HD78 - Substance Abuse Services for Offenders in Virginia

Executive Summary:
The study of substance abuse services for offenders evolved from a previous Crime Commission study which examined the first-offender statute. In the course of the study it was found that there were significant gaps in substance abuse services for the criminal justice population. Further, the study showed a disparate method of funding sources for these services. Treatment services within the correctional institutions were funded through a combination of grant funds and Department of Corrections expenditures. Community-based services were purchased from local community services boards or private vendors. In some areas of the state community services boards are providing services to the offender population from their own resources as well as through a purchase of service agreement with the probation and parole offices.

One consistent theme emerged: the need for substance abuse services for offenders far outstrips the available resources. Another problem was identified during the conduct of the study as well. While there is anecdotal data on the percentage of offenders who have some degree of a substance abuse problem, there is no quantifiable data available to determine the extent of the problem.

The HJR 443 study on substance abuse services for offenders examined means of identifying offenders who have a serious substance abuse problem and methods for addressing the problem within the context of the criminal justice system. The recommendations are designed to create a system of identification initially with the subsequent treatment services to be developed in response to the identified need. The Crime Commission adopted a legislative proposal which would require a substance abuse screening and assessment for all felony convictions except capital convictions, Class I misdemeanor drug and alcohol convictions, and juvenile delinquent adjudications during the presentence phase. The system would be developed by a multi-agency implementation committee composed of directors of the Departments of Corrections, Criminal Justice Services, Mental Health, Mental Retardation & Substance Abuse Services, Juvenile Justice, the VASAP Commission, and headed by the Sentencing Commission. Implementation will be effected in 1999 in order to design the system and to collect offender fees to fund the system.

As a part of the proposal, the Crime Commission recommended that a probation and parole officer in the each of the district offices and a juvenile intake officer in each of the court services units be promoted to senior status and be required to have certain substance abuse credentials. This will allow the Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice to build the staff necessary for the implementation of the legislation in 1999.

As a part of the study, staff worked with the three Virginia drug courts: Charlottesville, Richmond and Roanoke. The Crime Commission recommended that a grant fund be established in the Department of Criminal Justice Services to allow other judicial circuits to initiate a drug court project. Staff also recommended an administrative position for the three existing drug court programs to serve as coordinator among the participants of the program, including Department of Corrections, Department of Correctional Education, the Commonwealth Attorney's Office, Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, & Substance Abuse Services and the public defender's office. This position would be placed under the jurisdiction of the court.

Finally, the Crime Commission recommended funding for planning positions with the local community criminal justice boards. These positions are vital to providing staffing to the boards and developing biennial plans as well as conducting research and developing programs under the boards.