New way to reform parole violators proposed

Posted at 7:53 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 12:58:21-05

Arizona's governor wants nearly $2 million to get a community corrections center up and running on the property of an existing juvenile corrections facility near Pinnacle Peak Road and Interstate 17.   

ABC15 got an exclusive tour of a similar facility for parole violators in Tucson. At the Southern Regional Community Corrections Center, the bunk room still resembles the prison it used to be, but the doors aren't locked.

“Our mission is to enhance community safety and reduce recidivism,” said program manager Nicole Studer.

The center offers a computer lab, job placement assistance, mentors, counselors, and life skills classes.

About 80 offenders at a time are assigned here. Some are enrolled in intensive 90-day drug and alcohol programs. 

Most offenders are parolees who broke the rules, typically with a technical violation like failing to check in with a parole officer or failing a drug test.

“It gives them hope,” said mentor John Bailey. “It gives them structure now, when before they would just go back to the ‘yard.’”

According to the state Department of Corrections, 17 percent of prison inmates are locked up for parole violations.  Community corrections centers are a cheaper alternative, and administrators say this center is also  effective. They boast a 67 percent successful completion rate. 

Lessie Foster just started the substance abuse treatment program, which he says “is a really good second chance.”

“I just want to try sobriety” Foster said. “I didn't believe in it before because I didn't see my own problem, but as you stay here and you discuss those things, you realize you could probably use some help in that area.”

He is one of more than 1,200 technical parole violators in the last three years who have come to the Southern Regional Community Corrections Center.  They are trying to restart their lives with a new outlook. The goal is to stay out of prison for good.

“One way or another, when their community supervision end date it up, they get out,” Deputy Warden Therese Schroeder said. “Here, they get out with many more tools.”