President’s Update – January 2019

I’m often asked “What measures do you have in place to prevent drugs and alcohol from getting into your facilities?” Last year, more than 2,800 people were referred to our residential programs. Over 80% were sent to us because of their addiction issues and were ordered to participate in treatment. Some people were ordered into an intensive residential level treatment and others into outpatient level treatment.

I was reminded of the power of addition when I recently reviewed the file of a resident who had been unsuccessfully discharged from our program. This woman, now in her late 20’s, started using marijuana at age 11, alcohol at age 13, heroin at age 16 and methamphetamine at age 18. She used these substances daily. She had been through treatment programs at least five times prior to KPEP. Her addiction had progressed to the point that even her parents thought she should be locked up instead of given another chance in treatment. The good news is she stayed clean nearly a month into KPEP. The bad news is she managed to bring prescription drugs into the facility and relapsed.

While not all of our residents have progressed to this level of addiction, it is not all that extreme an example of the types of individuals sent to us every week. Despite the fact that the majority of treatment referrals are diagnosed with a moderate to severe substance use disorder, the program sees a successful completion rate of 59.2% overall.  Although we would prefer to boast a 100% success rate, the power of addiction is simply too strong to impact sobriety with that high a success rate.

With each treatment intervention, the client moves closer to the goal of making a commitment to sobriety. Unfortunately, this can be a long and treacherous road filled with relapses, continued criminal behavior and even death. For this reason, we take very seriously our commitment to provide a safe and drug free environment where our clients can learn the skills associated with the recovery process.

This combined with our wide variety of programming, including substance abuse treatment, sex offender treatment, vocational training, cognitive behavioral therapy, employment, community service and the daily structure and accountability give both judges and agents the confidence to send people to our programs.

I often joke with my staff that we must be the most audited corrections program in Michigan. But the fact is, it’s not a joke. We are still the only agency in Michigan to be accredited by the American Correctional Association. We are CARF accredited and PREA certified. We are frequently monitored by both the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. We also have licensing inspections through local health departments and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. It can be a little overwhelming at times and can take valuable time and resources away from the primary work with our clients. That being said, it is also a necessary process to ensure KPEP, like all agencies with government contracts, are providing a quality service and one that meets the requirements of our various contracts.

So back to the original question about the measures we take to prevent drugs and alcohol from getting into our facilities. The first thing we do is maintain a culture that encourages sobriety – a therapeutic community, if you will. Staff and residents are all invested in this culture and we celebrate “clean time” amongst our participants. As a correctional institution, even though we are not a lockdown facility, it is important that we have policies and procedures in place to support that culture. That includes drug testing, searches and accountability both in and out of our facilities. Drug testing varies by resident, but most are tested twice monthly. Every resident submits to a preliminary breathalyzer test (PBT) each time he/she returns to the building from a sign out. Room and area searches are conducted daily. Residents are searched every time they return to the facility from work or other appointments. It is impossible to be 100% successful with any of this, but our staff is diligent about doing all they can to make sure contraband of any kind does not enter our buildings.

That is integral to our commitment to provide community-based programming as part of the recovery process.  This supports one of the eight principles of effective interventions in corrections: encouraging and engaging the client in ongoing support in their natural community.  However, with that comes the challenges of working with clients that have yet to make the decision to change the trajectory of their future.

While certain procedures such as searches and drug testing are designed to prevent introduction of such items into our facilities, the structure and evidence-based curriculums are designed to support pro-social behaviors and recovery. It is here where the real impact is made as it provides our clients the opportunity and structure to make long term changes. The urges associated with addiction are extremely powerful, therefore our clients are faced with real life challenges and the decision to maintain their sobriety on a daily basis. If recovery were as easy as “just saying no” our task would be easy. Impacting entrenched thought processes takes time and practice on the part of the participant, and unfortunately the “automatic thoughts” associated with addiction can overpower even the most motivated client. While we acknowledge there are instances of alcohol and/or drug use within our facility, we are pleased to say these instances are rare.

We remain committed to providing evidence-based programming to clients that have a long history of criminality and substance abuse, regardless of their level of commitment to the change process. Further, we embrace the role of providing a safe and secure atmosphere as this can be one of the most important ingredients in changing entrenched criminal/addictive thinking.