Substance Abuse Felony Punishment (SAFP) beds now vacant
After years of underfunding and long lines for treatment, SAFP is once again a viable option for offenders with substance abuse issues. Here is an overview of the SAFP program for prosecutors.
An overview of the SAFP programSAFP is an intensive substance abuse treatment program for offenders on probation or parole. The program is operated in a therapeutic community setting and lasts six months for regular-need offenders and nine months for those with a special need, such as physical or mental health issues or pregnancy. A judge sentences an offender to an SAFPF as a condition or modification of probation. The Board of Pardons and Parole may also place an offender in the program as a modification of parole supervision.
The in-prison phases of the program consists of Phase I (Orientation), Phase II (Treatment), and Phase III (Reentry and Relapse Prevention). In addition to the treatment curriculum provided by qualified, credentialed staff, the offenders may also avail themselves of volunteer-led support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Winner’s Circle, or Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS).
Once the in-prison phase has been completed, it is followed by a three-month stay at a transitional treatment center (TTC), which provides a diverse range of therapeutic, residential, and resource programs that allow the offender to focus on recovery while preparing for transition to the community. It is within this three-month period that the offender and treatment staff prepare a service implementation plan to address employment, education, vocational training, housing, medical, and other social needs; address coping skills in a supportive environment; meet peer support groups; engage in relapse prevention counseling and education; and identify coordinated services from community resources.
Once the offender has successfully secured employment, housing, outpatient treatment services, reporting instructions and requirements, and a “home” support group, he may then begin nine months of outpatient treatment while living in the community. The entirety of the SAFP Program may last up to 30 months, which includes the initial six-month, in-prison phase; up to three months in a transitional treatment center; and up to nine months in outpatient treatment, which may be followed by up to 12 months of supportive outpatient (support groups and peer support networks).
Nearly a decade after the program’s implementation, several elements remain constant: that cognitive-behavior-based intervention is essential to the offender’s success; that addiction be recognized and treated through the disease model; and that treatment be client-driven. Through the years, the Rehabilitation Programs Division (RPD) of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has proactively adapted treatment to include new advances in evidence-based practices, or “what works.”
One such adaptation has been the introduction and training of staff in Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT). MRT is a cognitive-behavioral treatment approach combined with elements of psychological traditions that address the ego, social and moral reasoning, and positive behavioral growth through group and individual counseling, structured group exercises, and prescribed homework assignments.
Another, more recent adaptation involves motivational interviewing techniques, which fits nicely with the idea of client-driven treatment. With the client serving as the impetus for change, he can come to the belief that change is possible and that he already owns or possesses within himself the mechanism for that change.
Research confirms that aftercare is crucial in the treatment of substance-addicted people, and for offending populations, it is significantly related to their successful transition back to the community. In late 2008, an alternative to the continuum of care was piloted in Dallas and Fort Bend Counties; it was designed for offenders who successfully completed the in-prison program and had a strong community support system. Instead of the traditional transitional treatment center, these offenders are required to participate in three months of non-residential supportive outpatient treatment, which includes weekly outpatient counseling, attending peer support groups, random urinalysis, meeting with the supervising officer as required, maintaining employment, working with a sponsor, and achieving other service/transitional plan goals. This is followed by nine months of outpatient treatment in which the offender continues to report to the supervising officer as instructed, attends support groups activities each week, maintains employment, continues education or vocational goals as needed or required, becomes a peer support volunteer, and submits to random urinalysis. Each phase the offender attains is less restrictive but still supportive. An offender who does not have an approved home plan within 45 days of projected release is not eligible for the 1B/4Cs release. Additionally, any violation may subject an offender to completing the original 90 days in the residential facility, regardless of the number of days “invested” in the 1B/4Cs program.
One additional adaptation for special-needs offenders has been a new procedure in which the Health Services Division reviews special-needs discharge recommendations on a case-by-case basis to ensure that inappropriate offender behavior is not related to mental health issues or the side effect of psychotropic medication. A counselor is also assigned to the special-needs units to assist with mental health issues and serve on the treatment team.
Offenders who complete the program and the critical aftercare component experience a significant reduction in recidivism. The TDCJ rehabilitation programs’ aftercare component is an important part of substance abuse treatment as evidenced by the reduced recidivism rates (three years after release) for offenders who complete at least three months of outpatient aftercare. The recidivism rate for offenders who complete the program is 22.26 percent, compared with a 35.68-percent recidivism rate for those who participate in no such program.1
In summary, the SAFP program staff work diligently with drug addiction and drug-related issues to provide a holistic approach to treatment. Few offenders are ready to engage in treatment at the time of conviction, but these dedicated staff members tirelessly work with each individual towards one goal: reaching and maintaining sobriety. Should you find in front of you a defendant with substance abuse issues, please consider the SAFP program as an option. If you have any questions or a desire to visit one of the SAFP facilities, please contact Pam Carey, RPD Operations Manager, at Pam.Carey@tdcj.state .tx.us.