On Monday, November 21, 2011, the City Council Chambers hosted a graduation ceremony for the Service Coordination Team (SCT), funded through the Portland Police Bureau. The SCT, led by Austin Raglione, works with social service providers to reduce recidivism among chronic criminal offenders by providing housing, focused drug treatment, and other services.
The SCT program was launched in 2003, and has served more than 300 clients to-date. Its stated goal is "to reduce the incidence of crime within the City of Portland by offering treatment as an alternative to cycling habitual offenders through the criminal justice system without sanction and without addressing the underlying cause of their criminal behavior: drug and alcohol addiction."
According to the Portland Police Bureau, the program has played a role in significantly reducing crime in downtown neighborhoods. Since 2005, the impacted neighborhoods have experienced a 32% decrease in crime. The recidivism rate among program graduates has been reduced 91% and there has been an overall 43% reduction in arrests among all program participants.
SCT also cites a recent federal study that estimates a 7:1 spending ratio: for every dollar spent on treatment, the public saves seven dollars in criminal justice costs, including jail beds, probation and parole, courts and legal fees. The real value of the program was voiced by those who have graduated. "This program saved my life." "I used to cause trouble, now I work and pay taxes." "My parole officer never gave up on me." "I want to give back now I have my life in order."
Sixteen people graduated at the event this past week, celebrated by an audience of approximately 75 friends, family members, city officials (including me), and other supporters. In addition, five former graduates were honored for their ongoing dedication to recovery, and for maintaining sobriety of a year or more. Part of the ceremony is pictured below.