2017 Semifinalist
Winners:
State of Missouri
January 1, 2017
Jurisdiction:
Missouri

Since the 1990s, prison populations have increased dramatically while community mental health services have dramatically decreased, resulting in prisons becoming overwhelmed with offenders, many of whom suffered from mental illness, and caused a sharp rise in the rates of misbehavior and violence. In response to what many perceived as unmanageable prisons, corrections agencies throughout the country often turned to administrative segregation as a way to manage the violence and misbehavior, but this proved to have a negative effect on offender management because long-term segregation units were expensive to maintain. Studies also showed that the use of long-term segregation to curb violent behavior had not been successful, noting that idleness and isolation tended to amplify and even create psychiatric conditions or symptoms. In early 2009, dialogue began at the Potosi Correctional Center about the possibility of providing programming to offenders mandated to long-term segregation confinement. Although the idea seemed out of reach at the time, it was in line with the nationwide trend of decreasing the number of segregated offenders. By early 2011, a written proposal had been submitted for consideration and a strategic plan was established. A treatment team comprised of 18 staff members from various departments and disciplines met with the common goal of reintegrating segregated offenders into general population. The safety and security of offenders and staff was the most common concern expressed, as offenders who had committed brutal assaults or murder now had an opportunity to be released back into general population. In October 2011, offenders began to arrive within the Potosi Reintegration Unit. Each offender was individually assessed and was provided IQ testing. After the assessment, offenders were assigned to programming appropriate for their needs. Offender progress though the classes was monitored, as were behavior and conduct. Modifications to classes and privileges were made as offenders earned or forfeited them through their conduct. Since implementation, there has been a consistent decrease of conduct violations, uses of force, staff injuries, and property damage, while there has been an increase in positive behavior among offenders in the Potosi Reintegration Unit. Prior to this, offenders were housed in segregation units with little to no social interaction and minimal opportunities to demonstrate pro-social skills. Through this program, it is now known that offenders can be reintroduced safely to the general population within a correctional center and throughout communities across the state.