Two of the most commonly cited flaws in the criminal justice system are its treatment of the mentally ill and the staggering rate at which released inmates wind up back in jail, says the Ventura County (CA) Star. A new Ventura County, program is tackling both at once, and the early results appear promising. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Discharge Planning Program offers counseling, training, psychiatric care, and other services to people before and after they’re released from jails.
It debuted in August. Seventeen of the 57 participants were classified as psychiatric inmates, meaning a “severe and persistent” mental illness. The other 40 were drawn from inmates involved in some sort of educational program, such as a high school equivalency course. Since the program started, 17 participants — 30 percent — had been arrested again. It’s a small sample, but that’s far below the one-year recidivism rate of 50 percent to 70 percent cited in various state and national studies. Sheriff’s Cmdr. Linda Oksner is optimistic the early results can be replicated on a larger scale. The key, she said, is that the program will be offered only to people who volunteer for it. County Supervisor Linda Parks called the recidivism rates “remarkable.”