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RSAT Forum > Monthly Discussion > November 2018: CO's in Modified Therapeutic Communities View modes: 
skeller - 11/7/2018 11:03:23 AM
November 2018: CO's in Modified Therapeutic Communities

At the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley (MCI-Shirley), the RSAT treatment provider, Spectrum Health Systems, provides joint orientation sessions to new officers and Spectrum staff selected for assignment to the RSAT program for both day and evening shifts. The purpose of the orientation is to ensure correctional officers and RSAT staff have a mutual understanding of their roles and responsibilities for reinforcing pro-social behavior of program participants. Much of the training focuses on the difference between a therapeutic community culture vs. typical prison culture and how officers need to reconcile traditional security paradigms of behavior management with treatment paradigms focused on behavior shaping.    

For more information on developing collaborative relationships between correctional officers and therapeutic staff, see the RSAT manual: The Role of Corrections Officers in Jail/Prison Substance Use Disorder Treatment Programs posted on this website.

Answer (2): I manage a RSAT jail program. In my opinion, the RSAT Officers have to be on the same page as the RSAT treatment staff if you wanted to have an effective program.  There is a good amount of cross-training between RSAT Officers and the treatment team. Our clinical supervisor, who is an expert in therapeutic communities, facilitates 4-hour trainings for RSAT Officers twice a year.  We use our own treatment, forensic and medical staff to facilitate training modules as well throughout the year and during new Officer Acadamies. There was a few community based trainings that some RSAT Officers attended with treatment staff on Medicated Assisted Treatment over the last year too.  

I make sure that at least one RSAT Officer, usually the Senior RSAT Officer comes to our weekly Re-Entry meetings where we discuss upcoming releases (RSAT and non-RSAT).  Of course, the RSAT Clinician, treatment specialist and I meet with the Senior RSAT Officer (and other RSAT Officers if they’re available) to discuss which program participants are ready to move to the next level of programming and even graduate.  All RSAT members must complete treatment plan goals, curriculum and re-entry plans but also meet the RSAT Program expectations.  We want to make sure that everyone is in agreement before meeting with the RSAT participant to get his input.  

Since the CO’s are in the RSAT Program 24/7, in a way they have a different perspective of the RSAT members that the treatment staff.  They also may see the RSAT men at their worst and have to de-escalate them, or talk them through a difficult time after a phone call or visit.  At the same time, they are the “right authority”, role members for care, custody and control.  But the control within the RSAT Program feels different than in other Units and the most of the men understand that.  Both the RSAT Officers and treatment staff place as much control into the RSAT members’ hands.  It’s their responsibility to keep the Unit clean, welcome newcomers, help one another with homework, etc.  But RSAT Officers also have the control to stop a RSAT member from hurting another member or himself.  And to remind, as a group or as an individual, that following RSAT Program rules and regulations is more than compliance – it’s the beginning of building inner discipline.  

That’s how we do it … there’s much more.  RSAT Officers and treatment staff talk every day multiple times a day.  We genuinely get along and when we have disagreements, I make sure to address them immediately.  Hope this helps.