- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - Officials with the Department of Corrections plan to make changes to a pilot program at two Eastern Washington corrections centers designed to improve security by changing inmate behavior.

The state agency is coming up with a “corrective action plan” after a March report by Washington State University researchers found the program did not achieve lasting changes in inmate behavior, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported (http://is.gd/SdGbd2).

Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner said the agency will consider changes to the facilities and inmates involved. But he said the program shows promise and he would like to find money to expand it statewide.

The agency began the program in 2012 at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center at the Tri-Cities and Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane.

The goal is to help inmates develop social and problem-solving skills, make better choices and change their thinking and behavior. It offers rewards for good behavior ranging from movie night to ice cream.

“The first thing we are going to do is fix the two pilots, Airway and Coyote,” Dan Pacholke, deputy secretary of the Department of Corrections told the newspaper.

WSU researchers found inmates learned important skills in the program, despite staff turnover and other issues. They also compared nearly 500 inmates enrolled in the program with similar inmates, not just neighbors.

Their study, however, found no changes in participants’ violent infractions. Meanwhile, comparable inmates maintained or decreased violent infractions, perhaps because some were in more therapeutic settings, researchers suggested.

Participants did show improvement in other areas, including low-level infractions.

Researchers also tracked one group of inmates after they finished the program and found that two years later, the program didn’t have a positive effect on infractions and other measures of inmate behavior.

They linked the stalled progress to the program pulling inmates across the Cascades to take part.

The Corrections Department forced many of the inmates to Airway Heights and Coyote Ridge from Western Washington prisons, where they may have had families and other sources of support.

Pacholke said the type of offenders sought for the program were often in Western Washington, while Coyote Ridge and Airway Heights facilities were best suited for the program.

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Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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