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SAFP Prisons to be Discussed at Fall Legislative Hearing

The Austin Chronicle discusses the origins of Texas' Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facilities (SAFPF) in it's latest edition. The article provides an interesting overview of Texas' treatment prisons which is particularly important given the current focus on prison alternatives. Despite, the current dialogue around diversion, Texas still expanded prison capacity in recent years through SAFPF and other in prison treatment programs.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), SAFPF are an intensive six-month therapeutic community program (nine-month program for offenders with special needs) for offenders who are sentenced by a judge as a condition of community supervision or as a modification of parole/community supervision.

The Senate Criminal Justice committee will meet this fall to discuss the legislative appropriations to in prison treatment programs administered in SAFPF lock ups. During 2007 the Legislature appropriated $234 million to TDCJ as a part of a prison expansion initiative. The state proposes to increase SAFPF funding by $63.1 million during 2008-09. Vendors like the Chicago based Gateway Foundation manage lucrative contracts with TDCJ to run SAFPF programs.

Currently, TDCJ contracts with Gateway to run the Ellen Halbert Unit in Burnet County. As with many private prison contracts there are reports of mismanagement and abuse at the Halbert Unit. As a result the Senate Criminal Justice committee will to discuss the lockups and the monies allocated to them. The Chronicle states that SAFPF prisoners collected testimonies to disclose their experiences in the correctional facilities. According to the testimonies of former prisoners:

the SAFPF program – in theory a substance-abuse treatment alternative to hard prison time – instead relies heavily on dubious forms of psychological and physical abuse. Several inmates describe a group punishment known as "tighthouse," during which inmates are forced to sit upright in plastic chairs, unmoving and silent, for as long as 16 hours a day and for weeks to months on end – a "mind-crushing" form of cruelty that has resulted in mental breakdowns and suicide attempts.

The September hearing should provide an interesting overview of the current state of SAFPF lock ups and other in prison treatment programs. We'll be sure to keep you posted!


Please send me updates on the September hearings for SAFP.


Thank you.

i can say i had an experience there to i went there n 2oo9 or 1o0 my experience wad.that they especially the the captaib was very cruel. i dont remb.her name.. she would not allow me to wear make up .. cus she wiuld say suchthings as i would use my looks to get my way wth officers... just constantly . like harrasing me ... there was jyst constant provocing me to react . .to do something ... . its like they wanted me to mess up there . there is a seargent her name i do not remb. thayt i,want to thank het for helpung me ...,in everthing i needed ...

I am awaiting a bed at SAFP and am scared to death after reading these reports on physical and mental abuse.  Are there any other SAFP sites in Texas besides the Halburt Unit in Burnet and is this abuse continuing today there?

I know this comment was posted in 2008.  However, I find it important to dispute the rumors that go around about SAFP.

I was there at the Ellen Halbert Unit in 2004 -2005.  There was never any abuse of any kind.  I was there for 9 months and it was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me.  There is behavior and thinking modification there.  There is no emotional abuse. 

Addicts and alcoholics have been playing the victim and being so self centered for most of their lives.  When they are asked to do things they don't want they automatically begin to say they are being abused.  One of the most important life changing events is when I realized that I was not a victim and that I was the one that caused myself to be there.  There are consequences - good and bad - for every action in life.  We must be willing to pay the consequences when we break the law. 

I was terrified to go to SAFP because of the horror stories I had heard about it while in county jail.  Fact is you will get exactly what you are looking for where ever you are at.  I was looking for help and a way out - I got the help in a much unwanted way.  I was very resistant to everything they asked me to do.  I did not conform right away.

Finally I was able to begin to do everything they asked me to without questioning it.  This was a first for me.  Since I was a little girl I had been making my own decisions and didn't feel anyone had a right to tell me what to do.  My decision making process was not helping me - in fact it was hurting me and I didn't even know it.  I realize today that most addicts/alcoholics are not able to follow direction or the rules and that is why they end up where they do.  They are the hand behind their hurt and they don't even know it.

Today I am a very successful business woman.  I have 6 1/2 years in sobriety and am the founder of 2 non-profit organizations.  One of which is Recovery Inn.  We have 6 womens recovery homes in the DFW metroplex.  In the last 3 years we have helped over 200 women on their journey.

Had my judge not sentenced me to SAFP - I would not be alive today or be able to lead the way for other women.

May God bless you on your journey......of hope and restoration!

Michelle Adams

Executive Director

Recovery Inn 

I was also sent to SAFPF in 2007 and spent six months + 6 days at the Ernestine Glossbrenner unit in San Diego, TX.   I never experienced physical or mental abuse of any kind.  That doesn't mean it was not extremely stressful.   It is rehab and prison at the same time, so naturally it's going to be stressful even if noone targets you specifically.  Some mornings I would wake up there and wonder how am I going to make it through the day and I'd feel like I was at a breaking point.  Other mornings I would feel fine and be excited about stuff.  I, too, would be dead if I had not been sent to SAFPF.   My addiction was killing me, and I had already overdosed several times.   I had no future and desperately needed help.  I was so caught up in the addiction cycle that I couldn't see the forest for the trees.  SAFPF broke the cycle and gave me the perspective I needed in order to start changing.  It also gave me a lot of coping skills.   That's one reason they make it stressful there -- if you can learn how to cope with SAFPF for six months, you can cope with anything and not resort to drug use. 

My words exactly in what you wrote Thank you for your story and may you still be sober I am after 7.5 years.



I was in the Breckenridge, TX SAFPF Summer of '98 through Spring of '99, it was a 9-month program at the time. Fighting or violence of any kind was not tolerated. Typical day was GED class or some kind of labor in the morning, lunch, then group discussions and class about addiction, recovery and relapse prevention. The councilors were in recovery too and they knew what they were talking about. I hated having my addict/alcoholic behavior called out but it probably saved my life. This was my introduction to Alcoholics Anonymous and I still attend 5-6 meetings per week. I was a drunk and a speed freak when I went in. Now I work, support myself and can even vote now that I am off probation.

Awaiting updates please...

I have been to safp and prison both for dwi and SAFP did nothing but make me need med for anxity. I hated prison but I no longer need alchol nor use it. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my adult life. I prayed to stop drinking and just couldn't quit. SAFP made me so nerveous I couldn't do what I needed to do most. Heal my body with rest and slowly return to work. Prison gave me plenty of time to rest my mind and body compared to SAFP. I pray I never I ever have to experience either but if I did I would NOT go to SAFP. I was back to drinking in6months and had terrible dreams and would have boughts of stomach sickness after I got out. With prison I did what was asked and spent my free time learning to live in my own body and just acted as if I lived in a bad neighbor hood and minded my own business. I kept to myself but was not anti-social. I just did NOT get involved in wrong doing such as stealing or relationships. I read alot and I came out and have done what I'm supposed to do , which is easy as all they ask is to live life honest. The only problem is that I moved to La. and my fees have TRIPLED and I'm way behind due to not being able to find work. Which is unheard of for me. I do wish they would do away with SAFP because we all know it does not work and is the biggest waste of money Texas has. But we also know who is scratching whose back.

if an inmate is waiting to be transfer over there how long will it take???????

I had to eait about 4 months

i am waiting to go to a womens safp unit. i do not know what to expect. Could someone please give me some info

my question is do i have to wait it out in jail sence im already out befoe i goto safpf the judge let me out for my dental surgery that was already scheduled and paid for i go back to court in 2 months i just dont want to go back to jail id rather wait at home intell safpf has a bed ready for me.

i have been to tyc, tdcj bootcamp, tdc, and a pre-release program at the leblanc unit that is comparible to safp. the substance abuse treatment offered there (forced) was 90% peer driven. in essence, the counselors take care of paperwork wile it's up to a dorm full of criminals to figure out a way to go home and stay out of jail. there is no 1 on 1 time with a substance abuse professional, but plenty of time to learn from a bunch of inmates who don't have the answers anyway. if they did they wouldn't be there. titehouse IS A BEEAACCHH!

I was at the Ellen Halbert Burnet unit and I can say without a doubt that it is something I never ever want to experience again! There are things there that can help you if your willing to learn, and yes it is peer driven, but that's so that you have a practice field for real life. It was hard! It was painfully brutal at times, but it helped me. I've been in and out of prison. Prison was nothing. After my trip to Burnet.... I have the tools I need to stay clean. I have started college, my children are back in my life and they trust me, and I have a bright future ahead of me. The facts are clear, prison has many repeat offenders, SAFP does too, but the numbers decrease by 20-60%. Locking me up only gave me better resources for my illegal deeds. SAFP made me look at my behaviors and make the change I needed to be a success.

I  went to Safpf with a terrible problem. Although Safpf did not cure me I didn't get out and do the things I was doing before that put me there. I realized the drugs alcohol my family what my parents did or didn't do even the "system" was not the problem. I was it was fault my carelessness that put me in that situation. Someone asked what it was like well let me tell you. HELL you are all alone and up long days with lots of structure the food is terriable and the staff was not there to baby me or be my friend. recovery is a choice and no matter what we do if we want the right to choose we must stay out of places like this and we dont have to worry about how bad it is, after all it's still prison it's not designed to be fun or comfortable. my husband once told me you get out of life what you put in it. Do right take care of your family and most of all stay sober God Bless and good luck.


my brother just arrived at safp. he called me and was scared stiff and was unable to stop crying.  he has been in and out of prison for most of his life and i have never heard him cry. he also has a history of mental illness.  i just want to know if any sexual abuse takes place in the facilities.  he is in henderson texas.  i just need to know

Henderson safp is very clean and strict. theres no abuse , zero tolerated. dont worry, i went there. it really helps. It changed my life for the best


My husband was transferred yesterday to a SAFP however I still do not know where he is. I pray that it is not the East Texas Treatment Facility because it is a co-gender facility. We are working on building our relationship after his affair. Because I used to work for TDCJ I know that even if they are separated things happen. You even have officers that allow it.

Hello ya'll,, I've read these horror stories about SAFP and it's just silly. This past June was my 10 years clean. I went to SAFP the Summer of 2001. I was there during 911 attacks. I was an extreme meth addict. I had lost everything except my children - and that was surely next. I thank Tx and SAFP for forcing me to look at what I was doing. I have never touched meth again. Not even layed eyes on it. And never will. It is poison. Had I just gone to prison for 6 months things may have turned out different.  I didn't love being there, it was not an easy program. It was hell some days. But so worth it. The councelors, and even the guards want to see us succeed. Every person who ends up at SAFP deserves some treatment. No one was able to help me on the outside. But this program changed me - 4ever.

I have been to Safpf in 2004 and It changed my life for the best. They don't abuse you they make you look at yourself and your negative behavior. There is NO fighting, just a lot of group and one on counsling. It takes 2 to 4 weeks right now to get a bed there. If you want to change it helps and there is no way that prison is better than safpf, anyone who says that is lazy and doesn't want help

I've heard of SAFP but not in a positive way until I read some of these post. Does anyone have any information on the Central Texas Treatment Center in Granger, Tx? I have a friend that will either be going to one of the two facilities.

I am going into Collin county this upcoming thursday  and I'll stay there until an opening for a SAFP program comes to get me. How long will I have to wait in collin county right now? Any ideas?  I  was thinking it'lll take about 3 months approx but I'm not completely sure.  Holla at me if you got any info, appreciate it!  Thanks, -Z

I'm a 47 female who was put on probation for the first time for possession of meth it was something I did once in awhile not everyday user I was given 3 years derf I've done almost 2 years but I have had 2 dirty ua a year apart from each other my 2 was just resent I've never been violated before but my probation officer wants to put me in safe p I have until next week to decide what I want to do go to program or back in front of judge to decide for me I have read almost everything about this program I really don't think I would be able to complete program not do to not want to try but I have medical issue that would prevent me from doing some of the things I've read about and I know their not worried about medical issues I won't get into the issues but I am on 7 different medications that I must take I know physical I won't be able to do it there or prision I don't know what to do I feel like their wanting throw me into this program yes I know I mess up but and I shouldn't have but everyone one slips I'm not a harden criminal who committing crimes or continue to use I have heard of people violating their several times who have been in trouble before and get reinstated a couple before they finely say we had enough you've had several chance so now your going away. Should I try and take my chance in front of a judge or would it just be pointless I know nothing a for sure thing but since this is my first time and I'm not a harden criminal what are my chances please help