Just a few blocks from the glitz and glamor of the Las Vegas strip sits a nondescript building. Every week hundreds of Nevadans on probation and parole come through the doors to prepare themselves to successfully re-enter the community as productive citizens.
For the past two years, the Las Vegas Day Reporting Center has operated in partnership between the Nevada Department of Public Safety Parole and Probation Division and Sentinel Offender Services. Since inception over 700 participants have participated in programs at the DRC. At any given time as many as 200 men and women are active.
Day Reporting Centers (DRC) are an important tool for community corrections. As an alternative to incarceration and traditional parole and probation (P&P), the primary objective is to reduce recidivism; that is, to help offenders who are returning to society to stay out of jail. Probationers, referred to as ‘participants’ and not ‘offenders,’ benefit from programs that offer tools to become responsible, law-abiding citizens. The environment is more relaxed than a typical P&P office. This helps to promote personal development. What follows is a deeper relationship between the Probation and Parole Officer (PO) and the participant.
Rather than trying to juggle a schedule of meetings all across town and on different days, participants can complete nearly all ongoing requirements in one location. Centralizing the delivery of services is perhaps the most pragmatic feature of the DRC. This makes it easier to meet requirements and avoid technical violations. Technical violations can occur for a missed drug test or not attending a meeting. Just keeping track of appointments and getting around town can be a challenge for many. In a single visit, one can meet with their PO, take a drug test and attend required courses. If transportation is an issue, vouchers are available to pay for public transit.
Wrap-around services extend the value of the DRC. These are services that go a long way in helping participants stay on the path to success. Job coaching, housing assistance and securing support from the Department of Health and Human Services are available. Community partners offer 1-1 counseling onsite and a computer lab helps participants prepare for their GED. One can even acquire a new set of clothes from the onsite clothes pantry to dress for success during a job interview.
Changing behavior from the inside out
Every participant must complete Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT). MRT is a cognitive skills course that seeks to decrease recidivism with improved reasoning around criminogenic needs. Studies have shown that addressing criminogenic needs can reduce recidivism. This evidence-based program combines elements from a variety of psychological models to address moral, social, and positive behavioral topics. Each week, more than 20 sessions of the course are offered.
Other courses that cover a wide range of topics are also available. Anger management, family and parenting, employment and education, and avoiding substance abuse are among the life skills which are taught. Participants set a custom curriculum to meet their unique needs.
Getting out of it what you put into it
Many graduates have turned their lives around. A few share their stories:
- 2018 DRC Graduate
“This program has changed my entire life. When I came here, I was homeless, I was broke, I didn’t have a job, I was sleeping in my car. I went through it all. But I was blessed to have a program to help me realize that I am somebody at the end of the day. Today I stand here in front of you as a restaurant manager. When I came here, I was nobody. If I can do it, you can do it.
- March 2019 DRC Graduate
“I had an excuse for everything. I had to learn how to grow up… I decided to do exactly what they tell me to do. It wasn’t always easy… Everything was a challenge… I started volunteering and ended up getting a job. I have been maintaining it and staying consistent. Consistency paid off for me.
“Be positive, keep a positive mind, speaking your world into existence… Keep believing in yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything… Do what you have to do right now so you can get where you want to be. It may sound hard but take it one step at a time.”
- September 2019 DRC Graduate
“I’m given the opportunity to show that I can shine and be the person I’m not on paper. I was skeptical and hesitant when I started the MRT program. I realized that even though we have different stories, we have the same goal in the end: to better ourselves, be someone different or go back to be the person we once were.”
Producing measurable results
Everyone who completes MRT graduates. This is a big deal. The accomplishment is celebrated with peers, PO’s, family and friends. Individual success stories are inspiring, yet as with most government programs, anecdotal success is not enough to ensure continued funding. The overall impact of the DRC must be quantified and documented. Fortunately, the Las Vegas DRC has generated positive results in multiple ways.
- Were less likely to abscond (than those in general probation and parole)
- Tended to have lower new charges and violations
- Were significantly more likely to be successfully discharged
- Were more likely to attain and maintain employment and a residence
Bottom-line impact: Using the DRC as an alternative to incarceration saves taxpayer money. According to officials with the Nevada Department of Public Service, the DRC has saved the state approximately $3.8 million in the first 15 months of operation.
Commitment to personal success
On September 19, 2019 the DRC celebrated the largest graduation to date. At the event, Sergeant Shaira Chandler of Nevada Probation and Parole, the sergeant over the P&P unit at the DRC, shared insight into the unique relationship the program creates with participants.
“We just witnessed participants go from down and out to become productive citizens,” said Sgt. Chandler. She continued, “I want to see success in our participants. I want to see them thriving. I want to see them be the best they can be for themselves… Participants come in after being done with the program and say ‘I want you to know I’m doing great. I want you to know you helped me.”