Pubdate: Sun, 26 Sept 1999
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 1999 Richmond Newspapers Inc.
Address: P.O. Box 85333, Richmond, VA 23293-0001 (LTEs by FAX or mail only!)
Fax: (804) 775-8072
Author: Frank Green and Michael Hardy. TD Staff Writers

Would Use Half Of Governor's Proposal

The governor's zero-tolerance proposals to fight drug dealers and
kingpins grabbed most of the attention last week, but almost half of
his $30 million-a-year initiative will be spent on treatment.

Despite his terming it the toughest-in-the-nation war on drugs, Gov.
Jim Gilmore wants to require testing and treatment for first-time
offenders, and treatment and transitional services for inmates
released from prisons.

He also would provide help to addicts who want to clean up their

His helping-hand approach, combined with the balled-fist war on drug
dealers and kingpins, surprised some accustomed to the primarily
punishment-oriented focus of his predecessor and fellow Republican
George Allen.

The former governor, now running for the U.S. Senate seat held by
Democrat Charles S. Robb, abolished parole and yanked almost $1
million from the state budget that had been targeted for treatment of
sex offenders.

"Jim Gilmore believes in treatment," said Ronald Jordan, the
administration's deputy secretary of public safety and a major
architect of the governor's proposals.

In the long run, treatment will save taxpayers money, he

"All the research shows that appropriately designed drug-treatment
programs reduce recidivism," Jordan said. "It's cost-effective in the
long run."

It costs about $21,000 annually to imprison an offender, he

Ron Angelone, the state's prison director first hired by Allen, has
overseen the biggest expansion of substance-abuse treatment in the
prison system, Jordan said.

Now Gilmore wants to offer treatment to offenders and addicts so they
don't have to be locked up. And he wants to help prisoners stay out of
crime after they have been paroled.

Gilmore's plan, estimated to cost $60 million in the two-year state
budget the governor will disclose just before Christmas, will require
the approval of next winter's session of the General Assembly.

According to Anna Powers, substance-abuse program manager for the
Virginia Department of Corrections, the department already has
substance-abuse programs for inmates and those recently released from
prison, though there is room to expand them.

"With all this support from Mr. Angelone and the governor, we've been
able to expand our services," Powers said. The system has 1,200 beds,
all of which are full, for therapeutic communities, the most intensive
level of treatment offered in prison. The program already was planned
for expansion to 2,000 beds.

Treatment is available to males, females and youths incarcerated in
the adult system, she said. The communities are located at the Indian
Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake, Botetourt Correctional Unit
#25, Pocahontas Correctional Unit #13 in Chesterfield County, Fluvanna
Correctional Center, Staunton Correctional Center, the Virginia
Correctional Center for Women in Goochland, and St. Bride's
Correctional Center in Chesapeake.

The therapeutic communities are intended for inmates who are nearing
their release dates. The governor's new initiative would expand
services to inmates on probation and parole, she said.

"We're really looking at trying to provide wrap-around services,"
Powers said. In addition to the more intensive therapeutic
communities, the department also has a substance-abuse education
program for inmates in almost all institutions except for the toughest

"We have trained, certified substance-abuse counselors" working in the
program, she said. It is a 13-week program, and there are waiting
lists for it at some facilities.

"And, of course, AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] and NA [Narcotics
Anonymous] are a part of all of our programming and are offered in all
of our facilities."

In addition, in the eastern part of the state, the department is
providing peer support groups for released inmates as follow-up to the
therapeutic community program, she said. With Gilmore's new
initiative, it is hoped that that program can be made available statewide.

Some parts of the state offer relapse-prevention programs, and all
parts of the state have agreements with community service boards and
private providers "so that the whole spectrum of services is available
to offenders either if they're on probation status prior to
incarceration, or post-incarceration status," Powers said.

And, "in Harrisonburg, there's a residential transitional therapeutic
community center that's called the Mineshaft," a 40-bed facility, she

Some Democrats, even in the heat of this fall's fierce election
battles for control of the General Assembly, praised Gilmore.
Crime-fighting wins votes, but treatment rarely plays well with the

Leslie L. Byrne, the former Northern Virginia congresswoman who is
running for a state Senate seat in Fairfax County in the Nov. 2
elections, applauded the governor's emphasis on treatment.

"Any time we address the treatment issue, it's a good thing," she
said. "I've been supportive of it [during her legislative career].
"I'm glad the governor is recognizing the importance of treatment.
It's a real shame when someone admits he has a drug problem, but then
there are not facilities for treatment."

But some questioned how the governor would pay for yet another major
election-season promise. He's already proposed spending billions more
on the state's traffic-clogged roads, as well as financing the hiring
of 4,000 new teachers.

"Clearly, this is a radical departure from the previous
administration, which actively sought to restrict treatment programs,"
said Craig Bieber, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

"How's he going to pay for this? He's already made costly promises for
new teachers and transportation. We'll have to reserve judgment and
see how it fares and is actually implemented," Bieber said. 

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