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Austin city council members ask is rehab for repeat offenders is working


Some members of the Austin city council are worried about the cost of a program designed to rehabilitate frequent offenders. Greg Toomey with the city's municipal court says "Project Recovery" was started to help people who are repeatedly convicted of low-level offenses.

But only a handful of people have successfully graduated from the program so far. that program has cost more than 500-thousand dollars. Council members say they want to see the success rate for the program go up next year or they'll consider canceling the program.

[So, I guess they don't get credit against their revocation?]
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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This can't be a shocker. If court ordered rehabilitation was more successful than not, I would be working myself out of a job (which I don't see any chance of happening)!
Posts: 522 | Location: Del Rio, Texas | Registered: April 17, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Since only a "handful" of offender have successfully completed the program, does that imply that a much larger number have failed to do so? And if that is the case, might the half a million dollars have been better spent on more traditional methods of punishment?
Posts: 622 | Location: San Marcos | Registered: November 13, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Some city officials want to pull funds from Project Recovery
Council members want to consider diverting funding for repeat public intoxication offenders.

By Joshunda Sanders
Saturday, September 08, 2007

A year-old treatment program for repeat public intoxication offenders could lose more than $400,000 in city funding after just 11 people have successfully completed the program, city officials said.

Project Recovery, a joint effort of Travis County, the City of Austin and the Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center, has cost the city nearly $600,000 to treat 35 people and to staff the 40-bed center on the East Austin MHMR campus.

Supporters of the program say it is impossible to gauge the success of the program in less than a year's time.

A large portion of the city's funding, about $423,000, goes toward operating the center, City Council Member Mike Martinez said. That money paid for staff positions, court fees for the offenders and rehabilitation, he said.

According to Austin Travis County MHMR officials, in the first eight months of the program, from October to June, 27 men went through the first phase of the program. Of those:

� Nine successfully completed the program. (Two more have finished it since.)

� Eight relapsed on drugs or alcohol and left the program.

� Ten dropped out.

As the City Council weighs next year's budget, Martinez and Council Member Sheryl Cole have questioned Project Recovery and want to consider moving the money to other programs.

Cole said that the council's Judicial Committee heard a presentation from Project Recovery two months ago and that she became concerned about the program's graduation rates.

But organizers with Project Recovery say the program hasn't been around long enough to show true progress.

"It is way too soon to determine if Project Recovery is a success or a failure," said Travis County Court-at-Law Judge Nancy Hohengarten, who is among those who select candidates for the three-month program.

Austin Travis County MHMR Executive Director David Evans agreed. He said that though MHMR welcomed the city's scrutiny of Project Recovery, "A program like this needs a three-year initial operation to have a clear business case established for or against its community value. It was never intended to be measured solely upon successful recovery and upon return to society."

Anyone arrested for being drunk in public used to get a ticket and a fine of less than $500. Now, more than three public intoxication arrests could mean up to six months of jail time as a result of a state law passed in 1999.

When Project Recovery started, the goal of judges and court workers was to focus on a group of about 200 offenders who have been arrested dozens of times for the Class B misdemeanor. After completing the program, the participants who stayed out of trouble would have the charges against them dropped, Hohengarten said.

The program is meant to keep offenders out of jail because they cost the county an estimated $1 million a year in court, jail and legal fees, county officials have said. The program gives participants three meals a day, 12-step program counseling and classes that teach them how to overcome the urge to drink.

The City Council is expected to make a decision about the fate of Project Recovery next week when it adopts its 2008 budget.

"We just have to determine whether we're being good stewards of public money," Cole said. "The number of successful graduates is really low, and the goals of the program are very lofty."
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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