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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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Recidivism

Recidivism is an endless struggle for cities across the country. While there have been many strategies to combat this never-ending cycle, it is proving to be a difficult issue to tackle. Many prisons have cognitive behavioral treatment programs that include classes on substance abuse, anger management, and family relationships. These have been developed with the intention of correcting an inmate’s pattern of thinking and behavior. However, results have shown that limiting these programs to prison walls is not making a large enough impact. It’s imperative that these programs continue during and after the reentry process.

The main causes for recidivism are the lack of housing, education, familial bonds, and employment. To genuinely make a dent in the recidivism crisis, no person should leave incarceration without a program to assist them with these valuable necessities. Community-based programs to help fight recidivism have been known to be expensive, but they are far more affordable than the cost of repeatedly committing someone for the same crimes. The ultimate goal of any program that aims to reduce recidivism is to improve the lives of these individuals and give them the best chance for successful reintegration into their communities.

Regardless of what rehabilitation programs occur within prison walls, it is negligible if a rehabilitated person cannot find work, housing, or a support system. Returning to prison becomes a very real possibility despite all the progress they have made. It is not uncommon for many to return to a life of crime to support their basic needs, even if they were successful in prison. Building this kind of support system and finding employment for ex-offenders is not an easy task. Many people without a criminal history have difficulty finding employment. If we are to achieve this lofty goal of successful rehabilitation and a much lower rate of recidivism, resources for housing, employment opportunities and dedicated community programs are necessary to help those reentering society regain control of their futures.

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Recidivism

Convicted Felon. This title carries with it a heavy stigma, and it can completely transform how a person is viewed by their community. On April 8th, 2019 Leroy Green of WLTX19 interviewed two prominent figures of the South Carolina community about the effects of recidivism. Professor Jennifer Trombley from Claflin University and Beasy Baybie, a DJ for HOT 103.9, are both convicted felons. Their stories are troubling, intriguing, and give a unique perspective of what it is like to have gone through the criminal justice system and made it out to become successful in their communities.

Beasy was incarcerated when she was still mothering her children. She did not know what to expect upon reentry and feels that she did not have adequate information on how to continue with her life outside bars. “I lost everything – clothes, car, house. I went to jail with kids and came out with kids, but I didn’t know how to parent them. Certain programs need to be included for women. We have expectations to be a mother, but how can I mother when I’m still broken? There needs to be more availability of forms of counseling and groups who have been incarcerated and come out the other side to raise their children. There are programs to help you with paperwork, IDs and Social Security cards to prepare you, but why aren’t there programs to prepare you for what to tell your children? There are parenting classes outside all the time, we need more in prison.”

They both believe that helping people with their reentry to society is incredibly important. Barriers to success need to be evaluated, and resources and programs to help with this need to be readily available. Mass incarceration does not work and has not been working for years. In five years, developing programs for recidivism has greatly cut down on the tax dollars spent on incarceration expenses and improved the recidivism rates for inmates in these programs. The recidivism rate fell 25% in 2014 and the state saved $491 million, while helping to improve the lives of generations of inmates.

There have been many monumental steps taken by the most recent presidents to overcome the ever-growing dilemma of recidivism. President Obama declared a National Reentry Week, in which he put into place 31 million in grants for job training for employment. These programs are evidence based and included many proven strategies to help those in need. He procured permanent support for housing, mentoring and parent programs, and put into motion the ban on the felony box in resumes for federal agencies. Prospective employees cannot be asked if they have a felony until after they have been offered employment. President Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act that is full of monumental justice reform, such as greatly reducing the time spent by those incarcerated with good behavior, and moving prisoners closer to their families. Even with these changes, there is still a great deal to go before we have solved this crisis.

“We need to figure out how to not even send them to jail,” states Baybie. “They wound up in prison because they have no hope or options. Their circumstances made it feel necessary to commit these crimes. There are some brilliant people in prison that shouldn’t be there.” Trombley agrees, mentioning that “most of those who are in jail are marginalized populations. They struggled before and were in terrible circumstances. Why do we think that without sufficient resources and help that when they get out the circumstances would be any different?”

Many people do not consider recidivism or the incarcerated population to be something that affects them, but it affects them more than they could imagine. “You should care because eventually, they get out, and having people come home and not understanding how to get jobs or parent or be part of the community affects us all. We are all connected, and it would benefit us to help them not go to prison, and if they do, to help them become more productive when they get out,” states Beasy. Eventually, they do get out, as 80-85% of inmates reenter society. They need to be equipped with the proper tools and strategies to acquire a job and be less likely to reoffend. The Second Chance Program in South Carolina helps to drive these positive changes and assist reentering civilians to acquire jobs and better their lives. Out of the 783 people who went through the program, 75% got jobs.

Both Beasy and Trombley have hope for these new programs and the positive changes to justice reform, but they still feel that felons are looked at with a debilitating stigma. “It feels like we’re segregated. People don’t think that we are like them, but we are people. Their children go to school with our children. They’re driving around the streets with them. We are people that exist,” Beasy says, sadly. Trombley concurs, stating that “it almost feels like people don’t want us to succeed. The stigma feels like they want us to fail.” Jail was not easy for either of them to endure, and when they got out, it was like a whole new terrifying world.

They share a unifying desire to better their lives and the lives of others after being released. They both are driven by their faith and want to leave the world with a positive message that lives longer than they do. “It’s all about purpose, living one day to the next.” They want to spread awareness of the struggles faced by those rejoining their communities and what can be done to help. Ultimately, they want to spread love.

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Recidivism

Nearly 700,000 people are released from incarceration in the U.S every year. The repercussions of incarceration are extensive and everlasting, hindering job opportunities, housing, education, and financial stability. In Kentucky, a national initiative is being implemented to reduce recurrence using data and personalized approaches. Safe Streets and Second Chances (S3C) is an innovative program that takes an evidence-based approach to the chronic dilemmas facing repeat offenders and recidivism by using academic research to develop individualized plans to ease reentry and help with the improvement, rehabilitation and redemption of such individuals. It provides treatment programs for substance abuse and mental health assistance. There are a multitude of vocational programs and training which provide many essential skills for employment.

Kentucky’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary, John Tilley, stated that “This is about getting people back to jobs.” A major way to reduce recidivism is to connect incarcerated people to a job soon after returning to the community. The reformation of the criminal justice system is of the utmost importance for the Kentucky Chamber as it has the potential to save money for the state and taxpayers, increase the low participation rate for Kentucky’s workforce, and fill 200,000 open jobs. Governor Matt Bevin applauded the work done by the S3C initiative over the past year, stating that “No amount of money is enough to spend on this issue, it is a costly process to incarcerate people.” The S3C project is currently underway in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. This innovative and effective research through the S3C program is incentive to implement effective rehabilitation efforts to provide the greatest opportunity for individuals to succeed as they reenter society.

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Recidivism

The dilemma of recurrence is a complex but urgent one. Not only have many people who leave prison lost valuable years of their life, most have little to no support to fulfill their basic needs upon reentry. Those who want to make a better life, often lack the tools to do so. A new community and law enforcement project in Shelby, North Carolina, seeks to help their citizens regain a fulfilling and successful life outside bars.

In the next five years, an average of 76% of Cleveland County individuals who commit a crime and are sent to prison will reoffend. In one year, half of them usually reoffend, according to Katie Munger, the head of the RESET program. RESET Coordinator, Christy Dunbar, will assist 10 to 15 people chosen by the parole officials and other agencies through an application process. Her goal is to guide and assist with finding anything they need from drug rehab to work clothes. RESET hopes to establish a mentorship after a year between the first group who has successfully completed the program with those who have just been released.

RESET has already begun the process of evaluating previous inmates in order to see who is a good fit for the program. More than two dozen community agency representatives have offered their assistance in the program. Each community outlet can help with an issue that a person is struggling with after their release, such as substance abuse, job training, or social skills. Together, these community outlets could collectively help a person with all the barriers they are facing in re-entering their community.

While RESET aims to support individuals during the reentry process, recidivism is a huge problem that cannot be tackled alone. TRACKTech could be utilized to automate the distribution of more rehabilitation resources and our intuitive “pattern of life” data can be used to provide more accurate and streamlined information to assist with evaluating a program member’s progress on successful reentry into their community.

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Recidivism

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction, the delinquent population in Tennessee has increased by 11.7% in the past 5 years. On March 1st, 2019, a state grant provided support in the amount of $250 thousand to a Dyer County Jail program which aims to reduce recidivism. Funds were also awarded to Franklin County, Knox County and the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance. Over a period of two years, each facility will receive two-thirds of the $250 thousand to begin new programs or expand current ones. The Dyer County Jail collaborates with a local college, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and industry partners to facilitate the program.

These funds will be used to build a new female facility, which will be modeled after their very successful male facility. The female facility will contain 10 inmates and a classroom space, compared to the current 30 inmates in the male facility. The program aims to allow inmates with sentences of one to three years the ability to work while they are incarcerated so they can accrue funds to pay for child support, fees, and court fines. Most inmates that partake in the program will have enough funds to establish housing and become a productive and successful member of society once they are released. Dyer County Sheriff, Jeff Box, has stated that about 100 inmates have completed the program since its initiation, and technical violations such as failing to pay fines for violating probation are much less prevalent.

Reducing recidivism is a constant struggle. It is our belief that those re-entering our communities require more support than they have been receiving, and this program will be imperative to providing inmates with work experience and knowledge necessary to thrive after incarceration. Programs such as this are a huge step towards providing prisoners with a better chance for a successful and fulfilling life when they are released.

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Recidivism

Due to the difficulty of finding employment, housing, and shelter as a convicted felon, thousands of men and women find themselves back in prison every year. A very courageous and creative woman received the Fox 2 Pay It Forward award this week for her efforts in reducing the barriers faced by these returning citizens. In 2015, Kalen McAllister decided to take it upon herself to fix this devastating problem and help ease the stress of rejoining society for inmates. She was a Buddhist priest who worked as a chaplain at the correctional facility in Farmington, Missouri and recognized the struggles experienced by those released who could not find jobs to support themselves and their families. When she retired, she founded a very special place that filled newly released prisoners with hope for a future.

The Laughing Bear Bakery is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping recently released prisoners have a fresh start on their lives by providing them with safe and reliable employment. The Laughing Bear Bakery is exceptionally interesting because it exclusively hires ex-felons. By only hiring felons, the environment at the workplace is very comfortable and safe – allowing those who work there to feel less alienated while they pursue their employment goals. Kalen has made it a habit to never ask one of her bakers what they did to be sent to prison. She doesn’t care what they did, for her it’s from this moment to the next moment that matters.

While working at the bakery, former inmates acquire valuable work experience for their future while also taught how to bake a multitude of goods. The bakery has had 20 people successfully work through it before moving on to other jobs, one is even managing their own restaurant.

Gaining employment is often a crucial turning point for former felons. A steady job is necessary to sustain housing and basic human needs. Many of those returning from incarceration struggle to find gainful employment due to their criminal history, so having a promising job opportunity provided for them is crucial to successful re-entry.

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Recidivism

Japan has long been known for its prevalent respect for its elderly. In fact, Japan has the largest population over 65 years old, at an astonishing 27%. Even more surprising is the high recidivism rates among elderly citizens in Japan. According to Japan’s white paper on crime, the percentage of elderly people that returned to prison remained unchanged at 48.7% from last year. The number of women currently imprisoned at age 70 or older is roughly 12 times greater than it was 20 years ago. Of those who were indicted for crimes last year, 21.5% were 65 years of age or older during their first offense. The striking thing about these senior citizens who spend time in prison is their high recurrence rate compared to younger prisoners. Roughly 42% of the elderly males were sent to jail six times or more, while 32% were jailed 2-5 times. People serving prison sentences often face difficulty finding work after returning to their communities, and seniors are no different.

The Japanese government aims to reduce the number of people returning to jail within two years of their release to 16% or lower by 2021. This is a bold ambition and it cannot be achieved without serious efforts to reduce the problem of recidivism amongst the elderly Japanese.

Many seniors lose contact with their family and social circles after being incarcerated, so community support and rehabilitative therapy is imperative to help them reintegrate into their communities. TRACKTech™ provides a convenient and streamlined way to monitor a program member’s activity and behavior and can provide them with timely and situation-specific therapeutic material, assist with finding employment if they are below the required retirement age of 65, and maintain a community support system which is necessary to ensure rehabilitative success. Recidivism is an international dilemma, but strides can be made to lessen the hardships and isolation an elderly person faces when they are released back into their community.

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