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NORCOR Programs & Recidivism Reduction (read more...)

The Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Center, NORCOR, has seen an increasing number of repeat offenders, Parole/Probation violators and an increase in those who are suffering from either a Mental Health condition or from some form of Substance Abuse. This has put an increased burden on the NORCOR facility and the member counties who make up NORCOR. This situation is not unique to NORCOR, it exists in county jails across the country.

The Vera Institute of Justice reports that the number of annual admissions to jails has nearly doubled from six million in 1998 to 11.7 million in 2013. They found that 72% of people in jail with a serious mental illness also have a substance use disorder and that 68% of all jail inmates have a diagnosable substance abuse disorder. In addition, the average length of stay has increased from 14 days in 1998 to 23 days in 2013. These are sobering facts when one looks at the costs associated with these populations, according to the Vera institute from 1982 to 2011, local expenditures on corrections - largely building and running jails - increased nearly 235%. Of the more than 60 Billion spent annually on correctional institutions, 22.2 billion, or about one third is spent by local jurisdictions.

NORCOR is starting to gather the data to validate these trends locally. Our average daily population for FY 14 was 120 with over 300 admissions and discharges per month. The average length of stay was 13 days, with a recidivism rate of over 60%. Many of these returning individuals have a substance use disorder or are suffering from a diagnosable mental illness. Of the 3360 total admissions last year two thirds were released within 6 days, with the remainder releasing within the year.

In an attempt to reduce our recidivism numbers, provide treatment options, case management and transition services to this volatile population and subsequently reduce the overall cost to the NORCOR counties, NORCOR is instituting an evidenced based reentry program.

Reentry is a seamless plan of services and supervision that encompasses the individual from remand to discharge from community supervision. This process includes the screening and assessment of an offender’s risk/needs and strengths, the offender’s enrollment in programs that reduce risk and addresses his or her needs during confinement, and provides for reentry interventions and services that continue through an offender’s transition, reintegration and aftercare in the community. This is a nationally recognized, comprehensive three phased approach to offender management and reentry services. This three-phased approach consists of initial screening, assessment and referral to inmate programming (Phase One), program completion, release preparation and planning (Phase Two), and the release to community supervision, services and ultimately discharge from supervision (Phase Three).

Depending on their assessment and classification, offenders will be referred into the following programs; (Phase 1)

Substance Abuse; Living in Balance: SAMHSA endorsed evidenced-based treatment program consisting of a 12 session core program (completed within 30 days), 21 aftercare or additional core management sessions (provided to augment the core sessions), and a 10 session co-occurring disorders program (for those who are dually diagnosed, completed within 30 days).

The Criminal Attitudes Program: A comprehensive evidenced-based cognitive-behavioral program, that focuses specifically on criminal attitudes, values, beliefs and rationalizations.

Anger Management: A 12 session Anger management system utilized to address offenders self-regulation, interpersonal coping and anger expression skills.

Parenting; Inside/Out Dads: A 12 session parenting program for incarcerated fathers.

Active Parenting Today: A 6 session parenting program for incarcerated moms.

Job readiness and Reentry program/group: Teaches money management, resume writing, interviewing and career enhancement skills.

Phase 2 will consist of release planning and release preparation. This includes at a minimum a summary of treatment programs completed, programs still needed and a release plan that includes an offenders risk/strengths/needs in the areas of housing, employment, positive social support, family reunification, aftercare, education, finances, legal obligations, childcare and transportation needs (the case management plan).

Phase 3 consists of release and supervision services. It involves immediate and short-term enrollment and/or referrals for services and also involves long-term stabilization of the offender and the development or establishment of relationships with appropriate community support networks.

AMERICAN JAILS MAGAZINE - Article published in NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 (read more...)

Authors: Bryan Brandenburg & Dr. David J. Simourd

According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, jails admit approximately 12 million people each year, with an average length of stay of 23 days. Typically operated by county departments, jails are temporary holding centers that house three types of inmates: those awaiting trial, sentenced offenders awaiting court sentencing, and convicted offenders serving relatively short sentences. The Vera Institute ( has estimated the national average cost of operating jails is approximately $31,000 per inmate yearly.

The primary purpose of jails is detention security. For some people, however, the act of being detained in custody motivates them to reflect on the reasons of how and why they became incarcerated, thus creating an opportunity for rehabilitation and change. This change can result in reduced reoffending, which has benefits of both lower costs to taxpayers and safer communities. These benefits can be achieved by complementing the detention focus of jails with a rehabilitation influence.

Correctional Rehabilitation

Considerable scientific research and practice during the past two decades have shown that the most effective method of reducing recidivism is rehabilitation. The general finding from research literature is that effective rehabilitation programs reduce recidivism by approximately 10%. To achieve this level and beyond requires attention to four core components of what are referred to as correctional "best practices," "evidence informed," or "empirically based" programs. The core components are:

  • Use of assessment instruments to determine offender criminogenic risk/need factors.
  • Use of the assessment results to determine rehabilitation intensity-high risk/high rehabilitation, medium risk/medium rehabilitation, and low risk/limited or no rehabilitation.
  • Provision of cognitive-behavioral (CBT) treatment-based rehabilitation programs that address the risk/need factors.
  • Measurement of client rehabilitation performance to determine level of intermediate improvement.

Although there is a sophisticated and scientific aspect to these components, these methods are also flexible in how they can be implemented. In short, they can be adapted to virtually any correctional setting.

NORCOR Recidivism Reduction Program

The Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility (NORCOR) is a county jail located in The Dalles, Oregon, and serves the counties of Wasco, Hood River, Gilliam, and Sherman. It began operation in 1999 and is funded by subsidies from the serving counties and from rental beds.

NORCOR has an operational capacity of 125 beds for adults and an adjoining 32-bed facility for juveniles. Population trend data in fiscal year 2014 indicate there are approximately 300 admissions and discharges per month with an average length of stay of 13 days. Also noteworthy is that throughout the history of NORCOR, the rehabilitation programming was limited and unstructured, consisting of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, moral reconation therapy, and weekly church services. Unfortunately, these opportunities were only provided to those who were remanded for technical violations of their release conditions, and these inmates typically received only a few sessions while they served their brief (i.e., 2- and 3-day) sanctions.

More significantly, the recidivism rate was approximately 76% and had consistently hovered at that rate over several years. The rate has now trended downward over a 3-year period, corresponding to the implementation of the Recidivism Reduction Program in January 2016, and is currently at 62%.

NORCOR introduced the concept of the Recidivism Reduction Program, which is a structured three-phase reentry process that is geared specifically to assessment and rehabilitation services. Upon intake, adult offenders are assessed using a standardized risk/need assessment instrument that provides a categorical ranking (low, medium, or high). Offenders who are identified as either medium or high risk are referred for a supplementary assessment of specific areas related to honesty, criminal thinking, anger, and readiness for change. Depending on these findings, offenders are referred to programs related to substance abuse, anger management, parenting, reentry, and criminal attitudes. A stringent schedule of program offerings allows offenders to complete the program cycle within four weeks.

The NORCOR program is unique in that it utilizes several quality assessment instruments and treatment programs. In terms of assessment, the Level of Service Inventory-Revised: Short Version (LSI-R: SV) is the triage device. This shorter version of the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R) is the most validated offender-risk/ need assessment instrument in use today.

The supplementary assessment instruments include:

  • the Marlow-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MCSD) that measures honesty of self-report.
  • the Criminal Sentiments Scale-Modified (CSS-M) that measures criminal thinking.
  • the Hostile Interpretations Questionnaire (HIQ) that measures anger/hostility.
  • the Self-Improvement Orientation Scheme-Self-Report (SOS-SR) that measures readiness for change.

These instruments have established validity and practical application. in the NORCOR program, these instruments are administered twice: at the beginning of treatment (pre-treatment) and at the conclusion of treatment (post-treatment), with comparisons made between them to offer an index of treatment benefit.

In terms of treatment services, NORCOR offers six program options reflective of different rehabilitation areas. All of the programs are CBT-based, which as noted above is the preferred treatment mode in correctional settings. The specific programs are all modular-type interventions delivered by trained facilitators in a scheduled manner during a 30-day period. There are typically 15 to 20 participants needed to begin each program cohort.

The six programs offered by NORCOR include:

  • Criminal Attitude, which is aimed at altering criminal thinking.
  • Offender Anger Management Treatment, which addresses emotion management.
  • Active Parenting, which addresses parenting skills.
  • Living in Balance: Moving from a Life of Addiction to a Life of Recovery, which relates to substance abuse.
  • NORCOR Community Re-entry, which addresses life skills.
  • Inside Out Dad, which is designed to help incarcerated fathers become better dads.


The Recidivism Reduction Program at NORCOR was implemented in January 2016 and has had two complete years of operation. During the first year, 9 separate treatment cohort groups were completed with a total of 196 participants. In the second year, there were 6 separate treatment cohort groups with a total of 116 participants.

A preliminary data analysis of the program's impact was conducted. First, comparisons were made between the pre-treatment and post-treatment scores on the supplementary assessment instruments. This revealed that offenders consistently demonstrated reduced scores on standard measures related to criminal thinking and anger, plus increases in scores related to readiness for change. In other words, they have fewer criminal thoughts, reduced anger, and more motivation for sell-improvement by the end of the program. This is what the correctional rehabilitation literature refers to as intermediate treatment targets.

A second and more important area of data investigation concerns the return to custody after release. Comparisons were examined between those offenders who participated in treatment (treatment group) and those who did not (comparison group). In year one, 87 participants in the treatment group were compared to 109 comparison group participants. The recidivism rates for this sample were 58% for treatment and 69% for comparison-a difference of 11%. The results for year two are even more impressive; the recidivism rate for the 64 treatment participants was 28% compared to 54% for the 52 comparison participants-which reflect a 26% reduction in recidivism. Although preliminary, the data is indeed encouraging and reflects positively on the benefits of the recidivism-reduction program for NORCOR inmates.

Cultural Change

Aside from the recidivism reductions, other benefits and costs have occurred since the implementation of the Recidivism Reduction Program. One benefit is a slight culture change in the workplace at NORCOR. The very nature of jails means it can be a difficult place to work. Introducing rehabilitation can alter the otherwise negative environment of jails by integrating a sense of optimism. This appears to be somewhat evident at NORCOR, according to several anecdotes.

The most obvious relates to perception of the rehabilitation program among staff with regard to the "graduation ceremonies"-the group success for completing program requirements. At the outset of program implementation, clinical staff offered a modest celebration that included "cookies and coffee," and security and operational staff were neutral to unhappy about the provision of these "treats."However, several graduations and one year later, the attitude was very different. Now cooking staff take it upon themselves to provide favorable treats for the graduation ceremonies. Security staff is also more supportive of the rehabilitation efforts of program participants and often offers encouragement.

Costs: Financial and Otherwise

With any benefit, there is a cost-including the costs associated with implementing rehabilitation into a correctional facility. The most obvious of these is financial, for the startup and maintenance. For example, start-up costs could include retaining a consultant to provide recommendations for the most appropriate rehabilitation initiatives. There also are training costs and soft costs related to the purchase of rehabilitation materials such as assessment instruments, teaching aids, etc.

Once the rehabilitation program is operational, there are ongoing costs related to ongoing training or supervision of staff, and modest program-related costs, such as stationary, assessment instrument fees, etc. Beyond financial costs, there may be costs in terms of integrating the program into correctional operations.

There is no doubt that security takes precedence in jail settings. Thus, there may be conflicts at times between security and rehabilitation. It is not uncommon for change to be difficult for some people, so there may be staff resistance. This may become a challenge for administrative staff to manage. All of these were experienced at NORCOR and solutions were found to address them while still maintaining the integrity of the Rehabilitation Reduction Program.


The nature of regional jails is the temporary detention of people involved in the criminal justice system. In spite of this focus, there are opportunities to implement rehabilitation programs that have the potential to change inmate thinking and behavior-and by extension reduce recidivism. The short-term duration of custody, however, presents challenges to the types of rehabilitation services that can be offered, as well as the manner in which offenders may participate.

Rehabilitation services must be relatively brief due to the limited amount of time inmates are detained. This does not mean that compromises are needed for the types and quality of rehabilitation services offered. NORCOR is one example of how correctional rehabilitation "best practices" can be efficiently implemented into a jail and reductions of inmate recidivism can be achieved. This provides benefits not only to inmates and staff, but also to the community.

David J. Simourd, PhD, has a doctoral degree in psychology from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He has been a ticenced psychologist providing assessment and treatment services to offenders for more than 26 years. He has also been active in the development and evaluation of correctional assessment measures, and treatment and programs. Dr. Simourd is based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and can be reached at

Bryan Brandenburg has a master's degree in clinical psychology from Eastern Washington University and currently works as the Administrator for Northern Oregon Regional Corrections, a multi-county jail in The Dalles, Oregon. He has worked in corrections for the past 28 years.

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in NORCOR's web pages. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate, up-to-date information, NORCOR cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions.
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modified: 04/14/2021 08:03 am