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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Idaho prisons halt treatment program that actually was leading to more recidivism

Idaho state prisons chief Kevin Kempf has immediately halted all “therapeutic community” programs in Idaho prisons, after an assessment by the Council of State Governments Justice Center found that offenders who go through the programs actually are slightly more likely to re-offend, the AP reports. Inmates who are in therapeutic communities have a 28 percent recidivism rate, compared to a rate of 23 percent for other inmates.

"We have been wringing our hands over what to do with the TCs," Kempf told AP reporter Rebecca Boone. "We know it's going to make some judges mad and we know it's going to make some people mad. But why would we keep putting our money into something that isn't working?"

The inmates currently in therapeutic community units will still take part in treatment programs, but they will be more like the programs given to general population inmates, without the rigid and often confrontational community structure used in the TCs. Kempf said the switch won't change the length of an inmate's sentence. Both inmates and judges were notified of the changes on Thursday, Boone reported.

Bree Derrick of the Council of State Governments Justice Center, who led the assessment, told the AP, "The way that therapeutic communities are running here are ineffective. It's a bit of a shaming culture, and the research shows, we know, that's just not effective at all."

She commended the Idaho Department of Correction for seeking out the assessment and being open to change. The assessment found that Idaho’s prisons are doing a good job of selecting which inmates need low, moderate or intensive programming. It also found the workers providing the programs are performing well and care deeply about the work. You can read Boone’s full article here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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