Department of Corrections Receives Two Significant Federal Grants

Sep 29, 2011, 13:57 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Corrections will invest two new federal grants, totaling more than $600,000, to help provide treatment for female offenders with mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as support criminal justice research within the state prison system.

The first grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, is a Second Chance Act Grant totaling $410,467. These funds, in addition to $41,100 in-kind state matching funds, will be used to support treatment and recovery services for female offenders at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy who meet certain requirements.

"This grant allows us to develop and test a well-designed strategy for offenders with dual disorders," Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said. "This increases the likelihood of successful offender re-integration and improved public safety by reducing the likelihood of future criminal activity."

Approximately 100 to 150 female offenders with dual co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, who are within 18 months of their parole eligibility date and who will return to Allegheny, Dauphin or Philadelphia counties, will benefit from this grant.

The funds will be used over a two-year period to support a specialized therapeutic community at SCI Muncy. The program will provide integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment services in addition to supportive services addressing education, family relations, safety, and housing. The DOC will partner with the Department of Health's Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs, the Department of Public Welfare's Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, local service providers and community organizations to ensure services will continue for participating offenders after their release from prison.

"This grant award allows everyone involved in treatment and recovery for these specific offenders to work together toward a common goal," said Mary Finck, manager of the DOC's re-entry program. "We are pleased we were selected for this grant and will work hard to use it to improve public safety through specialized treatment of offenders."

The second grant has been awarded by the Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice totaling $209,323.

"This grant is another big win for us," Wetzel said. "It was very competitive, and only five awards were made nationwide."

The grant award, made under the "Criminal Justice Researcher-Practitioner Fellowship Placement Program," will fund a one-year project that places an academic professor from the University of Maryland as an "embedded criminologist" within the DOC to provide technical assistance with the agency's research agenda. Dr. Kiminori Nakamura will be funded to serve as a regular part-time DOC employee for the period of the grant.

"The benefit to the DOC will be to have easy, onsite and regular access to an expert in the field of criminal justice research," said Bret Bucklen, director of the DOC's Office of Planning, Research and Statistics.  "The benefit to the researcher is that he will be able to apply academic work to real world policy issues, will have ready access to data and will be able to seek publication of the results of the joint research endeavors."

"University of Maryland's Criminology & Criminal Justice department consistently ranks as the top criminal justice program nationwide, so we're getting a good resource in Dr. Nakamura," Wetzel said.

The purpose of the research is to determine at what point after release from prison a parolee has no greater statistical likelihood of getting arrested as the average citizen. While this will be Nakamura's primary interest, the main point of the grant is to use his expertise to provide assistance with research on DOC interests.

The grant also will fund two graduate students to assist the DOC and Nakamura. It also will provide funds for the DOC to purchase software needed by DOC research staff for mapping and population projections.

The DOC's Office of Planning, Research and Statistics will coordinate this grant, which is currently slated to start Jan. 1, 2012. 

Media contact: Susan McNaughton, 717-975-4879

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Corrections