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County receives funding to reduce recidivism

They will use the nearly $96,000 grant to improve existing programs and possibly create new ones


As part of a new law meant to reduce prison populations, Crook County recently received nearly $96,000 to prevent recidivism among local inmates.

"What can we do in terms of our community to help people not go to prison and to make sure that they don't commit any additional crimes?" said Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins.

So far, no plans are set in stone and still await approval from the Crook County Court, but they include improvement of existing programs as well as the potential creation of new ones. If the programs work, they will get more money to sustain them during the next biennium.

"We are supposed to show that what we are doing helps," explained Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley. "The money needs to go toward evidence-based practices."

Of the existing program, Hensley highlighted the local drug court. When someone is arrested on a drug-related offense, under certain circumstances they can participate in the drug court program.

Hensley said that drug court is a very intense, supervised program where people regularly visit a treatment provider, make consistent court appearances, and provide frequent urine tests.

If participants fail to adhere to the rules of the drug court, they face sanctions. One of those is jail time, but a lack of beds has made that option difficult to maintain.

“Our jail is so full, it really sends everybody scrambling and they may not be able to take that sanction,” Hensley said.

Consequently, Hensley wants to use some of the grant money for the rental of jail beds exclusively for drug court.

“I think it’s a good program. It is what is needed to help people with drug addictions and issues related to drug dependency,” he said.

Hensley would also like to provide inmates behavior treatment programs to help curtail criminal thinking, as well as more assistance for people with mental health problems.

“Traditionally, a lot of those people (who suffer from mental illness), if they don’t have insurance, they can’t afford the medications,” he said.

The funding would not provide a permanent way to pay for medication, but buy enough time to enroll in the Oregon Health Plan or another insurance program.

In addition, Hensley feels the grant could perhaps sustain the work crew program, provide employment assistance after release, or develop a mental health court in the same vein as drug court.

“We have a lot of ideas,” he said. “We are going to have to sort through all of this and see what funds are available.”

As they do so, Vitolins said that she and other district attorneys and sheriffs east of Crook County will hold a summit where members of the Criminal Justice Commission will come and discuss what programs help reduce recidivism.

In the end, they have two years to prove to the state that their ideas will work.

“If the state determines that the programs you are doing aren’t making a difference, then they can cut that off,” Hensley said. “But, if we are doing some good with these things, then they are supposed to keep give us that money.”



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