Ballot question asks for extension.
Ballot question asks for extension.
The half-cent Jail Tax, which has been in effect since July 1, 2007, funds most of the operational costs of the Coconino County Jail and in-jail programs that:
- Treat mental health conditions and substance abuse;
- Teach job and life skills; and
- Promote well-being through religious, cultural and spiritual practices.
Today, the Jail Tax covers 86% of jail operational costs and funds in-custody programs like EXODUS, a substance abuse recovery program. Since 2007, when the county initiated EXODUS, the Coconino County Sheriff’s office reports:
- A decrease in the impact of substance abuse-related crimes on county communities;
- An overall reduction in the jail population; and
- A decline in the number of people returning to jail.
Further, Coconino County recidivism rates for EXODUS participants have decreased to 25% to 30%. Recidivism measures the rate at which offenders commit other crimes, either by arrest or conviction baselines, after being released from incarceration. According to the National Institute of Corrections, the national average for inmates returning to jail is 70% in places without in-custody substance-abuse programs.
Flagstaff Business News met with Mike Vaughan and Ben Tillman, both substance abuse counselors in EXODUS, to look at the high success rate of this Jail Tax-funded program.
“We track recidivism by if they come back to this jail within three years. Recidivism is 30% here. However, it is difficult to measure because they could leave the state,” said Vaughan.
“One reason we do so well is that we can get people to buy into the lifestyle of recovery,” said Tillman of the EXODUS program. “The bright light of EXODUS is that we have really good numbers.”
According to the Coconino County website, EXODUS uses 12-step and bio-psychosocial materials to augment the program. “That means we’re a comprehensive program and treat all three layers: biological, psychological and social,” explained Vaughan. “We do that through education and presenting topics like anger management, relapse prevention and SMART recovery.” SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training.
Jail inmates volunteer to do 90 days in EXODUS housing units called recovery pods. “There are three specific housing units for individuals who want treatment,” said Vaughan. “The volunteer, women’s and probation pods.”
Vaughan attributed another crucial part of EXODUS’s success to the Flagstaff community that accepts and embraces the EXODUS participants. He pointed to local entities that support participants’ transitions from jail back to their communities, including:
- A robust 12-step recovery community;
- Prosecutors and public defenders who believe in restorative versus punitive justice;
- Three specialty courts, one being the Recovery Court; and
- Multiple resources for housing and employment such as Goodwill, Catholic Charities and Hope Lives.
“Sheriff Driscoll is very much down with preventing recidivism,” added Tillman. “Our sheriff is really big on restorative justice rather than punitive justice.”
The community is where the success is, he said. “It takes a village.” But the substance abuse counselor noted that restorative justice takes time and needs support from multiple entities in the community.
“There is this whole comprehensive community and webbing that supports and is willing to help us in the pods,” said Vaughan.
Another jail project, Pathways to Community, is a new program that connects participants of the EXODUS program and others exiting jail to a resource center filled with social, behavioral, housing, transportation and legal services. This program is a collaborative partnership between the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and Coconino County Health and Human Services (CCHHS).
“From the jail exit door, they have only 15 feet to walk down the hall to the resources, which is very different from bus rides across town to various resources they need. Instead, they can directly access the help they need, an important thing for those with substance abuse issues,” said Vaughan. “The jail tax supports these programs and keeps us working to do the work that we need to do. There are many alumni of the EXODUS program out there right now doing good work in our community.”
Watch your mailbox for the official Coconino County Publicity Pamphlet and Text Ballot. It will arrive by mail in early October. FBN
By Stacey Wittig, FBN