LA Funding Behavioral-Parent Training to Keep Kids Safe….LASD’s New Re-entry Center….Realignment Recommendations….and Supe Ridley-Thomas and Others Back Jim McDonnell for SheriffJuly 16th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
LA INVESTING $20M IN PARENT-CHILD INTERACTION THERAPY TO IMPROVE CHILD SAFETY
The taxpayer initiative First 5 LA is putting $20 million toward expanding Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), a program aimed at preventing child maltreatment by providing educating parents in a therapeutic environment. Through the new funding, between 320 and 400 new PCIT therapists will be trained to give one-on-one live parenting instruction to moms and dads at risk of having their kids taken away from them. During the 12 to 14 therapy sessions, a parent sits and plays with their child while receiving coaching cues in an earpiece from a therapist watching from another room.
The Chronicle of Social Change’s Christie Renick has more on PCIT and the county’s efforts to reform LA County’s child welfare system. Here’s the opening:
Last month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors began implementing the recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, which calls for augmented child maltreatment prevention efforts.
While implementation of the commission’s many recommendations is a long-term venture, leaders are hoping that the rollout of a maltreatment prevention initiative may improve child safety in the short-term.
First 5 LA, a taxpayer-supported initiative that provides a variety of services to families with young children in Los Angeles County, is investing $20 million in child maltreatment prevention with a five-year-long therapist-training program known as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).
The goal is to train up to 400 PCIT practitioners through the state. First 5 LA’s PCIT grant is in partnership with the county’s Department of Mental Health, through which PCIT providers can access state-funded reimbursement for services.
PCIT emphasizes improving the quality of the parent-child relationship through one-on-one live coaching. During a PCIT session, a parent-child pair plays and interacts in a therapy room while the therapist watches through a one-way mirror and guides their interactions using a discrete earpiece worn by the parent. PCIT is typically delivered in a series of 12 to 14 sessions and is broken into two main parts, Relationship Enhancement and Strategies to Improve Compliance.
In Los Angeles, PCIT is being made available to families at risk of becoming involved with the child welfare system, or who have open cases but are not currently in the process of having their parental rights terminated.
After linking a lack of prevention services with “an excessive number of referrals and investigations” and high caseloads in the county’s dependency court system, the Blue Ribbon Commission’s final report, issued in April, called on the county’s board of supervisors to direct the Department of Public Health and First 5 LA to jointly develop a comprehensive prevention plan.
By training hundreds of clinicians and therapists who will serve thousands of families in the county, this will be the largest PCIT initiative since its development in the early 1970s, a prospect that excites researchers close to the strategy.
“The prospect of prevention is very powerful because we’ve shown the parents, with PCIT…[they] can change and become positive, nurturing, sensitive parents who can set limits with their children in a safe and effective way,” said Cheryl McNeil, a professor of psychology at West Virginia University. “Prevention efforts with PCIT encourage parents to use highly positive parenting tools before they get into negative interactions with their children.”
LASD RE-ENTRY CENTER HELPS THOSE RELEASED FROM JAIL WITH TRANSITION BACK TO THEIR COMMUNITIES
The LASD-run Community Re-entry Resource Center opened late in May to help recently released LA County jail inmates successfully re-enter their communities. The Resource Center helps former inmates get connected with things like food stamps, mental health services, substance abuse programs, and employment services. This is a welcome step in the direction of accomplishing one of realignment’s goals: reducing recidivism.
The LA Times’ Cindy Chang has more on the program. Here’s how it opens:
The 40-year-old man in the black jacket and jeans was getting out of jail with no money and no place to live.
As he left the county jail complex in downtown Los Angeles, he stopped at the new Community Re-entry Resource Center, where he received a bus token and a referral to a homeless shelter. The man, who would give only his first name, David, got a phone number for the police so he could see whether his car had been impounded while he was imprisoned.
The center, which opened at the end of May and is run by the Sheriff’s Department, helps people leaving the jails adjust to life on the outside, in hope they won’t come back again.
Newly released inmates get assistance with food stamps, mental health services and health insurance. A probation officer is on hand, along with officials from various county departments. The nonprofits HealthRight 360 and Volunteers of America offer referrals to job centers and substance abuse programs.
“They go back to their old neighborhood and fall into the same trap, with the same friends, and they end up right back in jail,” said Sgt. Joaquin Soto. “We’re trying to avoid that.”
David said he was behind bars for six days after missing a court appearance related to a drug offense. But that was enough to set him back. He had been living out of his car and has no family in the area. He needed something to tide him over until he started a new job in a few days.
“They’re helping me out at just the right time,” he said.
Inside the jails, the sheriff’s Community Transition Unit provides similar services. On the way out, the drop-in reentry center offers a final chance for newly released inmates to get the services they need, said sheriff’s officials and reentry experts.
NEW RESEARCH ON CALIFORNIA REALIGNMENT AND HOW TO REDUCE THE BURDEN PLACED ON COUNTIES
In a recent research paper expanding on her comprehensive study on the effects of California prison realignment released in November, Stanford corrections system expert Dr. Joan Petersilia says that AB109 has had “mixed results” for California counties thus far.
Petersilia recommends a number of legislative tweaks to the realignment plan, including mandatory split-sentencing for all felony sentences served in county jails, statewide tracking of all offenders, and jail sentences to max out at three years.
Stanford News’ Clifton Parker has more on Petersilia’s research and recommendations. Here’s a clip:
When California embarked on a sweeping prison realignment plan in 2011, The Economist described it as one of the “great experiments in American incarceration policy.”
The challenge was to shift inmates from overcrowded state prisons to jails in California’s 58 counties.
At this point, the results are mixed and the “devil will be in the details” as tweaks to the original legislation are urged, according to new research by a Stanford law professor.
“Only time will tell whether California’s realignment experiment will fundamentally serve as a springboard to change the nation’s overreliance on prisons,” wrote Stanford Law School Professor Joan Petersilia, a leading expert on prison realignment, in her article in the Harvard Law and Policy Review. “It is an experiment the whole nation is watching.”
“If it works, California … will have shown that it can downsize prisons safely by transferring lower-level offenders from state prisons to county systems. … If it does not work, counties will have simply been overwhelmed with inmates, unable to fund and/or operate the programs those felons needed, resulting in rising crime, continued criminality and jail overcrowding,” wrote Petersilia, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center.
Petersilia urges legislative revisions to California’s realignment plan (some are now under discussion in the legislature). Suggestions include:
Requiring that all felony sentences served in county jail be split between time behind bars and time under supervised release (probation), unless a judge deems otherwise
Allowing an offender’s entire criminal background to be reviewed when deciding whether the county or state should supervise them
Capping county jail sentences at a maximum of three years
Allowing for certain violations, such as those involving domestic restraining orders or sex offenses, to be punished with state prison sentences
Creating a statewide tracking system for all offenders
Collecting data at the county and local level on what is and is not working in realignment
She said several counties are taking advantage of split sentencing with promising results. Still, only 5 percent of felons in Los Angeles County have their sentences split. She called this type of flexibility “extraordinarily important” to realignment, as it would lessen space and cost burdens for counties.
(We would like to note that LA will increase its use of split-sentencing after Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey instructed prosecutors in her office to start seeking split sentences for certain low-level offenders.)
SUPE RIDLEY-THOMAS AND OTHER LEADERS TO ANNOUNCE SUPPORT FOR JIM MCDONNELL IN LA SHERIFF RACE
Today at 9:30a.m., LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and more than a dozen other South LA leaders will gather at Southern Missionary Baptist Church to announce their support for LBPD Chief Jim McDonnell for LA County Sheriff.