County Jail begins “Transition to Success” program

The Adams County Adult Correctional Complex (ACACC) will begin a new “Transition to Success” program this summer, with the goal of reducing the recidivism rate at the jail.

The program, based on the “Scandinavian Incarceration Model” will be administered by the ACACC Treatment Department, Work Release Department, and other community partners.  The program will be funded from the ACACC inmate commissary fund. County Solicitor Molly Mudd said there is no legal mandate for using these funds but added, “This is the spirit in which the funds are supposed to be used.”

High recidivism rates are not a local phenomenon, and they cost taxpayers money. The ACACC uses a staff of over 120 people to house about 200 inmates. Maintaining the prison is the biggest line item in the 2024 Adams County budget, costing taxpayers over $13 million in 2024.  According to county statistics, the cost of housing an inmate is over $60,000 per year.

“My job is not punishment,” said Warden Katy Hileman, speaking about the program, designed to help inmates succeed after they are released. “Our job from the moment they walk in the door is to get our inmates ready to rejoin their community. We haven’t been doing that in the current system,” she said.

Hileman said current programs designed to help released inmates stay out of jail are not very successful and that the new program should be more effective. “The program will establish a foundation and framework, hopefully turning around some of the current recidivism numbers,” she said.

The new program will evaluate each offender individually and create a holistic treatment program to focus on their risks and needs. The program will target first-time, low-risk offenders and first-time probation violators. It will also support offenders currently participating in work release. The program is based on evidence-based assessments and will be fine-tuned over time.

“The overarching goal is to utilize individualized case planning and evidence-based treatment to focus on the risk factors contributing to recidivism and support successful reintegration into the community post-release,” said Hileman.

Adams County’s model will be similar to a program that has been in place since 2018 at State Correctional Institution Chester, a medium-security prison located outside Philadelphia. The program offers medium security inmates treatment for mental health problems and addiction, college-level and vocational programs, a computer lab, a library, and arts areas.  Another similar program is expected to open at California’s San Quentin Prison in 2025.

Between 2011 and 2021 28 percent of the inmates released from the ACACC returned for a new commitment due to new criminal charges. Hileman estimates that 14% of released prisoners are recommitted within one year, 55% within three years, and 71% within five years.  A goal of the program is to reduce these return rates to 5 percent, 20 percent, and 35 percent respectively.

Hileman said that in addition to potential cost savings, the program will also have community benefits. “How do we value the benefit to the community when successful reentry occurs, or the value to the family or child(ren) of an offender who is successful in the program? There are also several less tangible benefits that cannot easily be measured that will pay dividends for the future of Adams County,” she said.

County Solicitor Molly Mudd praised Hileman for wanting to help the offenders learn what they need to know or get the skills they need so that this time, when they re-enter the community, they don’t cycle back. Since the correctional facility houses short-term inmates, the program must try to achieve this goal within six months or less.

Mudd said the big picture is to help the inmates return to their former lives with the skills to combat the environmental factors that may have caused their criminal behavior in the first place. “Otherwise, they will just end up back in jail,” she said.

The program is consistent with county’s stated goals regarding the criminal justice system as enumerated in its 2024 budget:

  • Utilize effective assessment tools to identify low risk offenders and prison alternatives.
  • Improve collection rates for court, costs, fines, and restitution.
  • Identify treatment needs upon entry to the criminal justice system.
  • Collaborate with state and community resources to coordinate services.

Participants in the program will be housed in the former work release and re-entry building that has been vacant since 2018. The building has been painted, and new furniture has been acquired during the past 18 months, giving it more of a college dorm feeling than a jail.

Hileman said the inmates selected for the program will work harder than the other prisoners. “This program is more difficult than being a regular inmate sitting in jail,” Hileman said. Participants will have far more responsibilities for reaching personal goals and benchmarks, in addition to outside work release while maintaining their living quarters, doing homework, and getting the ACACC greenhouse back up and running. “They must be willing to work for it,” she added.

Currently, inmates are offered a smorgasbord of options to help with self-development and training, which may not be productive if the participants don’t know what they need. With the addition of two new staff members – a correctional program specialist and a treatment manager – Transition to Success will look at offenders individually by administering risk and needs assessments and providing the appropriate treatment programming.

The program will start with a group of about 25 participants. The long-term goal will be to build it to a capacity of around 80.

Hileman said she hoped the program would begin this summer. “We have posted the Correctional Program Specialist positions, along with the Treatment Manager position, and once we have the staffing in place, the program is really going to get moving quickly,” she said.

The program has the backing of the Adams County Commissioners and the Prison Board. “The Transitions program is a holistic program intended to help inmates overcome their underlying factors leading to criminal behavior.  For Adams County, this is a new approach, and we are optimistic that it will have better results than past programming,” said Commissioner Marty Qually.

“I very much look forward to the Transition to Success program.  It is a unique and holistic approach to preparing inmates for community re-entry.  Warden Hileman is very much engaged in the rehabilitation and training offered by the program,” Commissioner Jim Martin said.

“I’m lucky because I have the support of the prison board, solicitor, and commissioners, and they don’t put a lot of restrictions on my creativity,” said Hileman. “Still, we are going to need community support,” Hileman hopes the program will demonstrate positive changes that will encourage people to become actively supportive of the county’s efforts to reduce recidivism.

Featured image caption: Coordinators of ACACC Transition to Success Program are from left, Captain Darrell Smith, Community, Corrections and Re-entry Services, Barbie Taylor, Director of Treatment Services and Joseph Weaver, Community Supervision Specialist.

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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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Jan Elaine Renn
Jan Elaine Renn
2 months ago

All detention centers want to reduce recidivism. It’s a difficult task. My guess is that the majority of offenders commit crimes due to some kind of addiction or mental health problems. It’s difficult to work on these specific problems in a short amount of time. Inmates can start their journey to wellness at the detention center, but there needs to be regular follow-up once they return to the community. More often than not, they are going right back to the environment that promoted their path to detention. They must learn how to be constructive rather than destructive to themselves and… Read more »

Rick Moyer
Rick Moyer
2 months ago

The Work Release/Re-Entry Building has not been vacant since 2018.
Best of Luck Warden Hileman & your very talented Team with this very worthwhile Program.

Karen Wolf
Karen Wolf
2 months ago

I think this is great I truly hope that it has a good out come . I think this great that there opening the work release building back up for something good I know when I was incarcerated in 2018 I was on work release and just being in the work release building it’s so much better than being in the actual building on the blocks being on the work release side makes you feel somewhat still of a human being if that makes sense where you get to wear your regular clothes and you get to go out to… Read more »

Judi Seniura
Judi Seniura
2 months ago
Reply to  Karen Wolf

And best of luck to you. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and meaningful response to my article.

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