A 2-year-old program to provide medication and monitoring to inmates with mental illnesses may reduce recidivism dramatically, says a study reported by the Denver Post. The program provides free medicine to two different kinds of inmates: those who are being released from prison to community halfway houses and parolees who break rules and are sent to community corrections facilities. In 2006, before the medication program began, 92 mentally ill inmates, or 56 percent of those sent to community corrections facilities, violated rules or committed new crimes and were returned to prison. In the first two years of the medication program, only 2 mentally ill inmates, or 3 percent of the 61 prisoners getting psychotropic medications at community corrections facilities, were sent to prison.
The number of mentally ill offenders who were released from prison to community corrections halfway houses, only to end up back in prison, also dropped, from 47 percent in 2006 to 37 percent in 2007 and 2008, research shows. “It’s hard to implement something that so quickly has a dramatic impact,” said Maureen O’Keese, the Department of Corrections director of research. “I was absolutely shocked.” The Colorado legislature in 2006 approved the $1.3 million pilot program designed to increase success rates of inmates moving into the community. Budget cuts have reduced that to $171,000.