Monday, February 1, 2016

Release Eligible Inmates


RELEASE ELIGIBLE INMATES (REI’S)
  NEW MEXICO DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS

The 2016 Legislative Session has arrived. This is one in a series of posts from the staff of the New Mexico Corrections Department. We intend to send a daily update to all our legislators with key points, facts, figures, personal stories describing life here at NMCD.

what does “rei” stand for?

REI stands for Release Eligible Inmate.

what makes an inmate eligible for release?

An inmate who has completed all of his or her basic sentence, including concurrent and consecutive, and who is serving his or her parole term in prison, but who can be released immediately with an approved parole plan and parole certificate.

How many reis are there within our prisons?

The REI count within our prisons, having reached a high point of over 300 at the start of this administration, dropped to approximately 200 in last fiscal year. Since the beginning of this fiscal year, that number has dropped even more pronouncedly to approximately 150. This is a 50% decrease overall. To achieve these results, we have remained hyper focused on this issue.

why would an inmate who is eligible for release still be in a facility?

Anyone eligible for parole must a) be willing to participate in their own parole planning, and b) meet criteria established by their parole plan. By law, the Parole Board must approve the offenders parole plan before they can release to parole.

Some REIs are considered “hard-to-place”. There are dynamic and extraordinary difficulties associated with paroling “hard-to-place” offenders. Whether the challenges involve the lack of a real home for an offender to parole to, a lack of meaningful family or other social support, mental illness, insufficient community correctional programming and/or mental health services, or the sheer nature of the offenders past crimes as they relate to his/her risk and needs, the challenges, obstacles, and drivers are diverse and complex. An individual, even though they may be eligible for parole, may still be in a prison facility because of one or more of these factors.

WHAT IS NMCD DOING TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE?

Despite the many obstacles, coupled with the exceptional challenges that come with underfunding for the last three fiscal years, we remain proud of our renewed public safety centeredness and accomplishments. We have implemented a monthly video conference call with all prison facilities, our probation and parole regions, and the Parole Board. Together we have been able to address problem parole planning and create greater internal accountability for the submission of viable parole plans for the inmates. Additionally, we have implemented an audit tool to address late actions for parole planning. Specifically, our internal audit manager tracks and assesses penalties for contractual non-compliance for our private prison facilities in five contractual categories; one of which is late releases when the facility causes such. Accordingly, financial penalties are assessed for such contractual deficiencies on a monthly basis.

IS IT TRUE THAT SOME REIS CANT BE RELEASED BECAUSE THERE ARENT ENOUGH TRANSITIONAL LIVING FACILITIES?
  All parolees are required to have an address or a home to parole to. Some parolees may not have family to parole to, and may seek to parole to a transitional living residence in lieu of family. Others may have court ordered programming or treatment to fulfill. Currently, NMCD has contracts in place for transitional living. NMCD has direct service contracts for in-patient, transitional and treatment services to include
  116 inpatient beds for men, 16 exclusively dual diagnosis

  48 inpatient beds for women, all of which offer dual diagnosis

  35 sex offender transitional beds

  35 transitional living beds for men

  30 transitional living beds for women with another 8 beds scheduled to open in spring in Los Lunas (total 30 beds when completely open)

  The step-down approach from incarceration to community is part of NMCD continuum of care with EBP based on needs

  NMCD also works in collaboration with non-contract community partners across the state with availability of over 50 beds to include

  Dismas House, Oxford House, Hoffman House, House of Hope, Veterans Administration, Casa Milagro

  Precious Gifts, New Vision and other faith-based providers

The wait list for sex offender transitional living is typically about 65 people.

To address the lack of community corrections infrastructure, we have expanded contracts with current transitional living providers to increase the number of available beds for REIs. In doing so, we have felt it more appropriate to re-prioritize available funding and resources before requesting a funding expansion. For example, while NMCD was contracted with Optum/The Collaborative to monitor our behavioral health contracts, we have historically paid the administrative fees of the following amounts: SFY13 $191,994, SFY14 $429,331, SFY15 $641,241. The administrative fees covered services such as contract monitoring. In opting out of The Collaborative and returning to a direct services approach, we have been able to eliminate the aforementioned administrative costs and redirect those monies toward more meaningful use. To assure quality contract monitoring, we hired and exclusively dedicated an internal contract monitor to ensure that service quality remains high. Through redirection of funds that previously failed to yield meaningful service outcomes, we have been able to increase transitional living beds by approximately 50 new beds.

NMCD has also been able to contract with new vendors, both transitional living providers, as well as outpatient behavioral health providers, which has provided many new service opportunities for those offenders returning to our neighborhoods on parole. Specific examples include: a new womens transitional living contract in Bernalillo County, the renovation and repurposing of a building in Valencia County, which will serve a similar purpose, increased transitional living for men and women in Albuquerque, expansion at the Mens Recovery academy to inpatient services to dual-diagnoses offenders, and a wide array of new contracts with counseling agencies across nearly the entire state.

how many inmates are eligible for geriatric or medical parole?

Today there are approximately 145 inmates over the age of 65 in our state. In order for such an inmate to be eligible for geriatric or medical parole, they must have their application approved by the Parole Board and meet certain medical criteria deeming them to be chronically ill. Inmates are responsible for initiating that application. This quarter, NMCD has changed internal policy to streamline the notification process to inmates who have either reached the age of 65, or who have been transferred to the geriatric or long term care unit, that they may be eligible for geriatric or medical parole.

WHY ISNT THERE A BUDGET line item REQUEST FOR REIS?

The issue of REIs is essentially a compelling component of our overall public safety mission. Accordingly, because it is our mission to redress the long-standing shortcomings of our systems of education, economy, and justice within the span of a single prison sentence, our entire budget request and every expansion we seek make up requests to address the issue of REIs. Thats because the successful re-entry of former offenders to our mainstream communities is what defines our purpose as an organization. Simply put, it is not in the interest of public safety for offenders to return straight to our neighborhoods from prison without meaningful transition and supervision. As examples of this point relating to our FY17 request, you may note that we have again made a capital expansion request (also requested but not funded in FY16) for a new offender management system (OMS) to better track offender risk, needs, and individualized offender programming. Not only would this funding ensure more timely parole packet preparation and release of inmates, but also result in a better candidate for ultimate parole approval.

So rather than create a new line time for REIs, we have requested to simply be funded to the independent projections of the New Mexico Sentencing Commission (NMSC), which would mean that we could sufficiently transition our female inmates back to public facilities. There, gender-specific and more vigorous programming could occur to better prepare female offenders for ultimate parole approval. Moreover, should we receive funding appropriate to the NMSCs projections, our efforts to reform the departments historical overuse of segregation as a prison management tool could grow proportional to our ability to implement more vigorous evidence-based programming for our more difficult offender typologies, who will also become parole eligible at some point. These programs include the expansion of special management housing for gang members and sexual offenders. These specialized housing and programming environments not only opens the doors of our segregation units while simultaneously elevating the ultimate candidacy of these inmates for parole, but also result in better informed decisions and outcomes for the Parole Board.

Because our work in this area requires meaningful coordination of a range of functions, spanning from individualized risk/needs assessment and complimentary programming to the availability of community based transitional programming and treatment options, we hope that you better understand how difficult it would be to define this issue within a single budget line request.
CONTACT: LUCY RIVER, POLICY & LEGISLATIVE OUTREACH DIRECTOR: 505.259.4743

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