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BILL AS PASSED BY HOUSE 2007-2008

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AN ACT RELATING TO INCREASING SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT, VOCATIONAL TRAINING, AND TRANSITIONAL HOUSING FOR OFFENDERS IN ORDER TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM, INCREASE PUBLIC SAFETY, AND REDUCE CORRECTIONS COSTS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS AND INTENT

(a)  The general assembly finds that:

(1)  Vermont’s incarcerated population is growing at an unsustainable rate.

(2)  Property and drug offenders are the fastest growing segment of the prison population.  Between 2000 and 2006, over half the increase in the felony prison population was due to property and substance abuse offenses.

(3)  Seventy-seven percent of those sentenced for a property or drug felony have a substance abuse disorder.  Two-thirds of them report having received mental health treatment in the past.  Fifty-five percent report being frequently unemployed prior to incarceration.

(4)  Of those incarcerated for a property or drug felony, only 13 percent are receiving treatment.

(b)  The general assembly further finds that:

(1)  Each month approximately 70 inmates meet the criteria for reentering the community under the supervision of the commissioner of corrections on conditional reentry status.  However, almost half are not released because of insufficient housing options.

(2)  Studies show that the length of sentences served by offenders does not affect their recidivism rates.  Therefore, current law authorizes the commissioner of corrections to release certain offenders on reintegration furlough 90 days prior to the minimum sentence date.  However, on average, eligible inmates serve only 53 days in reintegration furlough status.  If all those who are eligible serve the full 90 days of reintegration status, the result could be a savings of up to 90 corrections beds.

(c)  Therefore, in order to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and reduce the cost to the state of incarcerating offenders, it is the intent of the general assembly to increase substance abuse treatment services, vocational training, and transitional housing available to offenders; and establish processes for reducing incarceration time when appropriate.

(d)  It is further the intent of the general assembly that the provisions of this act are a long range plan to guide expenditures from additional corrections savings in future years. 

Sec. 2.  Reserved

Sec. 3.  28 V.S.A. § 723(c) is added to read:

(c)  Prior to release under this section, the department shall screen, and if appropriate, assess each felony drug and property offender for substance abuse treatment needs using an assessment tool designed to assess the suitability of a broad range of treatment services, and it shall use the results of this assessment in preparing a reentry plan.  The department shall attempt to identify all necessary services in the reentry plan and work with the offender to make connections to necessary services prior to release so that the offender can begin receiving services immediately upon release. 

Sec. 4.  28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(8) is amended to read:

(8)  To prepare for reentry into the community.

(A)  Any offender sentenced to incarceration may shall be furloughed to the community up to 90 days prior to completion of the minimum sentence, at the commissioner’s discretion and in accordance with rules adopted pursuant to subdivision (C) of this subdivision (8), provided that an offender sentenced to a minimum term of fewer than 180 days shall not be eligible for furlough under this subdivision until the offender has served at least one-half of his or her minimum term of incarceration.

* * *

(C)  The commissioner may authorize reintegration furlough under subdivisions (A) and (B) of this subdivision (8) only if the days are awarded the commissioner determines that public safety is not compromised and that the offender will receive community services necessary to reduce the chances of recidivism.  The commissioner shall make the determination in accordance with rules adopted pursuant to chapter 25 of Title 3 designed to:

(i)  Evaluate factors such as risk of reoffense, history of violent behavior, history of compliance with community supervision, compliance with the case plan, progress in treatment programs designed to reduce criminal risk, and obedience to rules and regulations of the facility.

(ii)  Ensure adequate departmental supervision of the offender when furloughed into the community.

(iii)  Ensure that each offender has a reentry plan which identifies services necessary to succeed upon reentry and that the necessary services are available to the offender. 

* * *

(E)  Prior to release under this subdivision (8), the department shall screen, and if appropriate, assess each felony drug and property offender for substance abuse treatment needs using an assessment tool designed to assess the suitability of a broad range of treatment services, and it shall use the results of this assessment in preparing a reentry plan.  The department shall attempt to identify all necessary services in the reentry plan, and work with the offender to make connections to necessary services prior to release so that the offender can begin receiving services immediately upon release. 


Sec. 5.  BUDGETARY SAVINGS ALLOCATIONS IN FISCAL YEAR 2009

(a)  Department of corrections expenditures on correctional services including out-of-state beds grew from $93,255,650.00 in fiscal year 2004 to $120,533,309.00 in fiscal year 2008.  The amount of funding proposed for fiscal year 2009 is $123,589,833.00.

(b)  It is the intent of the general assembly to achieve savings in the department of corrections budget which will be reinvested in substance abuse screening, assessment, treatment, and reentry support to result in reduced recidivism.

(c)  In fiscal year 2009, from within the amounts appropriated to the department of corrections from the general fund, the department shall spend $600,000 as follows:

(1)  The amount of $100,000.00 shall be to increase the capacity of the department of corrections’ intensive substance abuse program (ISAP) to provide services to those offenders with drug abuse disorders who are on preapproved furlough status under 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(7).

(2)  The amount of $212,000.00 shall be for entering into contracts with several community‑based substance abuse treatment providers in different geographic regions of the state to provide the substance abuse treatment services to persons on conditional reentry status pursuant to subchapter 1A of chapter 11 of 28 V.S.A. or furlough pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808.

(3)  The amount of $200,000.00 shall be to fund the establishment of a pilot program at a location approved by the court administrator to:

(A)  conduct a voluntary and confidential screening and assessment, when screening indicates that an assessment is appropriate, for substance abuse and mental health treatment needs at the time of arraignment of individuals charged with felony property, drug, or fraud offenses;

(B)  conduct a mandatory screening and assessment, when screening indicates that an assessment is appropriate, for substance abuse and mental health treatment needs following adjudication and prior to sentencing of individuals found guilty of felony property, drug, or fraud offenses;

(C)  provide the results of any screening and assessment conducted under this section to the judge following adjudication and prior to sentencing so that the judge can use the information to determine the level of treatment to be provided while the individual is in the custody of the commissioner of corrections; and

(D)  enable the commissioner to gather data regarding the prevalence of co-occuring substance abuse and mental health disorders.   

(4)  The amount of $88,000.00 shall be to assess offenders for substance abuse treatment needs prior to release.

(d)  Based on a recommendation from either the commissioner of corrections or the corrections oversight committee, the joint fiscal committee may authorize further spending of funds from the fiscal year 2009 corrections appropriation for all or part of the following, in the following order:

(1)  The amount of $150,000.00 to provide grants to community providers of transitional housing to increase the number of beds available by 10 beds for three to six months of housing for at least 20 offenders reentering the community on furlough pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808 or conditional reentry pursuant to subchapter 1A of chapter 11 of Title 28;

(2)  The amount of $200,000.00 shall be to develop the capacities of the substance abuse treatment system to work effectively with offenders, and function efficiently as a collaborative system;

(3)  The amount of $1,000,000.00 shall be for the purpose of expanding the corrections reentry housing program to include the addition of 60 new transitional housing beds as well as expanding housing search and retention resources to include funding for housing assistance granted to housing authorities to be used in accordance with DOC directives; and

(4)  The amount of $365,000.00 shall be to expand the ISAP program to include a residential component for those who have been furloughed to the community pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(7).

(e)  The joint fiscal office shall track and report to the joint fiscal committee in January and July of 2009 savings in the corrections budget resulting from the provisions of this act. 

Sec. 5.  STATEWIDE DRUG COURT STUDY

The court administrator, the deputy commissioner of the alcohol and drug abuse program in the department of health, and the commissioner of mental health shall report to the house and senate committees on judiciary by December 15, 2008 on the advisability and feasibility of expanding the drug court program to every county in the state.  The report shall address:

(1)  the financial costs of expanding the drug court program statewide;

(2)  the workforce impact which a statewide expansion of the program would have, and whether new staff would be required;

(3)  whether current state facilities have the capacity to support statewide expansion, and whether and where any new facilities would be required; and

(4)  any other matter deemed relevant to the issue of statewide drug court expansion.    

Sec. 6.  ACCOUNTABILITY; REPORTS

(a)  On or before January 15, 2010, the commissioner of corrections shall report to the senate committee on judiciary, the house committee on institutions and corrections, and the house committee on judiciary on:

(1)  the prevalence of co-occuring mental health and substance abuse disorders among those committed to the custody of the commissioner of corrections;

(2)  the success of and problems encountered in:

(A)  expanding the ISAP program pursuant to Sec. 6(c)(1) of this act:

(B)  implementing the pilot program authorized and funded in Sec. 6(c)(3) of this act, as well as, recommendations for continuing the program, or expanding the program, or both; and

(C)  developing reentry plans which identify necessary services needed upon release, and in working with community providers to ensure that each offender receives those services immediately upon release; and

(3)  the progress made since passage of this act in establishing a comprehensive system of community substance abuse treatment services which is coordinated with corrections services.

(b)  On or before January 15, 2011, the commissioner of corrections shall report to the senate committee on judiciary, the house committee on institutions and corrections, and the house committee on judiciary on the successes of and problems encountered in working to meet the following goals with the funds provided and through the programs established in this act:

(1)  increase by at least 30 the number of offenders with sentences of one or more years placed in the department of corrections’ intensive substance abuse program (ISAP) pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(7);

(2)  move at least 10 offenders who are in the intensive phase of receiving ISAP services under 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(7), and who are unsuccessful and would otherwise be reincarcerated to a community-based residential substance abuse treatment program which may be a component of ISAP;

(3)  incarcerate no more than 20 percent of offenders who are receiving substance abuse treatment services under 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(7); 

(4)  reduce by 10 percent the number of reincarcerations of those on conditional reentry with a high need for substance abuse treatment;

(5)  increase the number of inmates released on furlough, pursuant to 28  V.S.A. § 808, by 25 individuals per month; and

(6)  increase the average number of days released on reintegration furlough pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(8) prior to the minimum sentence to as close to 90 days as possible. 

(c)  Until the corrections oversight committee informs the commissioner that it no longer requires the information, the commissioner of corrections shall include in monthly reports to the committee:

(1)  the number of inmates eligible for furlough under 28 V.S.A.

§ 808 and considered appropriate for release by the commissioner but who have not been released because the commissioner is unable to find appropriate housing, employment, treatment, or other services;

(2)  which treatment or other services would have been necessary and in which geographic region the services would have been needed, to enable release; and

(3)  the number of days of incarceration that could have been avoided if the community resources had been available and these offenders had been released.

(d)  The joint fiscal office and office of finance and management shall jointly document the impact of the policies and provisions of this act on corrections costs and shall report their findings to the general assembly on or before January 15, 2010 and in January of each year for five years thereafter.




Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us