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PA Prison System Reports Promising Results In Recidivism Effort

Carolyn Kaster
In this Tuesday, April 13, 2010 photo, a solitary corrections officer looks out from a tower at one corner of the state prison in Camp Hill, Pa.

Pennsylvania prison officials say a pilot program designed to lower the re-arrest rate for nonviolent drug offenders is showing promise in its second year.


The Corrections Department said Tuesday the program known as SIP-HOPE is cutting recidivism by 13 percent, and participants are spending fewer days behind bars.


The program was developed with researchers at Drexel University, and put it in place at two halfway houses.


It uses a method called "swift, certain and fair supervision," a 24-month program that incorporates inpatient and outpatient drug treatment along with clear rules and the use of breathalyzers every time the offenders enter the halfway houses.


According to the Department's Director of Research and Planning Bret Bucklen, the program is better than the current system, where punishment is often delayed and inconsistent.


"It's very much common sense for anyone who is a parent, or the coach of a kids sports team, or training a dog," Bucklen said. "You have to give reinforcers immediately and consistently."


Parolees also subject to random drug testing. First time violators get 24 hours in prison, followed by more prison time and potential expulsion from the program.


Bucklen says there are plans to implement the program state-wide because of how successful it's been.


"I think we can really have our cake and eat it too with this," he said. "We can have less victims and also less people incarcerated and less cost of incarceration."

Kathleen J. Davis covers news about just about anything at WESA. She’s also the primary reporter and producer of WESA’s weekly series Pittsburgh Tech Report. Kathleen originally hails from the great state of Michigan, and is always available to talk about suburban Detroit and Coney Island diners. She lives in Bloomfield.
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