Program keeps tabs on addicted ex-offnders

February 22, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Looking to revamp the way the state supervises drug-addicted ex-offenders and reduce the chance that they will return to prison, Gov. Parris Glendening initiated the "Break the Cycle," program. The policy requires at least twice weekly drug testing, providing treatment and tough sanctions for those who fail.

[cont. from front page]

The Washington County Health Department, in conjunction with the Parole and Probation Department, got the local effort under way in September. There are 191 participants.

Washington County received a grant of about $110,000 to implement the program. As part of Break the Cycle, the departments have received new computers and software and more staff.

In its early stages, the program is going well, said Rebecca R. Hogamier, director of the Health Department.

"It allows us to track and follow what is successful, and that is the key to finding out what works," she said.


Hogamier said since the process is in its preliminary stages, initial paperwork can be lengthy and drug results make take longer to receive.

If successful, the landmark process could reduce the demand for drugs and its associated violence. The goal is use the criminal justice system to force addicts to remain in treatment and eventually to get off drugs.

Hogamier said the program creates continuity among the three parties involved - the client, Health Department and the Parole and Probation Department.

"The information passes quicker and the clients are made aware of their behavior. It makes them take responsibility for their own behavior," she said.

The program also provides relapse awareness and prevention programs which are based on individual needs, she said.

Taking a wait-and-see approach, State's Attorney Ken Long said "it's too soon to tell," if Break the Cycle will be effective.

Under the initiative, each positive urine test or non-compliant action is met with a standardized sanction, said Hogamier.

Participants are given literature explaining the program and the consequences imposed for positive testing.

Sanctions can include: increased supervision, a reprimand, increased testing, treatment and self-help group attendance, in-patient treatment, a bench warrant or halfway house placement.

Good behavior and negative urine samples are acknowledged with rewards such as less testing.

Other rewards can be a reduction in length or amount of treatment sessions, reduction in length of supervision and in intensity of supervision.

The new system was needed, said Hogamier to improve communications and get tough on those who test positive and would try to avoid testing by repeatedly canceling appointments.

"Prior to Break the Cycle, there was just random urinalysis," she said.

It is also an improvement in that new related computer software can process participants quicker and more efficiently.

Hogamier said, once fully up to speed, the system will be streamlined and enable them to receive test results faster.

The Herald-Mail Articles