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Published: Friday, 3/19/2010

Correction centers on notice

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Three northwest Ohio community corrections institutions have been put on notice that recidivism rates for offenders coming out of their programs are too high, and they run the risk of losing state funding support.

The facilities are Northwest Community Corrections Center in Bowling Green, Crosswaeh Community Based Correctional Facility in Tiffin, and the Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Habilitation Center in Lima.

They represent half of six poorly performing community-based correctional sites that the state has told to rethink programming. If further study determines they have to completely rebuild their programs, they'll be given two months to do so before the state considers more extreme measures.

In addition, the state is canceling contracts with and cutting all state funding support to three privately run halfway houses in Mansfield, Dayton, and Hamilton. The state emphasized that the canceling of the contracts will not result in a net reduction of halfway house beds in the state as resources are shifted to more effective facilities.

The funding decisions followed a state-sanctioned study by the University of Cincinnati into the effectiveness of the facilities' programs when it comes to returning participants to productive lives on the outside. The study tracked program participants beginning in 2006 and compared their recidivism rates over the next two years to those guilty of similar crimes who did not have the benefit of such services.

The study was designed to measure progress in the years because a similar study was done in 2002.

"We need to work to divert inmates from prison," said Julie Walburn, spokesman for the Ohio

Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "This data show that's not the case in these facilities."

Unlike the privately funded halfway houses, severing ties with poor performing community-based correctional facilities would be far more difficult, if it should come to that. The state funds the programs and used its bonding authority to build them, but they are run by the counties.

The community corrections facilities offer drug and alcohol treatment, job skill, education, anger management, mental health, victim awareness, and other services to offenders assigned to them as an alternative or follow-up to state prison.

"A large majority of programs in Ohio are performing very well," Ms. Walburn said. "The staffs that run them are dedicated people who want to do the best job possible. But we're making funding decisions based on the study."

Northwest did not return a phone call for reaction. The facility is contracted by the state to serve about 60 male offenders from Wood, Fulton, Defiance, and Williams counties.

Jason Varney, vice president of correctional programs in Seneca County for the nonprofit Oriana House, said Crosswaeh considers the findings of its facility to have been a matter of timing and may have already been resolved.

"At the time of the study of a sample population from 2006, we were undergoing a process of changing programs and implementing a what-works initiative, a program of evidence-based practices," he said. "There were substantial changes going on. We fully embrace the results, and are working very hard to improve on the outcomes. We've come a long way, and we will continue to do so."

Oriana House is under contract to operate Crosswaeh, an acronym of the first letters of the counties it serves - Crawford, Richland, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Wyandot, Ashland, Erie, and Huron. The site serves about 58 male residents and about 36 female residents.

WORTH, in Lima, serves male and female residents from eight counties, among them Hancock, Putnam, Paulding, Allen, and Van Wert.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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