n the spring of 1989, Warden John

Ratelle of the Richard J. Donovan

Correctional Facility (RJD) received a

call from then-director of the California

Department of Corrections (CDC), James

Rowland. “John”, the director said, “It’s

time that the department begins to do more

about substance abuse in the inmate

population. Most of our inmates have drug

problems, and they are the majority of our

returns to custody. Would you be willing to

have a drug treatment program at your

facility that we could use as a model?

Ratelle, who had opened RJD three years

ago, said he would be willing to open a drug

treatment program at his prison, which is

near San Diego, just a mile from the

Mexican border. “But” he recalls saying, “ I

told the director that I wanted to look at

some programs before I made a final

decision and that, if we went forward, I

wanted to be able to close the program

immediately if I felt it was not working.”

owland asked Ratelle and Chief

Deputy Tom Hornung to visit the

Amity/Pima County Jail Program, a

national demonstration program funded by

the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Pima

County Adult Detention Facility in Tucson,

Arizona. Rod Mullen, president of the

Amity Foundation of California, gave them

a tour of the jail pod, where 50 sentenced

drug offenders engaged in a therapeutic

community-type program using ex-addict

counselors, a specific curriculum developed

by Amity, and well-developed program of

cross-training between correctional officers

and treatment staff. An evaluation of the

Amity program showed excellent results in

lowering recidivism to drugs and crime after

inmates left the program.



California Program Reduces

Recidivism and Saves Tax Dollars









Facts about the California

Department of Corrections

1. In 1980, CDC had a commitment

population of 22,500.

2. Projections indicate the

institutional population will

increase to 172,694 by June 1998;

219,795 by June 2001; and

340,000 by June 2006.

3. These increases are driven by

parole violators and inmates who

have longer sentences because of

“three strikes” legislation.

4. CDC institutions are at 183.1

percent over design capacity, and

without new construction, CDC

will run out of space for new

inmates in 1998.

5. The average sentence is 43

months; average time served, 21.3


6. The racial breakdown of inmates

is 34 percent Hispanic, 31.5

percent African-American, 29.6

percent Caucasian, 4.9 percent


7. A breakdown in offenses shows

41.8 percent violent, 25.3 percent

property, 26.4 percent drugs, 6.6

percent other.

8. A recent CDC survey shows that

75 percent of committed offenders

have histories of drug abuse.

9. In 1984, 9.3 percent of inmates

were committed for drug offenses

(sales, use and possession). At the

end of 1995, drug offenders

accounted for 31.9 percent of all

new admissions to CDC – the

largest offense category of new

felon admissions.

atelle admits that he came to look at

the Amity program with a great deal

of skepticism. “I’ve seen a lot of

programs come and go, and

a lot of them have been

games where inmates lay

around all day, continue to

use drugs, go to meetings

occasionally, manipulate

untrained correctional

counselors, get their dayfor-

day credit-and then got

out and go back to drugs

and crime.” When he

talked to inmates in the

Amity program, he met

some who had done time in

the California system. They

talked about how the Amity

program was different. He

observed encounter groups

and saw that the program

was dealing with real

issues, not allowing

inmates to shift the blame

for their mistakes to others,

but making them take

personal responsibility for

their own behavior.

“I’ve known some of

these guys [inmates] for 30

years,” Ratelle says.

“Because of their addiction,

they are doing life on the

installment plan. Prison

has become a way of life,

and they are comfortable

here. We needed

something to get their

attention, shake them up,

and get them to change.”

atelle’s willingness

to “take a risk” led

to collaboration

between the CDC and

AMITY, a private nonprofit

organization that specializes in programs for

drug-involved offenders. An independent

five-year study of the Amity program

funded by the National Institute on Drug

Abuse shows that, to date, 63 percent of

those receiving no treatment were

reincarcerated a year after release, but less

than half (46.2

percent) of those who

completed the inprison

program and

then went on the

Amity residential

program in Vista,

Calif., were

reincarcerated. The

study is not completed

yet, but researchers

believe that the final

outcomes will be very

close to what is

reported here.

he Amity program

began at RJD in

the fall of 1990.

Ratelle dedicated

building 15 in yard

three of his 4,600-man

institution to the

treatment programwith

200 inmates,

three correctional

counselors and two

doublewide trailers

constructed for

program space.

Mullen and Amity’s

Deputy Director Naya

Arbiter selected staff

from Amity’s Tucson

programs, mostly exaddicts,

some who

were ex-offenders, and

put them through an

intensive training

program. The

treatment staff worked

closely with


counselors and

classification staff to select inmates. By late

December 1990, the program was

functioning; by March, all 200 inmates were





Amity Foundation Program


·  Two hundred men live in a housing

unit on a yard with 800 other

inmates. Amity participants share

the yard with the rest of the inmates,

but program space is isolated.

·  Twenty Amity staff, mostly exaddicts

and ex-offenders trained by

Amity to work in prison participate

in CDC security training for

correctional officers to receive their

security clearance. All participate

in a minimum of 40 hours per year

of Amity immersion training to

keep skills current.

·  Six “lifers” (life with possibility of

parole inmates) work with Amity

staff as credible role models and

help stabilize the program.

·  Forty program participants

(inmates) work one week on, one

week off, supporting staff in

delivering the Amity program.

·  The Amity curriculum was

developed more than 15 years ago

by Naya Arbiter. A written and

videotaped curriculum specifically

designed to reach habitual offenders

with chronic drug abuse histories,

the curriculum involves encounter

groups, seminars, video playback,

psychodrama, and written and oral

exercises. It addresses violence,

family dynamics, gang involvement

and other issues relevant to this


·  A therapeutic community approach

demands a very high degree of

accountability from participants and


·  A Correctional Counselor III and

two Correctional Counselor staff

members work with Amity staff and

institutional staff to select inmates,

conduct disciplinary proceedings,

develop treatment plans and develop

discharge plans.

in the housing unit, and the trailers (for

program space) were operational.

“One of the most important things was the

relationship that I had with Elaine Abraham,

Amity’s program director,” Ratelle says.

“Right away it was ‘we’ not ‘us’ and ‘them.’

She impressed me. She held the line with

the inmates, and did not allow them to

manipulate her or the program.” After a

year, Ratelle sat in on an encounter group

with several inmates, including a couple of

“old timers” whom he had known for 20

years or more. They were “baring their

soles” about their personal histories in a

manner that impressed Ratelle. “I could tell

that we had gotten to these guys,” he says. “

I knew that they would never have broken

the convict code otherwise.”

Ratelle decided in 1992 to do a surprise

urine drop of the entire Amity in-prison

program-to see if “it was really working.”

He told no one of his decision, neither his

staff nor the Amity program staff. On a

Monday, after weekend visitation, he locked

down the entire housing unit where the

Amity inmates are housed. Each inmate was

asked to give a urine specimen. “I knew that

I had 200 guys with serious drug problems

all living together and not isolated from the

main yard. We were busting guys on the

yard for drugs, so I knew that if the guys in

Amity wanted to get drugs, they could. I

assumed that 25 percent of the people in the

Amity program would turn up ‘dirty.’ Only

one Amity participant tested positive for

drugs – marijuana.

“The key,” adds Mullen, “was that the

warden waited two years before the

‘surprise’ – that gave us time to get the

program working. He didn’t do the test in

the first year, while we were still wrestling

with implementation and program integrity.”

Have there been any problems in

implementing the program? Ratelle

explains, “There really ahs been no

downside to the Amity program during the

past six years – the inmates in the Amity

program work like other inmates in

institutional support jobs and get their dayCORRECTIONS


for-day credit; the housing unit they are in

has less disciplinary reports than any of the

other units on the yard, and less grievances,

too. There had been no violence – just a few

scuffles – in six years. And the outcome

data shows that these guys are coming back

at a significantly reduced rate compared

with inmates who did not go through the


The program fits in with Ratelle’s

philosophy. “You don’t run an institution

with guns, you run it with your mouth – you

run it by communicating – and 80 percent of

communication is listening. We have an

excellent staff here at RJD – and they keep

getting better every year. The Amity staff

and program have become part of us and

have grown with us.”

What are the incentives for inmates to

participate in the Amity program? “The

participants in the Amity program,” says

Director Elaine Abraham, “have a harder

time than other inmates – they have to work

every day to get their day-for-day credit,

they have to participate in our intensive

treatment program in what would be their

spare time, and they submit to more urine

drops than other inmates. They are under a

microscope from staff and peers about their

behavior, we push them very hard

emotionally, they are not eligible for work

furlough – and we expect them to stay clean,

continue treatment, get jobs and support

their families when they leave. We have a

lot of credibility among inmates because no

one gets anything in terms of reducing their

sentences or any special privileges for

participating in the program. The reward is

the opportunity to stop being on the

revolving door in and out of prison. Still,

we get hundreds of applications a month for

the few program spaces we have open – and

that says a lot.” she says.

Who is in the Amity program? Ratelle

says, “Amity has the typical career criminal

you would find in any level three or four

CDC institution. There are few first

termers, but the inmates in the program are

not the cream of the crop. In fact, 51

percent of Amity participants have two

strikes – if they go out and re-offend, they

are going to do 25 [years] to life.” The

profile of the inmates in the Amity program

reveals that they have an average of 27

lifetime arrests and have been incarcerated

17 times for an average lifetime

incarceration of more than six years. Many

were involved with gangs on the streets, but

both CDC and Amity demand that gang ties

be severed in order to participate in the


“We’ve worked very hard to keep the

program ethnically balanced,” Mullen says.

“In order to do this, we asked the warden to

extend the length of the program, since

Hispanic inmates usually were doing longer

sentences and many weren’t eligible for the

program. Ratelle felt as strongly as we did

that the program needed to match the ethnic







balance of the CDC institutional population

as closely as possible so the program did not

get identified as a ‘white program,’ a ‘black

program’ or a Chicano program.’

Mullen says one of the unsung heroes of

our success is Jody Boyle, the parole agent

who has been assigned to the program from

its inception. She’s been the catalyst for

networking parolees from Amity together to

support each other. Boyle says AMITY is

different than other programs. The men

become very close and form relationships

with each other in the prison that they

maintain on the streets,” ”he says. “I see a

lot of these guys still close friends and still

helping each other several years after they

are out of prison.”

California DOC Director James Gomez

says, “I think that one of the most important

aspects of the CDC/Amity collaboration was

the confidence that it gave the Legislature

and the governor to authorize over $100

million to build the largest dedicated prison

drug treatment program in the world. And,

it gives us at CDC the confidence that it

could and should be done. The Corcoran II

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility will

house more than 1,400 offenders beginning

in 1997 – and it could have come about only

through Amity’s work. It is clear that

Amity’s program results are going to help

shift the public debate about corrections here

in California to a more treatment-oriented

approach. We have to continue to respond

Elements of Success

The following are the elements of success for the Amity program that CDC administration, and

institutional, treatment and parole staff sees as critical:

·  A director of corrections who saw the economic impact of drug abuse on the correctional budget

(and public safety) and was willing to break new ground in addressing these issues;

·  Central office staff who worked closely and effectively with the institution, parole, treatment

staff in the prison, and the treatment program in the community;

·  A warden who was willing to take a risk and maintained a hands-on relationship with the

program – also treating the treatment staff with respect and giving them the independence

needed to carry out their jobs;

·  The buy-in of the correctional staff in the institution to support the new program

·  A correctional facility that was well managed and stable;

·  A treatment program that was experienced in working with offenders and committed to a jointventure

/ collaborative approach to corrections;

·  A curriculum specifically designed for the inmate population served that was based on

“emotional literacy” and issues particularly relevant to inmates in the program, including

substance abuse, family dynamics, violence, racial prejudice, relapse prevention, moral

development, building and maintaining positive relationships, and “how to get prison out of


·  A treatment program director who was willing and able to work cooperatively with the

institution in implementing the program and maintaining it;

·  A treatment staff that was able to work side by side with the institution and maintain credibility

to the inmates;

·  The incorporation of “lifers” into the Amity in-prison program as credible role models and


·  Regular cross-training of treatment, correctional and parole staff together to enhance

understanding, cooperation, communication and a sense of joint ownership;

·  The assignment of a parole agent who worked in an integral fashion with corrections and

treatment staff and was the catalyst for supporting parolee program completers in the

community; and

·  The development of a “linked” aftercare program for Amity prison inmate completers that

allowed a true continuance of treatment in the community.


to the public demand to take violent

offenders off the streets, but we also have to

make sure that we use a targeted approach

and don’t lump all our inmates into the same


A recent cost-benefit analysis prepared by

CDC’s Office of Substance Abuse Programs

at the direction of the California legislature

used an “avoided cost model.” Assuming

that the Amity outcomes could be replicated,

the analysis estimated that a 200-bed

program like RJD would, by reducing

returns to custody, save CDC about $7.5

million over seven years) above the cost of

the treatment program itself) – more than

$1million per year.

For a 3,000-bed program, the seven-year

estimated savings would be $29,705,000.

These savings do not take into account the

“on-the-streets” savings of Amity graduates

who become employed, pay taxes, reunite

with their families, get off welfare and join

other Americans in shouldering their share

of social responsibility. At a time when

public debate is honing in on how to make

government more efficient, the results of the

Amity/CDC collaboration look very good



California Department of Corrections. 1995.

California Department of Corrections

overview of substance abuse programs.

(May). Sacramento, Calif.: Office of

Substance Abuse Programs, California

Department of Corrections.

Glider, P., D. Herbst, and R. Mullen. In

press. Substance abuse treatment in a jail

setting. In Community as Method: Modified

therapeutic communities for special

populations, ed., G. DeLeon. New York: the

Greenwood Publishing Group.

Hill, E.G. 1994. Crime in California.

Sacramento, Calif.: Legislative Analyst’s

Office, California State Legislature.

Lipton, D.S. 1995. The effectiveness of

treatment for drug abusers under criminal

justice supervision. U.S. Department of

Justice Publication NCJ 157642.

Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice.

Mullen, R. In press. Therapeutic

communities in prisons: Dealing with toxic

waste. In Prison-based treatment programs

in America, ed., K. Early. New York:


Mullen, R., and N. Arbiter. 1992. Against

the odds: therapeutic community approaches

to underclass drug abuse. In Drug policy in

the Americas, ed. P.H. Smith. Boulder,

Colo.: Westview Press.

Pan, H., J.Inciardi, D. Lockwood and D.

Scarpitti. 1993 Some considerations on

therapeutic communities in corrections. In

Drug treatment and criminal justice, ed., J.

Inciardi. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage


Wexler, H.K. 1996. Evaluation of Amity

therapeutic community at Donovan Prison.

New York: Center for therapeutic

community Publications, National

Development and Research Institutes.

Winett, D., L. Lowe, R. Mullen, and E.

Missakian. 1992. Amity right turn: A

demonstration drug abuse treatment program

for inmates and parolees. In Drug abuse

treatment in prisons and jails, ed., Carl G.

Leukefled and Frank M. Tims. National

Institute on Drug Abuse. Washington, D.C.

Rod Mullen is president of the Amity

Foundation of California. John Ratelle is

warden of Richard J. Donovan correctional

Facility, Dan Diego. Elaine Abraham is

program director of Amity at R.J. Donovan.

Jody Boyle is a parole agent for the

California Department of Corrections.