Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

Harris County Sheriff’s Office: New Choices

BJA Program(s): Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
State(s): TX

Grantee Agency: See below

Grant Amount/Year(s): FY 2009/$328,172

About the Program:

The Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO), with a jail population of approximately 9,000 inmates daily, is one of the largest county jail systems in the nation. The New Choices Program is a quasi-therapeutic community program that has provided substance abuse treatment within the HCSO since 1997. Timely and effective access to substance abuse services are essential for clients involved with the correctional system for a short period of time. The Institute of National Health 1992 Update states that although more logistically complicated for county jails, these facilities offer opportunities to reach a large number of individuals who are quickly circulating back to the community. The Program's objective is to serve approximately 300 clients per year. Since inception, almost 3,800 clients have completed the program. New Choices is an educational/prevention based program with emphasis on cognitive relapse prevention strategies designed to prepare the inmates for release into the community. The Program is based on cognitive therapy, the "Hazelden for Criminal Offenders" curriculum and the twelve-step program model, to allow clients to achieve acceptance of substance abuse problems, to influence and motivate decisions in bringing about life style changes, and focusing on the client's criminal behavior. It introduces clients to long-term goals for abstinence in order to attain and maintain personal fulfillment within established community standards.

Disability, medical and literacy issues are taken into consideration and accommodated whenever it is possible. New Choices is a ninety day to six month multidisciplinary approach to substance abuse, which includes:

  • An acute care program that is basically medical in a detoxification setting under the supervision of the medical department.
  • An educational/prevention program designed to prepare the inmates for release to the community.
  • Linkage to community agencies or other institutional facilities.

Program Successes/Effect on the Community:

Success is measured in terms of recidivism, i.e. inmates reoffending and being incarcerated again. Currently recidivism for inmates being incarcerated again within one year after completing the Program is thirty-five percent (35%). The recidivism for inmates being incarcerated again five years after release is only twenty-three percent (23%). New Choices is one of the few Programs in Texas that continues to work with dual diagnosis clients. Upon completion of the New Choices Program and aftercare, many clients are released from probation early due to their change in attitude and compliance with court ordered probation.

New Choices helps divert less serious offenders from traditional incarceration thereby saving the tax payers the cost of incarceration in a prison setting. For the more serious offenders, providing a secure environment as well as rehabilitative program both in HCSO and under probation supervision helps ensure successful reintegration back into society rather than returning to jail or being sentenced to prison for subsequent offences.

Learn More:
To learn more about the program, please contact:
Beverly Burke
Program Coordinator
Email: Beverly.Burke@Sheriff.hctx.net
Phone: 713-755-4585

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