Sep 27, 2014

Bill to allow sex offenders to be admitted into residential facilities

9-27-2014 Ohio:

Ohio General Assembly is on recess until the week after November’s general election.

A state representative from Summit County has introduced a bill that would allow sex offenders to be admitted into residential facilities designed for those with developmental disabilities, clearing up what the law maker calls a “black hole.”

State and county developmental disability agencies aren’t yet familiar enough with this bill to know how it could affect how business is done at residential facilities.

Rep. Anthony DeVitis, R-Green, submitted House Bill 621 to the Ohio House, on Sept. 16, which is in response to an issue that happened at a residential facility in Tallmadge, Ohio. Residents in the Akron suburb were upset last year when sex offenders living were at a developmental disabilities residential facility, and “that didn’t set well in the communities because they were sex offenders,” he said.

That particular issue was resolved, but prompted a need for state protocols to be established. After DeVitis said he didn’t receive or hear from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities any protocols, he said he introduced the bill last week.

Sep 26, 2014

Screaming Inmates Make L.A. Rethink Jailing Mentally Ill

9-26-2014 California:

Inmates in suicide-proof gowns scream and bang on their cell doors one floor below Terri McDonald’s office in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. The bedlam is a reminder, if she needs one, that the mentally ill population in the largest U.S. jail system is out of control.

It’s a “shameful social and public-safety issue,” said McDonald, the assistant sheriff who runs Los Angeles County’s jails. “I believe we can do better. I believe at some point in the future we’ll look back and wonder, ‘What took so long?’”

That’s been a question for years. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in the county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Keeping a mentally ill person behind bars can cost more than $50,000 annually, while treatment could run two-thirds less. Criminal justice systems from Seattle to Miami with aggressive jail-diversion efforts have cut inmate headcounts -- and lowered recidivism rates.

L.A. County has taken tentative steps to join them. The board of supervisors in July endorsed the concept of broadbased diversion, and last week pledged $756,000 for a pilot program.

Sep 24, 2014

Early memory lapses may be sign of dementia

9-24-2014 National:

CNN) -- At least once a week a patient will come into Dr. Thomas Loepfe's busy geriatric clinic in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, with a worry. She will tell him she's been misplacing her glasses lately, or he'll say he's concerned about losing the car keys.

"Age is the biggest risk factor for forgetfulness, so this can be perfectly normal," Loepfe said. As a geriatrician in the Mayo Clinic Health System, his patient population struggles with memory issues more than a pediatrician's. "I tell them it doesn't always mean there is something serious going on."

But a new study in the American Academy of Neurology this week is giving Loepfe some pause.

The research suggests that people who feel they are forgetting more things may need to be concerned, even if bigger issues aren't yet showing up on cognitive tests. Participants who reported memory problems at the beginning of the study were more likely to have dementia down the road than those who did not.

"Now we have more evidence that this is something we should watch from appointment to appointment," Loepfe said.

Why Did Colorado Shut Down Its Most Successful Parole Program?

9-24-2014 Colorado:

A highly successful parole program that helped inmates serving decades-long sentences transition back to society -- and had the potential to save the Colorado Department of Corrections millions of dollars each year in reduced housing and medical care costs for geriatric prisoners -- has been scuttled without adequate explanation, say supporters of the program.

"First, it was on hold," says Habe Lawson, one of the volunteer mentors for the Long-Term Offender Program, or LTOP -- and, like many of the program's core group, an ex-con himself. "Then it was suspended. Then it was outright thrown away."

We first reported on the mysterious demise of LTOP a few weeks ago in "After Tom," a cover story examining events surrounding the 2013 murder of prison chief Tom Clements and the impact of his death on the reforms he'd launched. Clements had declared that reducing the DOC's overuse of solitary confinement was one of his top priorities, and his successor, Rick Raemisch, has made dramatic strides in bringing those numbers down. At the same time, some re-entry programs Clements had backed as promising ways to keep parolees from cycling back into prison seem to have been stalled or shelved, and LTOP is Exhibit A.

The innovative program was designed to identify longtime inmates who had demonstrated good behavior and posed little risk to public safety but were ill-prepared to return to a world that had changed radically during their decades behind bars. Candidates went through an elaborate selection process, were prepped for re-entry in a special unit at the Sterling prison, then assigned mentors on the street who had been through similar experiences and were eager to help. (The mentoring program was an exception to the usual "no association" rule that keeps parolees from receiving aid or advice from other parolees.)