State auditor targets prison rehab programs

Folsom State Prison east of Sacramento. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The state auditor says the California prison system’s programs to reduce recidivism aren’t working effectively, noting that inmates who complete the programs wind up back behind bars at roughly the same rates as those who don’t.

“These results are  serious enough to highlight an urgent need for Corrections to take a more active and meaningful role in ensuring that these programs are effective,” California State Auditor Elaine Howle reported. She said “there was no overall significant connection between an inmate completing these programs and the inmate’s likelihood to recidivate.”

Howle also said the correctional system isn’t adequately riding herd on its prison counselors.

Howle said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which runs 34 prisons housing more than 120,000 adult inmates, needs better ways of assessing the suitability of inmates for those programs, known as in-prison cognitive behavioral therapy programs, or CBT.

The need is particularly critical as the population of the prisons declined amid new laws to ease overcrowding, wrote Howle, who answers to the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee in the Capitol.

“In particular, Corrections has not revalidated the accuracy of the tools it uses to assess inmates’ rehabilitative needs since recent statutory changes caused a major shift in the State’s prison population. Inaccurate assessment tools could result in placing inmates in the wrong programs or in no programs at all.”

The audit suggested that Corrections track and evaluate more closely its vendors who provide therapy program services, noting that the “formal procedures or guidelines that delineate standards” for the programs need to be reevaluated.

“Because of Corrections’ inadequate oversight of correctional counselors at individual prisons, inmates are not consistently being placed on waiting lists, and as a result, some are not getting assigned to needed programs,” the audit said.

California’s prison system spends about $300 million annually on in-prison rehabilitation programs, or about 2 percent of the entire prison budget. Separately, about 580 inmates receive vocational training through the Prison Industry Authority, which provides training in nine fields.

Recidivism numbers vary widely, depending on the reporting, but according to Howle, “the recidivism rate for inmates in California has remained stubbornly high, averaging about 50 percent from fiscal years 2002–03 through 2012–13.”

Corrections, in its own figures, said recidivism was on the decline but remained at 61 percent in 2008-09.

In its response to the audit, Corrections Secretary Ralph M. Diaz said, CDCR already is putting together an effort to “ensure that CDCR vendors are delivering treatment programming consistent with the highest likelihood for positive outcomes.”

Between 2011 and 2016, voters approved three statewide ballot measures and the Legislature approved bills that has had the ultimate effect of reducing the prison inmate population, in part resulting in a greater emphasis on rehabilitation.

Ed’s Note: Monet Muscat is a Capitol Weekly intern from the Met Sacramento High School.


  • Dick_Gosinya

    Blah blah blah

    Bottom Line:
    – CDCR hasn’t changed its “Needs Assessment Tool” used to evaluate inmate needs in almost 30 years.

    -They have no idea what programs they need, or existing programs that are obsolete or redundant.

    – They have no tools to evaluate the effectiveness of any program, new or old.

    – The $300 Million does NOT include academic courses, or volunteer programs.

    – PIA training is obsolete, unless inmates are paroling to China to work in a shoe or clothing factory. Capitol Weekly should have their interns look into what, exactly, Pia is doing. Start out here.

    – CDCR lacks the internal expertise needed to make these changes, and any additional money budgeted for programs will be a waste until they implement these changes. Scott Kernan sold the Brown Administration and leadership in the Legislature a bill of goods on his way out the door.

  • Cass

    These inmates will not reform or rehabiltate unless THEY WANT TO. No matter what anyone or everyone does for them, if they do not standup on their own 2 legs that God gave them, and worki g on fixing themselves, no dr, Counselor, friend, mom, dad, priest, can fix them . STOP PLACING BLAME, If you havent worked in the prison setting sut down and quit preaching to the choir. You cannot will someone to get better. They have to pick up whats been put in front of them and use the tools they are one can do that. Its not up to prison employees to raise these people like children to become great people, that was their parents and families doing. Employees at orison are to Guard inmates so they do not harm themselces ir others while completing their prison term. They did wrong on the outside they have to do their time. They get better medical, specialty care and dental care than any warden at a prison. You are listening to
    inmates who lied, cheated, stole and killed people above those who protect you from those same liars, cheaters stealers, and killers who you could be their next victim. I believe in optimism, but you cannot force them to do whats right, THEY (INMATES) HAVE TO DO THE WORK.

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