Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Promising Practices

Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU)

Agency

North Carolina Department of Public Safety/Prisons

Brief Summary

  • Foothills Correctional Institution
  • Male, Level 3 Security Risk Group (SRG), Regular Population, Close & Medium Custody
  • Decrease impact of SRG activity on North Carolina prison operations; provide incarcerated individuals with the tools to encourage a lifestyle free of gang involvement
  • Nine-month program to reduce individuals’ SRG levels
  • A reduction in disciplinary infractions

In 1996 the North Carolina Division of Prisons (DPS) established a system for validating and monitoring offender Security Risk Groups (SRG). Over the next seven years the number of groups, the number of individuals associated with them, and their negative impact on the prison system grew. In an effort to reverse this trend, the DPS proposed and sought funding for a Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU) in 2003. With grant funding secured for staffing and facility modifications, hiring and program development for the STGMU began in late 2004. The STGMU received participants and formally began operation in July of 2005. During the 2006 session, the North Carolina Legislature approved permanent funding to establish the STGMU as an ongoing DPS operation.

The North Carolina STGMU provides housing and programming for Level 3 SRG individuals in a 192-bed, single cell housing unit at Foothills Correctional Institution. The STGMU Phase Program is comprised of three 90-day phases through which an individual progresses based on appropriate behavior and program participation. The housing unit is staffed and operated under the “unit management” concept.  Program delivery is accomplished by a staff of seven, including a program director, a staff psychologist, two behavioral specialists, two program supervisors, and an office assistant. The programming component is based on the well-established concept that criminal behavior is maintained by criminal thinking: to change the behavior you must address and correct the thinking. Additionally, individuals incarcerated in the prison frequently display deficits in knowledge of appropriate behavior and the social skills to express that behavior.  The STGMU provides programming to address both criminal thinking and skill deficits.

The Goal

  • Decrease impact of SRG activity on North Carolina prison operations
  • Provide incarcerated individuals with the tools to encourage a lifestyle free of gang
  • Provide a safer environment for staff and people who are incarcerated
  • Create a controlled housing environment to contain and discourage inappropriate behavior
  • Offer a rigorous cognitive behavioral program designed to address and change criminal thinking
  • Provide educational, vocational, and social skills programming to address specific deficits
  • Perform ongoing participant and program evaluation

Under the STGMU model, participants significantly decreased their disciplinary infractions while in the program. Current data suggest approximately 30- to 70-percent decreases in disciplinary infractions during the time individuals are housed in the STGMU. This dramatic decrease has been accomplished in a unit that operates under modified general population conditions and rarely requires use of restrictive housing.

The Process

  • The division/ facility developed a committee which was comprised of the following staff members: Robert Lewis, Ricky Anderson, Johnny Hawkins, LaDonna Browning, Lewis Forney, James Goodson, and Monica
  • The STGMU program was federally funded for two years as a piloted program in 2004 and was permanently funded by DPS in 2006. The STGMU program is approaching its 13th anniversary in 2018.
  • The STGMU program was built on model programs in Connecticut and New Jersey; the operation in North Carolina took parts of both models.
  • NCDPS proposed and sought funding for a Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU) in 2003. With grant funding secured through the Governor’s Crime Commission, the STGMU received offenders and formally began operation in July 2005. During the 2006 session, the North Carolina Legislature approved permanent funding to establish the STGMU as an ongoing DPS
  • Staff training was implemented for custody and program staff as it related to SRG-specific participants and the nine-month program structure. Staff training continues through ongoing training both in-house and through professional

The Solution

  • Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU)
  • The broad purpose of the STGMU is to decrease the impact of SRG individuals on prison operations. This is one component in a larger plan to accomplish that goal. The STGMU program provides a controlled housing environment to contain and discourage inappropriate behavior, and to provide cognitive behavioral programming to address and change criminal thinking. STGMU incorporates educational, vocational, and social skills programming to address specific
  • The targeted population is individuals who are a validated Level 3 Security Risk Group, who are housed in the general population, under close and medium
  • The STGMU Phase Program is comprised of three 90-day phases through which an individual progresses based on appropriate behavior and program participation. Upon graduation of the program, an individual’s SRG level is reduced from 3 to 2 and they are transferred to a post-monitoring facility where they are monitored for six to 12 months. If they remain infraction free during the monitoring phase their SRG level will be reduced to level
  • The STGMU operation constantly monitors program effectiveness through am integral program evaluation component and through ongoing DPS oversight. Policies and procedures are frequently reviewed in an effort to improve the program’s quality, efficiency, and

The Results

  • Infractions in all categories decreased when individuals entered STGMU. Overall infractions by an individual decreased approximately 32 percent during their participation in STGMU, as compared to the proceeding 6-month
  • As an example of the early changes in a participant’s behavior, 67 program graduates demonstrated the following infractions trends: 83 percent fewer gang infractions, 78 percent fewer A-class infractions, 23 percent fewer B-class infractions, 71 percent fewer C-class infractions, and 68 percent fewer infractions across all
  • Overall individual behavior has improved dramatically, resulting in a safer environment for staff and incarcerated individuals.
  • The STGMU program provides a more controlled environment which increases safety both for staff and incarcerated people. Staff ratings indicate a decrease in negative aggressive behaviors and there is a modest improvement in prosocial behaviors.
  • Overall, the STGMU program is a program providing North Carolina gang-involved individuals in prison an opportunity to make meaningful changes in their lives. Results over the last decade have shown these people can improve their behavior, improve their thinking patterns in positive ways, and begin to pursue alternatives to a life of gang activity and crime. For these reasons the STGMU was North Carolina Gang Investigators Association program of the year in

Lessons Learned

  • The importance of maintaining the structure, consistency, and integrity of the
  • This program model has proved to be effective in managing SRG individuals and in reducing assaults, infractions, and overall negative behavior.

To improve the STGMU program and pass along lessons learned, STGMU staff members have collaborated with colleagues inside and outside of the agency. Specific examples include:

  • Consulted with staff from the Utah Department of Corrections looking to create an SRO program; NCDPS provided them with STGMU materials and an overview of SRO management in North Carolina prisons.
  • Delivered a presentation to the Reentry Subcommittee of the Governor’s Gang Task Force detailing the design and operation of the STGMU.
  • Delivered a presentation to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety on the status of gang programming with the NCDPS.
  • Worked with faculty from East Tennessee State University to provide access to STGMU testing data for research purposes.

 

This Promising Practices section of the SAS Resource Center was developed as part of a collaborative effort with the Vera Institute of Justice, University of Michigan Law School, and Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights. We are also deeply grateful to the many leaders across the country who created and implemented each of the reforms cited throughout this section for their efforts to reduce the use of restrictive housing in prisons and jails across the country.

Please note that Vera and our partners do not specifically endorse the practices and policies included in this section. The Promising Practices section features segregation reforms being implemented in prisons and jails around the country. Our goal is to serve as a resource to other jail and prison systems interested in implementing similar practices and policies by highlighting those jurisdictions that report successful reforms.