Problematic Behavior or Activity
From 2002 to 2008, Marion County’s post-release supervision clients had a three-year recidivism rate (new felony conviction) as high as 37 percent. During this period, Marion County was expending more than $1 million annually for contracted substance abuse treatment, not considering whether a client was motivated to change. The corresponding success rate was a disappointing 40 percent.
Impact on the Community
The high recidivism rate had a significant impact on the community, the families of the clients, and the client themselves—and also contributed to the high cost of incarceration. In Oregon, the cost of incarceration is approximately $84 per day. Marion County’s most-intensive reentry treatment program costs $39 per day. The reentry initiative not only provides hope and dignity to our clients; it also makes financial sense.
The reason for creating the SOAR program was to combat Marion County’s high recidivism rate. SOAR is an intensive, collaborative 12-week cognitive-based treatment and employment program designed for drug-addicted offenders who are returning to the community from incarceration and have high criminogenic needs. This program involves upward of 250 hours and offers diverse services, including enhanced supervision, motivation and cognitive programming, parenting classes, mentoring, housing, employment services, and addiction treatment. The program is delivered at the Chemeketa Community College campus and serves up to 30 participants at a time. SOAR is dedicated to encouraging, assisting, and inspiring individuals toward optimal self-management and well-being.
Based on Research
After the passage of Senate Bill 267 in 2003 required evidence-based practices for Oregon’s Community Corrections programs, Marion County began implementing risk assessments and case planning, training staff on research-based practices, and assigning and managing officer caseloads according to supervisees’ assessed risk.
In late 2009, the Marion County Reentry Initiative was awarded two Second Chance Act grants by the U.S Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance—one for prisoner reentry and a second for mentoring.
County Commissioner Janet Carlson and the Marion County Reentry Initiative also organize an annual community breakfast, “Giving People a Second Chance,” highlighting reentry.
Once grant funding ended, funding for the SOAR program was built into the Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s existing budget.
Proposed outcome measures:
Since the inception of the SOAR program in January 2010, 56 percent of all program referrals graduate. To date, the three-year recidivism rate (new felony conviction) of SOAR graduates is 19 percent. In addition, 64 percent of the 2015 program graduates are enrolled in school and/or maintaining full-time employment.
Critical Success Factors
The SOAR program is committed to evidence-based practices and to collaboration among participating agencies. Marion County and our partner agencies are dedicated to encouraging, assisting, and inspiring our clients. The program’s intervention approach incorporates research and sound theory. SOAR draws on an extensive literature review, a theoretical foundation of the program and its components, and interventions that are linked to criminogenic needs. SOAR also emphasizes staff knowledge about the interventions: why they are used and how to apply them.
When developing a program that has a multitude of partners (such as Chemeketa Community College, the Marion County Jail, the Parole & Probation Division, and treatment providers), it is important to consider potential funding and workload ramifications for all parties. It is also important to have consistent, ongoing meetings to ensure that:
- The program is being implemented as designed.
- The target population is being consistently identified and target goals are being reached.
- Problems are resolved when philosophical disagreements occur.
- Partners trust that everyone wants to improve public safety.
Collaboration is time-intensive, at times with competing priorities and philosophical beliefs that can result in some passionate disagreements. Never give up on a good program and always give your collaborative partnerships the benefit of their positive intent. Ongoing evaluation and review are also key, given that any program is susceptible to occasional “mission drift” over time.