HACTC investigates new treatment program
The Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center has started a transition to house low-risk sex offenders in the treatment part of the facility after a request by the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
At an Oct. 7 meeting, the HACTC Board was informed by Facility Administrator Mary Richard that the Warden of Transitional Facilities and the chief psychologist of the sex offender program had been through on a monthly visit and had inquired about the possibility of a change.
There was no timeline given but in further communications, the DOCR asked for a decision by the end of week ending Oct. 13 to get any plan into the upcoming budget.
Although nothing is set in stone yet, the HOCTC Board and Pierce County Commission both voted to move forward with the process.
Currently the 32-bed facility is used for substance abuse and criminal thinking treatment.
The terms of a new contract would still have to be negotiated between facility representatives and the DOCR, Richard said.
The board discussed the proposal for more than an hour, bringing up a number of issues and weighing the pros and cons.
Although the treatment center has been close to full, the contract to treat the low-risk sex offenders would guarantee a 25-bed commitment from the DOCR. The facility would still maintain its sanctioning for treating substance abusers.
Once the change to house low-risk sex offenders is complete, each prisoner would stay between 10 and 13 months at the end of their sentence.
Richard reported the prisoners housed at the facility would be non-violent, non-habitual offenders.
One of the major concerns of the HOCTC Board was what would happen to the prisoners when they are released.
“As we do now with all DOCR inmates, they are sent back to the county that sentenced them,” Richard said in an email to the PCT. “They may have their own family pick them up or we put them on a bus or train. A few get transported by DOCR back to the North Dakota State Penitentiary.”
Security Chief Capt. Joey Cotton said the prison staff is very meticulous about making sure prisoners are to delivered to the bus or train station and board to leave.
Among the parts of the contract that will need to be negotiated are costs the state pays per prisoner, costs to train and potentially hire new staff and any upgrades to the facility needed to house the offenders.
Richard said HACTC is the only facility in the state which could currently house the offenders in a secure area.
“I think saying yes to this we’ll have a better working relationship,” said County Commissioner Dave Migler.
Any addition of
services at the HACTC would be a process. DOCR spokesman Tim Tausend said a new curriculum for the sex offender program is currently being developed by the University of Cincinnati for DOCR which should be implemented in the spring of 2013.
“The process could take up to 5 months to change over to include the sex offender programming.” Richard said. “The details for the transition have not been worked out at this time.”
One other potential issue would be staffing. The staff, trained to work with chemical dependency issues, would be working with the new population with new issues.
“Obviously, there’s a wariness, but we’re all on board,” said Treatment Director Billy McEwen.
In total, nearly all of the board members signified that the potential positives of the change outweigh the negatives.
“This would ensure our treatment unit’s future with the DOCR,” Richard said.
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