article originally published in the Summer 2019 SOR Justice-Focused Update Newsletter 8/22/2019
In 2016, more than half of the people entering Missouri state prisons were there as a result of revocations from their parole supervision or due to parole violations. Over a quarter of all people incarcerated in Missouri in 2016 were from a breach of parole over a probation technicality. While accountability is still an absolute necessity, the growing numbers were making it apparent that a wide reassessment was needed in the way individuals on parole were supervised and treated.
In June, 2017, Governor Greitens signed Executive Order 17-17, which established the Missouri State Justice Reinvestment Task Force as a way to examine the recidivism rates and find solutions to the ever growing number of people reentering the correctional system. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), established a community behavioral health program to provide comprehensive community-based services for individuals (under the supervision of the Department of Corrections) who have substance use disorders and/or co-occurring substance use disorders, mild to moderate mental illness, and are considered high risk for re-offending. The overall mission of JRI is to reduce the incarceration and re-incarceration of behavioral health consumers under Probation & Parole supervision by ensuring that significant needs are addressed in the community.
The Treatment Support staff at University of Missouri Saint Louis-Missouri Institute of Mental Health (UMSL-MIMH) reached out to Angela Plunkett who is the Criminal Justice Services Manager of the Division of Behavioral Health at the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) to get her perspective on the mission of the program, "The majority of people in Missouri’s criminal justice system have behavioral health (substance use and/or mental illness) conditions, but the state lacks the necessary community-based treatment and service capacity to improve recovery and recidivism outcomes. Unmet treatment needs among people on probation and parole contribute to negative public safety impacts, an increased prison population and higher overall system costs.
The JRI ‘wrap around’ service model includes comprehensive services that strengthen people’s ability to successfully manage their substance use or mental health disorder, leveraging existing services and addressing gaps. Bi-weekly staffing sessions are conducted during which each JRI participants’ progress is discussed and needs are addressed. The staffing sessions include the following: parole officers (PO), counselor, housing specialist, employment specialist, care coordinator and a certified peer specialist."
We also reached out to Jesse McElroy, a parole officer (PO) involved in the JRI program, about the growth he has witnessed within the program. “Of the three counties currently involved in the program, 116 participants have been enrolled in the program, with 99 currently active. Prior to JRI, officers and individuals shared a frustration of long wait times, huge caseloads, and limited access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). With the program, everyone benefits from smaller caseloads. It’s easier on the officers and the participants benefit as 90% of their supervision can now be in the field as opposed to in-office, which further interrupts their lives that they are trying to rebuild. This also builds a more comfortable environment for supervision and allows for interactions to be more preventative as opposed to reactive. I would encourage the participants involved in the program to know that we understand the difficulty of trying to rebuild their life. We want them to know that we are here to help. This system was designed to help. Rely on your support systems, communicate with your PO, and most importantly, don’t hide. If you need help, reach out. We are here to help.”
Plunkett, Angela. Email Interview. Aaron Ruiz. Wed August 14, 2019
McElroy, Jesse. Phone Interview. Aaron Ruiz. Monday, June 24, 2019