The Bucks County Department of Corrections’ H.O.P.E. Recovery Unit, an award-winning substance abuse recovery program that has helped hundreds of Bucks County Jail inmates re-enter society, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Since its launch in July 2016, H.O.P.E. has enrolled 750 male inmates, with a combined total of 53,625 days of recovery.
“That’s like providing the entire jail, based on our current census, with treatment for 72 days,” said Michael Palumbo, recovery programs manager for the Bucks County Department of Corrections.
H.O.P.E. is a collaborative effort between corrections, the Bucks County Commissioners and the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission. It allows participants to receive intensive substance abuse education and cognitive behavioral treatments in a setting outside of the main correctional facility, located in Doylestown.
The program is housed in the medium security sector of the men’s community corrections center, which allows participants to be free of outside influence and to live alongside like-minded people who are focused on recovery. Inmates enroll voluntarily in the program, the name of which is an acronym of the phrase “Helping Ourselves Prosper Eternally.” Participants are offered multiple interventions, including moral reconation therapy, a nationally-recognized practice designed specifically for the criminal justice system.
Of the program’s 379 graduates, 151 have returned to prison over the past five years, giving the program a recidivism rate of approximately 40 percent – a figure below the national average. The national recidivism rate is 68 percent over three years and 71 percent over five years.
The program and curriculum got a revamp in May 2020, when “elective groups” were added to help participants address trauma, mental health and anger. Of the 34 graduates who experienced the new format, none have been reincarcerated since completing the program more than a year ago.
A similar effort called the H.E.A.R.T. (Healing, Empowering And Recovering Together) Recovery Program has been available to female inmates since March 2018. Both programs incorporate medication-assisted treatment, as well as post-release care administered through DOC’s care managers. The programs employ evidence-based curriculum, all of which has been thoroughly researched prior to implementation. In 2019, both programs were recognized with the Criminal Justice Best Practices Award from the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
Any inmate is eligible for these programs, regardless of their length of stay. Individuals may ask to participate or be referred by the courts or a case manager.