After a recent overhaul in its operations, CROSSWAEH now is on track in its goals to reduce criminal behavior and divert offenders from the state prison system, according to an official with the center.
Although the community-based correctional facility received a failing grade in 2010 in regards to its two-year post release program, the facility has since been working hard to fix it.
Jason Varney, vice president of correctional programs in Seneca County for Oriana House's CROSSWAEH facility, said after working closely with the University of Cincinnati for a year following the release of the study, the facility already has seen the impact of the changes.
PHOTO BY ERIKA PLATT-HANDRU
CROSSWAEH, located at 3055 S. SR 100, includes facilities for men and women. The community-based correctional center is accredited by the American Correctional Association and also received 100 percent on its state audit this year.
"The university provided us with the framework to make some changes or overhauls to programing structure," he said. "We changed some programs we provide but, for the most part, we added programming to the facility."
Varney said many of the programs had been in place, but they may not have been delivered properly, resulting in the poor recidivism score. Now, with the help of the University of Cincinnati, quality assurance of the programs has been upgraded.
CROSSWAEH, a facility accredited by the American Correctional Association, has a total of 94 clients in its female and male facilities. Clients come from nine regional counties and are offered cognitive behavioral programs, employment and educational services.
Many of the clients are felony offenders and are considered at a higher risk to re-offend.
The average stay of a client at CROSSWAEH is four to six months, Varney said, and programs with the main objective of reducing recidivism take up much of a client's typical day.
"One of the most important things, when an offender comes into CROSSWAEH, it's not just to do time, the expectation is that they will change their behavior," he said. "Our program has to be designed to effectively change their behavior for the six months they're here."
During a typical day at CROSSWAEH, clients wake up at 6 a.m., eat breakfast and begin daily appointments. Many see a caseworker, attend a meeting, perform community service or go to work, Varney said.
"There are a lot of commitments when it comes to having meetings or attending certain groups," he said.
After a break for lunch, clients return to daily appointments.
"In the evenings, there's not much programming," Varney said.
Clients will typically watch TV or work out before going to bed, he said.
"All of our clients are in bed by midnight," Varney said.
In order for a successful release, clients must complete three phases in which performance is directly tied to progress. Directly tying the two at the facility has been a change for the better, Varney said.
"We've seen a dramatic improvement in effort and desire to perform better to get out of program quicker," Varney said. "It really puts the responsibility in a program like CROSSWAEH on them. They know what they have to do and we know it kind of empowers them to do it quickly."
Rule violations also have diminished with the changes suggested by the University of Cincinnati.
"We used to process about 15-20 major rule violations every week. We now process maybe three or four rule violations every week. There's been a pretty dramatic improvement as far as rule compliance goes," he said.
Rewarding clients for good behavior through character coupons and weekly incentives also has been helpful in giving clients motivation to perform well.
All of the programs at CROSSWAEH aim to reduce recidivism of offenders, but that's not the only asset of community-based correctional centers. Varney said taxpayers also save quite a bit of money by sending an offender to a community-based correctional center instead of prison.
"The state prison capacity is 38,000 offenders, and currently, the state has about 50,000 in (the prisons)," he said.
To incarcerate one person, it costs taxpayers about $24,000 annually. To send someone to CROSSWAEH, it costs $8,000 in the same period.
"That's why it's beneficial from a fiscal standpoint," Varney said.
Jim Fruth, chair of the facility governing board at CROSSWAEH, said the facility is a great option not only fiscally, but because of its success in reducing recidivism.
"The rate of recidivism is a lot lower than when someone goes to prison," he said. "These people are receiving treatment and rehabilitation programming that they not would receive in an overcrowded prison system."