, yet more than 80 different programs operate across the state offering help and hope to pretrial detainees, intermediate punishment offenders, parolees and offenders on post-release supervision. Most referrals come from probation officers, the courts and the parole commission. CJPP has three major classifications of programs: day reporting centers, satellite substance abuse centers and resource centers. In addition, CJPP has 24 pretrial programs that provide additional savings for counties with overcrowded jail populations.

CJPP's 21 day reporting centers require offenders to report daily and complete a structured set of activities, including substance abuse treatment. By law, day reporting centers are a stand-alone sanction, as is intensive probation, electronic house arrest and split sentences.

All CJPPs offer satellite substance abuse treatment through private or public providers, and most include employment and educational services. About one-third of CJPPs are classified as resource centers, which are treatment-oriented and designed to enhance or supplement the supervision and control provided by probation officers. However, unlike day reporting centers, a resource center is not a standalone sanction.

Success Stories

Success rates for completion of CJPP average between 37 percent and 43 percent statewide, depending on the county, services offered and the strength of CJPP through its local partnership support. Success rate is a relative term considering these are clients with difficult problems, but it means the offender has completed all requirements.

The instances in which offenders go beyond the program requirements and make life-altering changes are the real success stories and make the program truly worth fighting for, CJPP managers have said. "For us, the bottom line is, are the offenders in this program being helped?" said Sherri Schutte, CJPP director for Graham and Cherokee counties.

One such case involves John, a young adult placed on probation at the age of 17 after a tragic joy-riding accident in which he was charged with death by motor vehicle. Placed on electronic house arrest for six months followed by intensive probation, John had trouble accepting responsibility for the accident or the fact that he was now a convicted felon. Shortly after coming off electronic house arrest, he was charged with underaged drinking, which extended his intensive probation. For all intents and purposes, John appeared a lost cause.

CJPP had just been implemented in the rural county where John lived. He had already violated his probation through a positive drug test. As a result, he was one of the first clients to receive CJPP services. The CJPP director and probation officer worked with John for three months, providing intensive substance abuse treatment through its satellite program. It was not an easy transition; John's probation officer once threatened to send him to prison when he refused to alter his behavior. Finally, after several more months of treatment and the offer to live in a halfway house, John made the decision that would ultimately turn his life around--he left the area where peer pressure was leading him in the wrong direction and started fresh, minus the bad influences.

Today, John lives in Florida with his wife and children, and has managed to develop a professional career. He said that without the resources available through CJPP and the dedication of those who worked so hard on his behalf, he would be serving time in prison.

In another county, a judge ordered Bill, a 58-year-old man who had a drug possession charge and an alcohol addiction, to go to the day reporting center. Once a highly paid business professional in New York City, Bill was now unemployed and living with his father. At first he refused to quit drinking and underwent several relapses at the day reporting center. When Bill finally hit rock bottom, his probation officer set up an intervention that resulted in his admission to a detox unit at a local hospital. That was a turning point for Bill, who knew that in order to survive, he needed assistance. He began attending drug education classes, treatment groups and cognitive-behavior classes. He eventually got a job and regained his status as a productive citizen in the community. Three years later, he is still employed, remains drug and alcohol free, and is still in contact with the local staff.

A judge in another rural county ordered 37-year-old Gene to the day reporting center on two different occasions. The first time Gene came to the center, he participated in group sessions, completed the program and obtained his GED. However, when he and his girlfriend broke up, Gene began using cocaine again. He attempted to rob a convenience store clerk at gunpoint for which he was arrested. Gene served more than two years in prison and returned to the day reporting center upon his release. There, he shared his experience with the staff and asked to start over. Four years later, he remains clean, sober and involved in a healthy, stable relationship.

According to one CJPP client, the program and its counselors help him with day-to-day decisions that keep him out of jail. "I can feel the change," he said. "I can see the change every day. I failed a drug test and had a probation violation that got me here. But I'm learning to see things in a different way, to not do drugs, and stay away from people who do them."

CJPP: A Critical Element

While there are dozens of stories that illustrate how well CJPP works, North Carolina is still working hard to provide more resources within its communities to meet the needs of offenders. Some counties have few substance abuse providers or scant resources other than placing an offender in jail. Like all government agencies, counties are hard pressed to find funding for services that could reduce recidivism. This is why CJPP remains such a critical element in providing much-needed alternatives to prison.

Sam Boyd, state administrator for CJPP, says the program's efforts continue to provide an equal balance of quality supervision, treatment and control. Ongoing objectives for CJPP's future include implementing a proactive approach for local advisory boards to review and revise their community corrections plans, maximizing CJPP resources and addressing better use of referrals to reach full program capacity for all 92 North Carolina counties in which CJPP operates. "The Criminal Justice Partnership Program serves as a principal resource in the treatment arena while simultaneously enhancing structure in the everyday lives of those under supervision," Boyd said.

Boyd added that the program's goals are as strong and vital today as they were when CJPP began. Reducing recidivism, the number of probation revocations, substance abuse and the cost of incarceration to North Carolina and its taxpayers are all part of improving the overall criminal justice system in North Carolina. Using coalitions that respond to the needs of local communities and its members, CJPP exemplifies how the North Carolina Division of Community Corrections continues to move forward with a progressive approach that balances rehabilitation, punishment and public safety.

Marie Bartlett is a Criminal Justice Partnership Program coordinator for the fourth division in Asheville, N.C.

Pamela Walker is director of public affairs for the North Carolina Department of Correction.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:CT Feature
Author:Bartlett, Marie; Walker, Pamela
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Words:2077
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