The working relationship between the NC Department of Corrections and the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services (DMH/DD/SA) has been growing in strength and meaning for many years. While the importance of this working relationship was promoted by Flo Stein, Chief, Community Policy Management, DMH/DD/SAS, it has become a promising reality thanks to the efforts of team leader Sonya Brown and her justice systems innovations team. There is an obvious relationship between state correctional systems and public healthcare systems. In every State across the U.S., inmates are released from prison into a given community. Despite this inevitable daily event, links between correctional systems and community behavioral health service systems are often poorly established or ignored altogether. The importance of these relationships has not been ignored by crucial leaders from the two agencies, Steve Jordan and Tracy Little. Moreover, the strengths of these working relationships were further realized last week as key stakeholders from the NC PIC, the Division, and NCDOC met to discuss evidence-based practices in correctional settings and current legislation that promotes positive transitions from one setting to another while simultaneously working to reduce recidivism.
The meeting started with Ms. Brown introducing the most recognized researcher in correctional psychological science in the world, Dr. Paul Gendreau. Dr. Gendreau opened with a comprehensive review of the history of treatment and treatment philosophies in correctional settings. He followed this review with a detailed look at the benchmark studies that have shaped the discipline and the evidence we have to date on “what works and doesn’t work”. He closed with recommendations for the future and addressed questions from NC PIC members and guests. The two key recommendations that Dr. Gendreau proposed is that systems must be committed to employing evidence-based practices and that systems must stop using rehabilitation models that do not work.
Steve Jordan, Director of DMH/DD/SAS opened the afternoon session with a discussion on Justice Reinvestment and the importance of continued emphasis on what works in communities across NC. He introduced Representative David Guice who discussed a legislative act he championed, the Justice Reinvestment Act. Of note, Representative Guice was elected to the NC House of Representative in 2008 after a 30-year career in corrections. The Deputy Secretary of NCDOC, Tracy Little, followed Rep. Guice’s general review of HB642 with a detailed assessment of the implications of this new legislation and how it will impact specific domains within the system.
Paul Gendreau, OC, PhD
Rep. David Guice and Tracy Little