NRS 209.4237 – Overview of Programs Established to Evaluate Offenders for Participation in Therapeutic Programs

According to NRS 209.4237, the Director of the Department of Corrections is empowered, to establish a program to evaluate an offender in the custody of the Department to determine whether the offender is a substance abuser and whether the offender may benefit from participation in a therapeutic community.

What Are Therapeutic Communities?

A therapeutic community is an alcohol and drug treatment program used in state prisons in Nevada. Prisoners live in a segregated part of the prison or a different facility altogether as a community, living a highly structured life surrounded in therapy, work or education, and positive peer interaction. It’s an approach that works by building an emphasis on connecting a prisoner who’s struggling with his or her drug or alcohol addiction to peers in a community that are also dedicated to overcoming their own addiction, forming a therapy.

How Do Therapeutic Communities Work?

Therapeutic communities near Las Vegas, Nevada only accept inmates that are within two years of their release date. There is a significant reason for this. You see, the therapeutic communities in Nevada state prisons are one year long, and then there is a one-year aftercare program that the inmate must also complete.

During the weekday, the prisoner spends several hours in treatment, where an emphasis is placed upon developing self-reliance, honest living, anger management, accepting responsibility, and more. He also spends time either working a job, in vocational training, or in educational classes. The rest of his day is spent surrounded by his community of others who are also working toward sobriety and in the quiet of his room.

How Is Treatment Provided in a Therapeutic Community?

There are three stages of treatment in a therapeutic community.

  1. Assimilation into the therapeutic community – Here, the prison has several activities he must fully participate in. This total immersion is done in hopes of disrupting his identification with his past, drug-using life and the connection he feels to it. It will also, hopefully, help him to create new relationships, behaviors, attitudes, and responsibilities in place of the old ones. Increasing his knowledge about addictions and drugs helps in this area as well.
  2. Behavioral Treatments – This includes treatments, such as motivational interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a therapy that teaches the prisoner to replace one thought with another by teaching them to identify it when it occurs, strategies to change it, and the will to implement those strategies. Motivational interviewing is a goal-directed style of counseling where the counselor leads the prisoner to explore the necessary behavior changes and motivates them to make those changes. Both therapies work toward the main goal – an emotionally and behaviorally changed person full of hope and able to self-manage and control his impulses.
  3. Education, Vocational Training, or Employment – At the end of the two years, the prisoner will be at his release date or close thereby. By this time, he needs to be ready for his reintegration into society. Because he will have already been gaining an education, vocational training, or been successfully employed while in the therapeutic community and during his year in the aftercare program, he will be well ahead of where he was when he was arrested – a new job or career, new opportunities, a new life, and new hope.

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Prisoners who are released back into the community without a job are much more likely to be reincarcerated than those without. People with an education or career are far less likely to find themselves in jail. Plus, those who have been through a drug and alcohol abuse treatment program like a therapeutic community and aftercare program, have been clean for at least two years, and have gained a new life with so many new opportunities are less apt to want to throw that new life away for “one more.”

Do Therapeutic Communities Work?

Therapeutic Communities are not miracle workers. They do not guarantee changed men and women, and they are not 100 percent, but they do make a difference.

There was a study conducted in California. There was a 41% higher incarceration rate among those prisoners who had no in-prison therapy than among those who completed the therapeutic community and aftercare program. This percentage was including the number of people reincarcerated over the five years following their release.  About 72% of the graduates of the therapeutic community and aftercare program were also still successfully employed at least two years after release.

What Nevada Prisons near Las Vegas, Nevada Offer Therapeutic Communities?

  • Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center
  • Warm Springs
  • Southern Desert Correctional Centers

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