‘Treatment works’ director of Transitional Living Centre
The director of a halfway house for prison inmates says a structured re-entry to society is key in preventing people from returning to jail.
Sharon Swan, who has directed the Transitional Living Centre (TLC) for the past seven years, told Hamilton Rotary Club: “If we really want to reduce our rate of re-incarceration, we must start with our younger, first-time offenders.
“We must try to get to them and put them in a structure, so that when they go back into the community, the likelihood will be that they won't return.
“There are people who are frequent fliers, and have been coming back to jail for 20 years, and they don't seem to have any problem with that. “That's a great concern to us. And so I believe our emphasis should be on the younger offenders, to set them on the straight way.”
TLC was started a decade ago. The programme is run by Liberty Behavioural Health Corporation, a private company based in Philadelphia paid by the Bermuda Government.
The residential facility on the grounds of Westgate Prison is run by a Bermudian staff. According to Ms Swan, the conclusion after ten years was that “treatment works”.
“Those who take part in the full treatment and in work release have a higher chance of successful re-entry than those receiving no treatment.
“The offenders that complete the full course of treatment, typically nine months, seem to do the best, and those that are on parole,” she said.
TLC offers drug and alcohol counselling, anger management counselling, life skills training and job placement. Its average participant has been incarcerated 4.5 times.
“Within two years of their release, only eight percent of those who successfully complete the programme are re-incarcerated,” Ms Swan said, pointing to statistics indicating that nearly half of repeat offenders who don't finish the programme will be back in jail in two years.
Those most prone to repeat offence are found to be “people who commit property crimes and who use crack cocaine”, she stated. Property crimes include burglary, theft and shoplifting.
Ms Swan said repeated property crimes “often seem to be synonymous with opiate addiction”.
Crack cocaine users showed the worst recovery rate, she said: “We have seen that 76 percent are re-incarcerated.”
Ms Swan said more ex-inmates needed treatment, and should be referred to TLC at least nine months before their early release date. They also need to receive extended aftercare support once returned to the community, she added.
Useful web link: www.libertyhealthcare.com.