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Program Profile: Veterans Moving Forward (San Diego, Calif.)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on March 24, 2020

Program Summary

This program is designed to assist incarcerated male veterans of the U.S. military by providing them with in-custody treatment, services, and linkage to rehabilitative programming and community resources and reduce their chances of recidivism. The program is rated Promising. Results showed a statistically significant reduction in recidivism for program participants during the 12-month follow-up period, compared with the comparison group.

Program Description

Program Goals
Veterans Moving Forward (VMF) is a program for male veterans who served in the U.S. military, which is implemented at the Vista Detention Facility in San Diego, Calif. Inmates are placed in a separate veteran-only housing unit and provided with in-custody treatment, services, and linkage to rehabilitative programming and community resources. The program is designed to structure an environment for veterans to draw upon the positive aspects of their shared military culture, create a safe place for healing and rehabilitation, foster positive peer connections, and ultimately reduce the chance of recidivism.

Target Population/Eligibility
To participate in the program, male inmates’ military service must be verified with the San Diego Department of Veterans Affairs. To be eligible for participating in the VMF, inmates must not 1) be classified as requiring maximum-level custody; 2) have less than 30 days to serve in custody; 3) have state or federal prison holds and/or prison commitments; 4) have any fugitive holds; 5) have prior admittance to the psychiatric security unit or a current psychiatric hold; 6) currently be a Post-Release Community Supervision Offender serving a term of flash incarceration; 7) be in custody for a sex-related crime or requirement to register per Penal Code 290; 8) having specialized housing requirements, including protective custody, administration segregation, or medical segregation; and 9) have any known significant disciplinary incidents. However, if an inmate has one of the above-mentioned conditions, it is possible for a facility commander or designee to consider participation on a case-by-case basis.

Inmates interested in the program must read and sign a housing request form that outlines the expectations for participation in the voluntary program, including a willingness to participate in all assessments and programming and demonstrating positive actions and the ability to work proactively toward their own success. Upon assignment to the module, inmates receive an orientation that covers the rules and expectations of the program and can begin to actively participate.

Program Components
The VMF unit is designed as a rehabilitative environment that includes walls with colorful murals, which feature pictures of individuals representing each branch of the service. These serve as a reminder of the group’s common military culture, open doors, and fewer restrictions regarding inmate movement. Inmates work with a counselor who is assigned to the unit to provide one-on-one services, as well as provide overall program management on a day-to-day basis. VMF requires that inmates participate in mandatory rehabilitative programming, focused on criminogenic and other underlying risks and needs, or that are quality-of-life focused. Inmates are also offered courses related to anger management, career planning, critical thinking, family relations, life skills, parenting, stress management, and substance abuse, among others.

The VMF program is viewed as a form of Incentive Based Housing in which a living environment of responsibility and accountability is promoted, and positive participation and offender behavior is rewarded through quality-of-life privileges and responsibilities. Incentives include extended dayroom time; additional recreation yard time; extra visitation times; use of a microwave and coffee machine (under supervision); entertainment media, games, and movies; extra mattresses and pillows; pencils/pens; and a barber cart.

VMF inmates have regular access to San Diego Department of Veterans Affairs staff who are knowledgeable about military benefits and resources, and to a multidisciplinary team that supports reentry transition.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Burke and colleagues (2019) found that the probability of male veterans in the Veterans Moving Forward (VMF) treatment group having a new conviction during the12-month follow-up period after release was 16 percent, whereas the probability of a new conviction during the follow-up period for the comparison group was 27 percent. This difference was statistically significant. This finding suggests that the VMF treatment group was less likely to have a post-release conviction, compared with the comparison group.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Burke and colleagues (2019) examined the impact of San Diego’s Veterans Moving Forward (VMF) program in reducing recidivism 12 months after release from custody. The researchers compared inmates who received VMF services (treatment group) with 1) an historical treatment group (HTG) to understand how the program changed over time, and 2) a comparison group of inmates who did not receive services. For this review, the focus was on the comparison between the treatment group and comparison group who did not receive services.

The sample included 141 VMF treatment group participants who entered the program between March 1, 2015, and December 2016; 91 HTG participants who entered the program on or after November 1, 2013, and had a program exit date prior to January 1, 2015; and 98 comparison group participants who were detained between 2013 and 2014, but who did not participate in the program. Propensity score matching was used to create groups that were equivalent in the following factors: ethnicity, age at program entry, a violence assessment scale, and a recidivism assessment scale.

The VMF treatment group was 58 percent white, 22 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent other ethnicities. The average age for treatment group participants was 41.9 (ranging from 21 to 66), and 68 percent were classified into medium- or high-security housing. A majority of VMF participants (97 percent) had a high school degree, equivalent, or higher; 45 percent were employed at the time of arrest; and 21 percent were homeless at the time of arrest. The greatest proportion of participants had served in the U.S. Navy (38 percent), followed by the Army (29 percent), Marine Corps (28 percent), Air Force (3 percent), and Coast Guard (1 percent). Just over half (55 percent) had been honorably discharged. Just under half (49 percent) of VMF participants had a prior conviction in the past 3 years. Assessments indicated that 33 percent and 15 percent of the VMF participants were rated as being at high risk for violence and recidivism, respectively. Comparison group participants were 42 percent white, 31 percent black, 21 percent Hispanic, and 6 percent other ethnicities. The average age for the comparison group was 40.6, and 52 percent were classified into medium- or high-security housing. Half (50 percent) of the comparison group had a prior conviction in the past 3 years. Assessments indicated that 24 percent and 11 percent of the comparison group were rated as being at high risk for violence and recidivism, respectively. Education, arrest, housing, and military service information was not provided for the comparison group in the study. The propensity score weighting process produced comparison groups that were similar and showed no statistically significant differences.

Electronic or hardcopy surveys were administered to the VMF participants at intake (within 30 days of intake), exit (starting 2 weeks from release date), and at 6-month follow up (using a 60-day window to complete). To measure recidivism, the study authors compiled data regarding any new convictions for 12 months following release from the program. Data on convictions were collected from local prosecution records (district and city attorneys) and accessed through the San Diego County Sheriff Department’s computer system. Analysis was conducted using a weighted logistic regression model. The study authors did not conduct subgroup analyses.
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The Veterans Moving Forward (VMF) unit in San Diego County was created without any specialized funding, and the program was highly dependent on volunteers and others in the community. Since there were no real cost to implementing VMF, a cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted to determine the costs to the local justice system related to arrest, booking, and conviction in the 12 months following release. Even though the VMF treatment group had a lower conviction rate than the comparison group, they were in jail a greater number of days, on average (treatment group = 24.14 days, and comparison group = 12.96 days). As a result, the average cost to the local system for the VMF treatment group in the 12 months following release for recidivism activity was $5,577, compared with $4,004 for the comparison group and $8,360 for the historical treatment group (Burke et al. 2019).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1

Burke, Cynthia, Sandy Keaton, Gregor Schroeder, and Kandice Ocheltree. 2019. Veterans Moving Forward: Process and Impact Evaluation Results of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department VMF Program. San Diego, Calif.: SANDAG.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Tenhula, Wendy N., Arthur M. Nezu, Christine Maguth Nezu, Michael O. Stewart, Sarah A. Miller, Jennifer Steele, and Bradley E. Karlin. 2014. “Moving Forward: A Problem-Solving Training Program to Foster Veteran Resilience.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 45(6):416–24.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Rehabilitation Programs for Adult Offenders
This practice includes programs that are designed to reduce recidivism among adult offenders by improving their behaviors, skills, mental health, social functioning, and access to education and employment. Offenders may become participants in rehabilitation programs during multiple points in their involvement with the criminal justice system. This practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism among adult offenders.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency
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Program Snapshot

Age: 21 - 66

Gender: Male

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Correctional

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Aftercare/Reentry, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Individual Therapy, Vocational/Job Training, Wraparound/Case Management, Therapeutic Communities

Targeted Population: Military Personnel, Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active

Program Director:
Christine Brown-Taylor
Reentry Services Division Manager
San Diego Sheriff's Department
9621 Ridgehaven Court
San Diego CA 92123
Phone: 619.258.3008

Cynthia Burke
Director, Research and Program Management
401 B Street, Suite 800
San Diego CA 92101-4231
Phone: 619.699.1910
Fax: 619.699.6905