Gemeinschaft update

Jeremy Aldrich -- October 17th, 2008

The Gemeinschaft transitional therapeutic community has been granted an extension on its previous December 9 deadline to close due to statewide budget cuts.  It now has until January 25, an additional 45 days.

Supporters of Gemeinschaft plan to hold a march to Court Square next Saturday, October 25.  It will begin at noon at the Gemeinschaft property on Mt. Clinton Pike.

Gemeinschaft’s Executive Director Jennie Amison says that in discussions with state officials, she has offered to reduce the per diem cost to the state and make up the difference by soliciting more donations, but they do not seem interested at this point.  The DNR reports that some local lawmakers are looking into the situation to help determine whether the Gemeinschaft program currently offers a cost savings to the state or not.

Though specific numbers seem hard to come by, a report from the Virginia State Crime Commission states that, “[A] significant body of research on drug-involved criminal populations indicates intervention
programs in an incarcerated system leads to lower likelihood of recidivism, fewer post-incarceration offenses, and reduced severity of later offenses…Research on treatment for drug involved offenders also indicates significant cost savings to state and local government as well as the general public and businesses.”

A quick math exercise demonstrates the point.  Gemeinschaft currently has around 60 residents for approximately 90 days before their final release.  If the program costs the state $76 a day (even compared to a $65 per day state average for prison incarceration), but prevents even one of them from reoffending and then being reincarcerated, it saves the state money.

Cost to the state for current Gemeinschaft residents: 60 x 76 x 90 = $410,400

Cost to the state for non-therapeutic incarceration of the same inmates during the same period (using figures from 2006): 60 x 65 x 90 = $351,000

Cost of one additional reoffense among the group resulting in a three year jail sentence: 65 x 365 x 3 = $71,175

Cost of one future three-year incarceration added to current cost of incarceration for the whole group: 351,000 + 71,175 = $422,175

As you can see, it doesn’t take much success for Gemeinschaft to be the cheaper option for the state.  Amison says that the Gemeinschaft program lowers recidivism much more than the 1.6% figure used here for illustration.  In addition, this mathematical exercise does not include additional costs to law enforcement for reoffense, or lost tax revenue from a former offender finding gainful employment, which further tilt the scales in favor of transitional therapeutic community programs like Gemeinschaft.

8 Responses to “Gemeinschaft update”

  1. finnegan says:

    Thanks for the update.

    Looking at the DNR this morning, it seems Sen. Emmett Hanger doesn’t want Gemeinschaft to close, either.

  2. I don’t want everyone’s eyes to glaze over from seeing so much math, but if Gemeinschaft lowers the recidivism rate for 6 of its current residents (just 10%), then normal state incarceration actually becomes almost twice as expensive a choice.

    In this PowerPoint presentation I just found, there are some results from a study by Dr. Peggy Plass of JMU in 2004 which show that Gemeinschaft graduates had lower re-arrest rates than cohorts completing normal incarceration by about 10%, lower reconviction rates by about 14%, and lower recommitment rates (return to jail?) by about 9%. It also showed that Gemeinschaft graduates who did reoffend were able to hold off reoffenses for about six months longer than peers in normal incarceration.

    This really seems like a no-brainer to me in terms of cost savings to the state.

  3. Emmy says:

    I drove past the house this afternoon and there was a large home made sign asking for help in saving the house. I was watching the road so I couldn’t read the whole thing. I’ll try to get over there and take a picture.

  4. Sarah says:

    Do you have more information about the march? I saw information elsewhere with the date of the 29th. Do you know details about the time, route, goals, etc?

  5. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Sarah, sorry for the delay in answering your question. I’ve been trying to contact Gemeinschaft directly, but haven’t had success so far. I did read this morning that the march will now be on October 29 (Wednesday) starting at 10. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it since I’m working then.

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