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Recidivism

Recidivism has been a long-standing issue in the United States. Many are working to reduce recidivism rates and help people integrate better back into society after incarceration. Individuals struggle with having someplace to go and support when released from prison, which leads them to recidivate.

One solution to reducing recidivism is providing higher education as described in an article by the UCI. Since 2014, all 35 California state penitentiaries have partnered with community colleges to provide those incarcerated the chance to earn an associate degree. Further, UCI has launched an initiative, Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Education Degrees, that is the first in-prison B.A. completion program offered by the University of California . This will allow for those incarcerated to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

With “at least 95 percent of people in California prisons return[ing] to their communities”, most lack the skills and resources to be able to compete and succeed in today’s job market. With the help of the program, those who complete the program with at least a 3.5 GPA are automatically able to fully enroll in UCI once released. This breaks down the barrier of individuals lacking an education, not being able to get one and helping set them up for a better future and being part of a safer community for all.

The program is working hard to change the lives of those affected by incarceration in California and providing second, supportive chances at life. People deserve an education and to turn their lives around even if they have struggled in the past. Lowering recidivism rates through education makes the community safer and turns the lives around of people working hard to do so.

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Recidivism

The Crime Report published an article about how the Federal First Step Act continues to make a difference in penalties received by those who recidivate. The First Step Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in 2018. It allowed for offenders that were going to receive a minimum mandatory penalty or sentence to be reevaluated to reduce sentences that were unjust. The First Step Act also limited the “stacking” of penalties that would land individuals in prison for 25 years or more and has reduced these prison terms to five, seven or ten years.

The Commission said, “the number of federal offenders who got increased sanctions because of a record of previous offenses dropped by 15.2 percent, from 1,001 in fiscal year 2018 to 849 in the first year of First Step.” Even though in the past individuals had committed serious violent penalties, it did not subject them to more severe penalties based on this. “Of the 849 offenders subject to that provision of the law, only 36 had been convicted of one or more qualifying ‘serious violent felony’ offenses.” Only 11 were subject to enhanced penalties for convictions in which a weapon, robbery or assault was involved.

The First Step Act also created the allowance of offenders to seek “compassionate release” from prison by going to court instead of going to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 145 inmates were granted compassionate release in the first year of the First Step Act compared to only 24 before the law was in effect. There is still a lot of work to be done surrounding reducing recidivism and helping individuals when it comes to penalties but many are hopeful the First Step Act will continue to help those and be the first step when it comes to moving towards a rehabilitative system instead of a punitive one.

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Recidivism

Many youth struggle with being on the right path in life. It is easy to get swept up in street gangs, violence and drugs when that’s all their family knows and when they are not supported as children should be. The world is a hard place and many lives go in the wrong direction, like Dyjuan Tatro’s did. He dropped out of high school around the 10th grade to sell drugs and a few years later was sentenced to prison for assault. This is just one of the many stories you hear about a juvenile’s life taking a turn for the worse. However, he was able to turn it around by finishing his education while incarcerated.

The Politico published an article about the high recidivism rates in the United States and how we have the answer to solving this problem at the tip of our fingers, educating incarcerated individuals. In the United States, individuals who are released from prison often return to a life of crime and have a hard time turning their lives around once incarcerated. PEW found in a study that in 23 states, 37% of released individuals in 2012 returned to prison within three years and 46% released in 2010 returned to prison within five years. Recidivism is an issue as many individuals in prison did not finish school and lack the resources and support to return to life once they are released.

Access to schooling and receiving an education is slowly increasing in prison systems. A correlation has been found between those who complete their education while incarcerated and lower recidivism rates. Fewer than 3% of graduates of Bard Prison Initiative in New York, returned to prison compared to over 30% of individuals released from the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision returning to prison. Providing an education for incarcerated individuals helps them get back on their feet and sets them up for success when released, which reduces recidivism and saves public funds that would be spent looking after people in jail or prison.

However, having access to an education was difficult until the Department of Education announced its Second Chance Pell Pilot Program in 2015. “By expanding educational opportunities for some people behind bars, the program aimed to help individuals returning home acquire work, financially support their families and claim a second chance for a better life.” The program only currently allows around 10,000 students to receive funding to attend classes at certain institutions, turning away hundreds of thousands who are eligible for the funding. If the number of individuals allowed to receive funding increased, recidivism rates would go down drastically as many would have the opportunity to receive an education while incarcerated.

Thankfully, in July, lawmakers introduced legislation to repeal the Pell Grant ban in July. There are many success stories like Dyjuan Tatro’s but also so many that slip through the cracks who could benefit from receiving an education while incarcerated. It reduces recidivism and can make or break an individual’s life when it comes to supporting themselves once released.

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Recidivism
Hudson Link, with the help of Mount Saint Mary College, will help provide access to higher education at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility. The article goes into detail about how two dozen incarcerated men will have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences. “The Hudson Link and Mount Saint Mary College will facilitate the program at the correctional facility”, providing the opportunity for people incarcerated to earn a higher education.

Hudson Link is a nonprofit that provides college education, life skills, and reentry support to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. They hope to help make a positive impact on the lives of the prisoners and their families and communities. With providing access to a higher education, they also hope to reduce recidivism rates and poverty because prisoners will be able to attain better jobs. The recidivism rate for people who have completed the Hudson Link program is less than 3% and they have high hopes it will stay this low. The numbers for men being accepted into the program are growing and increasing their access to earning the bachelor’s degree. So far 21 men are scheduled to complete the degree in two years, which helps the employability once released from prison.

Pursuing a degree while incarcerated can be difficult but thanks to companies and institutions like Hudson Link and Mount Saint Mary College, degrees are attainable. They want to continue to help reduce recidivism rates and provide access to education for incarcerated individuals.
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Press Release, Recidivism

TRACKtech CEO, Michael Hirschman and a leading academic in the field of criminal justice, Joe Russo, were guests on Ryan Warner’s Colorado Public Radio (CPR) show, Colorado Matters.

 

Hirschman and Russo spoke about the pros and cons of current electronic tracking devices and how technology is changing the community corrections industry.

 

Listen to their interview and hear how TRACKtech is paving the way for positive change and reducing recidivism.

 

Colorado Matters, hosted by Ryan Warner, is CPR News’ daily interview show which focuses on the state’s people, issues and ideas.

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Recidivism

A new program in the Pinal County Jail has begun allowing inmates to use electronic tablets in an effort to reduce their likelihood of committing repeat crimes. The Sheriff’s Office is collaborating with Securus Technologies to provide this influential program, which supplied the equipment without charge. “With tablets, inmates can stay in touch with family and keep their minds preoccupied with educational and religious programming,” Sheriff Mark Lamb stated in the press release. “We expect that it will help with behavior.”

The SecureView tablets are intended to help prisoners maintain contact with their families, access the law library, apply for employment nearing their release date, and access educational and religious programming, such as books and podcasts. The tablets are incredibly intuitive and require no staff intervention. Additionally, utilizing these tablets will be instrumental in familiarizing prisoners with the technologies they will encounter after their release. The prisoners are able to message and call their loved ones through the tablets. This provides a much better opportunity to keep in touch with family and reduce the stress of life while incarcerated through the regular means of communication. Many studies show that regular communication and close relationships with loved ones while incarcerated can greatly reduce the risk of recidivism.

Games are also being introduced on the tablets, with the intent to keep inmates occupied and entertained, while reducing the likelihood that they will be disruptive and take part in arguments or fights. This is not only beneficial to the safety of the inmates but to the staff as well. 

Sheriff Mark Lamb states that they want to be the top jail in the state, or even the western region. “The community needs to see what we are providing for our inmates to help them get back on their feet to be the best citizens they can be.”

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Recidivism

The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), has adopted a structured strategy to help prisoners find reliable employment when they are released from prison. The inmates are evaluated on their ability to perform particular vocations, and then provide the proper skills and training under the Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) framework. The WSQ is a national credential system that trains, assesses, develops, and certifies skills and abilities for the workforce.

In order to better prepare inmates for a real job setting when they are released, they are put through simulated job scenarios. When the inmates complete their training, they decide which jobs they would like to apply for, and are later interviewed by prospective employers. In special cases, employment offers may be provided before they are even released. In order to make these job prospects possible, SCORE coordinates with employers to guarantee that inmates, once released, are provided fair wages and partake in progressive work practices. SCORE provides assistance to former offenders for up to 12 months during the early phase of finding employment. SCORE coordinates with employers and case workers during this period to ensure that these recently released individuals are provided the necessary assistance to effectively re-integrate into their communities and become reliable members of the workforce.

Relationships with family members are also critical to the effectiveness of re-integrating into society. Research has shown that those with healthy familial bonds are less likely to recidivate. With the help of community partners, the Singapore Prison Service conducts programs that assist inmates with forming stronger bonds and relationships with their families. Former inmates who are motivated and hopeful are better prepared to rebuild their life and re-integrate into society. With employment prospects, stronger family bonds, and ties to their community, they have a much higher chance of succeeding in their new lives.

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Recidivism

Incarceration can lead to a lifetime sentence of unemployment for many that are released from prison. Difficulty in finding employment is a strong cause of recidivism, and without a stable income and a sense of purpose and responsibility, 68 percent of those released from Delaware prisons are re-arrested within three years of release. Ajit Mathew George, the founder of Second Chances Farms, has hope for a future where Delaware inmates will have careers as entrepreneurs waiting for them when they’re released. He intends to use abandoned warehouses and empty office spaces near the former inmates and turn them into farming space. His plan to reduce recidivism in his state is to hire 10-15 workers to help in his farms for every 10,000 square foot of farming space. Each worker will be paid $15 an hour during a six to twelve-month apprenticeship period. These farms are extremely effective as they are grown in LED-lit hydroponic towers and do not require soil, pesticides, or even natural sunlight. His goal is to develop a new industry and produce local organic food on a year-round basis, while also improving the livelihood of released inmates and in turn reducing recidivism.

This ingenious concept won George the honor of having the “Best Idea” at the Pete DuPont Freedom Foundation’s Reinventing Delaware competition in early December of 2018. He hopes to open Second Chances Farm No. 1 in Wilmington by September. His Second Chances Farm was awarded a start-up grant of $175,000 after the Reinventing Delaware event by the Welfare Foundation, which supports non-profits focused on social welfare causes in Delaware and southern Chester County.

George believes that the vertical farms allow up to 100 times more production per square foot than traditional farms. Second Chances Farms will be able to produce crops from harvest to grocery store shelves within 24 hours, compared to the lengthy week long and thousand-mile trek for field-grown produce. The inmates participating in these vertical farms have served their time and now can be meaningfully engaged in their community through agriculture. The chance to be able to run a high-tech hydroponic farm is a great way for these individuals to learn a growing enterprise.

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Recidivism

People might think convicted felons solely deserve retribution, but it has been proven ineffective in avoiding recidivism. Retribution is defined as punishment being inflicted on someone for a wrong or criminal act, whereas rehabilitation is the action of restoring someone to a healthy or normal life through training and therapy. Inmates have lost their freedom and are serving time as their punishment, however, rehabilitation in and after prison is the key to helping prisoners avoid repeating offenses once released back into society. 

In the article How Norway Turns Criminals into Good Neighbours, Norway realizes that a punitive “lock-up” approach does not effectively change the behavior of inmates and by moving away from this approach, they are sharply cutting reoffending rates. Instead of guards working to establish a “masculine, macho culture with a focus on guarding and security”, they can now focus on rehabilitation and interacting with inmates as if they are not convicted felons, serving as role models, coaches and mentors. Everyday inmates participate in activities alongside guards like yoga and eating meals, encouraging socialization. With this rehabilitative and social approach, the prison can feel more like home and less like an entrapment they are stuck in. This method has proven to be effective, reducing recidivism rates to only 20% after two years in Norway, compared to 50% in the UK. 

These methods do come with a higher cost to maintain the prison. A place at Halden Prison costs about £98,000 per year compared to an annual cost of a prison in England being around £40,000 to £60,000. However, the drastic reduced recidivism rates correlates to improvement in inmates overall health, mental stability and calmness. It is proving to be worth the extra spending, not to mention the cost savings of avoiding re-incarceration. Norway has a policy where no inmates are sentenced for life. Governor of Halden Prison, Are Hoidal, says they are essentially “releasing your neighbor” and “if we treat inmates like animals in prison, then we will release animals on to your street.” They have established that prisoners cannot be treated poorly to then be expected to act orderly and civil once they are released. The prison provides the inmates with positive opportunities and learning experiences to help rehabilitate them, no matter the crime they have committed. 

It is important to continue to understand that the punitive approach is ineffective compared to rehabilitative methods in prison, probation and parole systems. TRACKtech, LLC recognizes the importance of rehabilitation as the solution to reducing recidivism and helping inmates adjust to life after prison. TRACKtech provides resources and support to keep program members on track and continuing to adjust more smoothly into society. 

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Recidivism

Behavioral health professionals say it’s important to address mental health issues – even more so for an incarcerated individual. Corina Fisher, a Psychologist at L.E Phillips Libertas Treatment Center in Chippewa Falls, WI, states that we desperately need better services in jail. Recidivism will not be reduced, and criminal behavior will not be stopped by just locking up offenders with mental health issues. These individuals need to be rehabilitated so that when released, they can become productive citizens of society.

Governor Tony Evers of Chippewa County, WI has made a recent budget proposal to expand services to inmates with mental health needs. His new proposal would improve a statewide program called “Oars”, or Opening Avenues to Reentry Success, which is aimed at providing mental health resources to prisoners considered to be at a high risk of reoffending.

The Chippewa County Jail can accommodate up to 200 inmates, with a daily average of 130. In that daily average, Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk says that they deal with both female and male inmates with some type of mental illness. He says that it can be a serious challenge for law enforcement as their resources for handling this group is limited. Unfortunately, that lack of mental health resources often eventually leads these inmates right back behind bars. Kowalczyk said that today he is witnessing more and more issues of mental health than when he first became sheriff more than a decade ago.

Over 300 prisoners participated in the Oars mental health program last year. This new budget proposal includes funding for an additional 225 prisoners and could greatly improve the chances of those with mental illness to get a head start on improving their lives and overcoming recidivism.

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