Inside Your Sheriff’s Office: Lowering Recidivism
Known by everyone in the Mesa County Detention Facility as Miss Julie, Julie Mamo spends her days helping better the lives of those incarcerated. As the Mesa County Sheriff's Office Transition Coordinator, Julie connects individuals with resources to help set them up to succeed once released from jail.
"Most people who are incarcerated will at some point return to the community when they have finished their sentence or posted bond. The question is, what will that look like? Will they return to what they know, committing crimes, maybe using drugs? Or is this an opportunity to help support the person so they may become a productive member of society?" said Transition Coordinator Julie Mamo.
Mamo's goal is to reduce recidivism - the person's likelihood to reoffend and victimize people in the community - by connecting them with the tools needed to succeed. More often than not, it starts as simply helping someone get a new driver's license or a copy of their social security card.
"It sounds like a small thing, but it is huge when you don't have anything. I had a client who recently got out of jail. He had a check he needed to cash but didn't have an ID. Julie Mamo helped him get one for free," said Criminal Defense Attorney Tony Link. "Anything she can do to help people overcome the barriers to get by responsibly, she will do."
It starts with listening. Mamo spends time with the people in the Transition program, learning what barriers they have to overcome, then works to connect them with community programs, non-profit organizations, and government services that can help.
"People have barriers to success. Without an ID or a copy of your social security card, you can't get a job or apply for housing. Imagine going for a job interview if you don't have a place to take a shower or have clean clothes? How much easier is it to steal?" said Mamo.
Mamo says knowing where to start can be overwhelming and even debilitating for some people. She helps guide and support them as they work together to eliminate the challenges standing in the way of making employment and housing possible.
"One person I worked with was afraid to go back into the community. I sat with her for hours, taught her how to use the GVT bus system, and helped her overcome her anxiety of going back into society," said Mamo. "By helping people get basic necessities and reducing those barriers to success in the community, it helps reduce the likelihood they will reoffend."
The Transition program assists with signing people up for benefits they may be eligible for, such as housing assistance, food benefits, and Medicaid, so they can continue to take their medications once released. Mamo also connects them with a support system like mentors at local churches or with a supportive family. If that support system lives in a different community, the program may help the person with travel expenses.
It also can involve coordinating with the Bridges program and defense attorneys to get the person into mental health or substance abuse treatment facilities. For veterans, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office partners with the Department of Veteran Affairs Housing Assistance program, which is instrumental in getting homeless veterans into housing.
"The support looks different for every person. One person had a desire to get an education, so I helped them fill out an application for college and financial aid. It takes a village. Each program, non-profit organization, and treatment service has a piece of the puzzle," said Mamo.
For one of Mr. Link's clients, the Transition program helped make treatment for long-standing substance abuse and mental health disorders a reality. The person was released to the treatment facility as a condition of their bond.
"This treatment program is hard, but when you finish it, you are working, and you are drug-free. Without Julie Mamo's involvement, we wouldn't have gotten in. The Transition program also provided the transportation to get them there," said Link.
Recovery and treatment can also begin while in custody. Mamo works in coordination with several other programs in the Mesa County Detention Facility to get people started down the road to recovery, then will work to ensure the treatments and services they receive in jail are continued once out in the community.
"It's about continuity of care. We want people to leave our facility in better physical and mental health than when they arrived and then continue that progress out in the community," said Sergeant Shawna Roundtree.
In 2019, the Mesa County Detention Facility began offering medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for those already receiving treatment for opioid use disorder or opioid addictions. The program combines medication such as methadone with behavioral therapy. It is considered to be the most effective way to treat opioid use disorder.
When someone booked into the Mesa County Detention Facility is a patient of an opioid treatment provider, their care can continue while incarcerated.
"When people with opioid addictions go through a period of withdrawal, their tolerance level changes. If they go back using the same amount, they are at a much higher risk for an overdose," said Sgt. Roundtree. "Not only can we help someone with their addiction through medication-assisted treatment, but we can potentially save their life as well."
This year, the program expanded to include new patients, people with opioid addiction but who are not yet receiving treatment. In partnership with the Jail Based Behavioral Services (JBBS) program, inmates can start medications and addiction counseling at the Mesa County Detention Facility. The Transition program then helps bridge services, so the care is continued out in the community.
"When you treat substance abuse, the person no longer has to steal to pay for their addiction. Too many people have fallen into a life that is conducive to criminal activity. Once you are in, it's hard to get out," said Link. "Anything you can do to help those people overcome obstacles, helps them live a responsible life."
Mental Health Services
In addition to addiction counseling, JBBS also provides mental health services to inmates while in custody. This year, the program will be introducing Peer Counselors. These are individuals from similar backgrounds and situations who have received help to create change in their own lives and now want to help others do the same.
"For a long time in the JBBS office, there was a picture made by an inmate, pinned to the wall, that said 'Hope Dealers.' It's a powerful illustration of the impact the counselors and case managers have had on those in custody," said Sgt. Roundtree.
For those who are found incompetent to stand trial, treatment often means waiting extended periods in custody for admission into a state facility. In response, agencies and stakeholders have implemented an array of innovative strategies to alleviate the strain on state and county governments' limited resources and enhance restoration services.
In October 2020, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office launched the Competency Enhancement Program (CEP) in partnership with NaphCare, the detention facility's medical provider.
“The collaborative efforts of our dedicated CEP treatment team and our state partners (e.g., CDHS Forensic Support Team and BRIDGES) have already benefited numerous defendants with severe mental illness who are navigating the criminal justice system,” said Amber Simpler, Ph.D., ABPP, NaphCare’s Chief Psychologist. “Moving forward, we are excited about the prospect of helping many more defendants gain timely access to mental health care with the goal of reaching and maintaining psychiatric stability.”
The grant-funded program aims to help people with severe mental health disorders achieve psychiatric stability fostering quicker restoration to competency and preventing further delays in due process.
"Since the inception of the program, we have seen psychiatric improvement in several individuals awaiting restoration services. I am encouraged about the potential benefits CEP can have for Mesa County Courts, defendants awaiting forensic services, and others impacted by delays due to the competency crisis," said Detentions Captain Art Smith.
People may also have the opportunity to learn job skills while in custody by working in the kitchen, laundry, floor cleaning crew, or road crew. The road crew is only made up of sentenced inmates, and members can earn a flagger certification for future work.
The Mesa County Jail Ministry Chaplain and volunteers also provide spiritual support and counseling for people interested in the services both inside and outside the detention facility.
All of the programs at the Mesa County Detention Facility coordinate together to develop the best outcome for the individual. However, it is still up to the individual to do their part.
"It's difficult for people to break the cycle, and not everyone is successful, but even fewer are successful if we don't help," said Mamo.
To learn more about the programs offered at the Mesa County Detention Facility, click here.
Inside Your Sheriff's Office is a series looking at how the Mesa County Sheriff's Office is finding innovative solutions, working together with community partners, and pioneering new criminal justice programs with the goal of making our community safer. To learn more about this series, click here.