We use a risk assessment to ensure that we only work with individuals that are likely to be re-arrested without an intervention, those considered “high risk” to return to criminal behavior. Most recent national data reports that 67% of everyone leaving prison will return in three years. Although we are a new organization with limited data, our initial results are promising. Our three year goal is a re-incarceration rate of less than 30% for program graduates.
Even relatively small reductions in recidivism rates can be financially significant. The cost of crime to taxpayers (who pay for the criminal justice system) and crime victims (who suffer personal and property losses) is high, so programs that can deliver even modest reductions in future criminality make economic sense. The best programs can be expected to deliver 20 to 30 percent reductions in recidivism or crime rates. For example, typical success rates for “good” adult offender programs lower the chance of re-offending by 10 percent. Even a five percent reduction in the re-conviction rates of high risk offenders can generate significant benefits for taxpayers and crime victims. Our goal is to lower recidivism rates for those we get to serve.
Turning Leaf follows the rules of Evidence-Based Practices (EBP), which are the only programs shown by research to reduce recidivism. Historically, EBP comes from the medical field as a method to utilize clinical research findings to improve medical decision making and lower risk. In corrections, Evidence-Based Practice is the breadth of research and knowledge around processes and tools which can improve correctional outcomes, such as reduced recidivism.
Turning Leaf is being used as an alternative to prison for federal inmates. We are not aware of another program with a similar model being used as an option to prison.
Students enrolled in our community based program are initially in groups five days a week from 9am – 12pm. They are assigned a Case Manager to develop an individualized success plan based on their risks, needs and strengths. After being assigned to transitional employment, our students are also assigned a Job Coach who supports their on-the-job success.
Some people leaving incarceration are much more likely to continue their criminal behavior than others. These “high risk” individuals are who we serve at Turning Leaf. Rules of Evidence-Based Practice state that working with low risk individuals does not producesignificant reductions in recidivism and can actually increase chances of reoffending. We use a risk assessment to determine who really needs an intervention, and who will likely not be able to change their old habits without our help.
“Criminogenic” needs are the factors in a person’s life that contributed to their breaking of the law. Examples of criminogenic needs are having a criminal peer group, lacking self-control, justifying criminal behavior and having a drug and alcohol dependency. Physical needs, such as food and shelter, or having low self-esteem are not criminogenic needs. Programs that do not address factors linked to criminal behavior have no effect on a person’s future risk of committing a crime. Turning Leaf focuses almost entirely on criminogenic needs.
Our students are provided temporary employment with the City of Charleston, North Charleston, Charleston County or a private employer. They are assigned to a work crew, where they learn skills, develop a work history and job references. At the end of the transitional work period, we help our students obtain permanent employment or enroll in a vocational or educational program.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of group therapy that addresses dysfunctional thought patterns that contributes to criminal behavior. CBT has been shown repeatedly to be effective at helping people change behavior, including those at high risk to reoffend. Skills are not just taught, but are practiced and role-played. This takes time and repetition. It is the process of rewiring the brain through repetitive practice of pro-social thinking and behaviors. Research demonstrates that individuals who are at a medium to high risk to continue their criminal behavior need 100-200+ hours of CBT in order to “rewire” their brain. 80% of Turning Leaf’s curriculum is based in concepts of CBT. Our students participate in a minimum of 100 hours of CBT group classes before being placed in transitional employment.
Lasting change takes time. We recognize that it is very difficult for individuals being released from incarceration to devote the significant time needed to develop new ways of thinking and acting. We provide our students a weekly stipend for their time with us in classes before placing them in full-time transitional employment. This way, they are focused on learning the thinking and problem solving skills they will need for long-term success.