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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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Community Supervision, Public Safety

For years, the United States has struggled to provide effective support to the more than 650,000 people who return to society from prison every year. As imprisoned individuals prepare to re-enter their communities, there are many factors that determine whether they are going to build a successful life after incarceration or whether they end up back behind bars. The potential challenges for re-entry include compliance with probation requirements, gaining employment, housing security and access to behavioral health services. If we are to succeed in reducing the number of re-offenders in America, we must find ways of changing the status quo in current policies and practices and embrace emerging technologies.

Technology has the capacity to greatly affect this intractable problem of recidivism in countless ways. The benefit of technology is that it can be customized to fit countless situations. Devices that continuously monitor alcohol intake of a person have completely changed how supervisors tackle alcohol abuse with offenders. Access to internet-based applications can provide automatic updates on job opportunities, deliver therapeutic materials and assist with training skills for the offender. Case Management Systems make it easier for case workers to monitor compliance and provide rehabilitative support though a streamlined secure website. Electronic monitoring devices can be customized to fit the needs of the offender using it, such as approving certain apps, controlling internet access, and monitoring their behavior. Video conferencing and messaging can allow for constant contact with a probation officer, including after normal business hours or across distances, which would minimize conflicts between work, family, and probation obligations.

TRACKtech™ provides two options for electronic monitoring. The TRACKPhone™, which is a specialized smartphone issued to Program Members, is intended to enforce compliance for those in need of more severe supervision. It provides biometric verification, GPS tracking, and more strict compliance enforcement. TRACKphoneLite™ is a more moderate alternative in the form of a smartphone application. This application can be applied to the Program Member’s smartphone and allows location check-ins, communication with their supervising officer over video chat, calendar reminders, and community-based recovery resources. These emerging technologies have the potential to transform reentry compliance and drastically reduce recidivism.

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Jail Overcrowding
Overcrowding is becoming a frightening dilemma for many jails. The Sarasota County Jail is no different. Building a new jail to house these excess inmates is incredibly expensive to taxpayers, costing upwards of $100 million. To ease this overcrowding, the County Sheriff’s Office is utilizing what they call a “pod” program. Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity (SURE) introduced the Addiction Recovery Program in partnership with the Salvation Army and the Sheriff’s Office in Sarasota County. These pods are intended to reduce recidivism rates while increasing an inmate’s productivity while incarcerated. All inmates in a pod are housed together. Instead of the inmates having excessive free time, they spend that time in programs, meetings, and receiving help for their various needs. The pods are completely voluntary, and any interested inmates must sign up to be included in them. There are up to 48 inmates in each pod and violence of any kind is strictly prohibited.

There are a multitude of pods in the prison, each dedicated to a specific program for rehabilitation and life skills. The addiction recovery pod has been in use for ten years, and in 2019 two new pod programs are being implemented in the jail; the care pod and the re-entry pod. The care pod is focused on providing mental health assistance. In the re-entry pod inmates will take parenting classes, learn how to search for jobs, create resumes and learn the importance of financial stability. Many of the inmates in these pods don’t know about the importance of credit scores, financing vehicles or budgeting. Without these essential skills and a secure footing in how to survive outside of prison, there is a very high risk of them reoffending. The pod program has shown to be very efficient and has changed the lives of countless inmates.
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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
The National Alliance of Mental Illness Tri Cities in Washington is scheduled to host a discussion about their “Lourdes Prosecutorial Diversion” program. The program provides another option for law enforcement officers in dealing with low-level, non-violent offenders with symptoms of mental illness. It has been in effect for three years, and it identifies inmates with behavioral health conditions in Benton and Franklin County Jails, particularly where competence issues arise. The vast majority of those with mental health issues are less likely than anyone else to be violent, criminal, or dangerous. According to a study published by American Psychological Association of Crimes committed by those with a mental illness, only 7.5% were directly related to symptoms of a mental disorder. People with mental illnesses are not inherently prone to crime, but for those who have persistent illnesses that are chronic and have reoccurring flare ups that impact their judgement, they may do things they normally would not, such as shoplifting or trespassing.

Jail is not a place conducive to mental health treatment. The program is in effect to engage these patients with treatment so they can return to a functioning and coherent state. Upon completion of the program, which can span from six months to a year, the inmate’s charges will be dropped if they are low level crimes. The inmate will also receive resources such as housing and medical treatment.

A large majority of these inmates are charged for trespassing. Adriana Mercado, the Care Coordinator for the program, states that trespassing is very common because these individuals are symptomatic, or they haven’t been on the proper medications. “It’s really rewarding to get somebody into a home and see that change of behavior” as 50 inmates have successfully finished the program. According to Mercado, the recurrence rate has dropped substantially among these inmates.

The program collaborates with the crisis response and in-patient unit, Transitions, to determine the most suitable placement for each inmate so they can receive medication and work on becoming stable. The end goal of the program is to reduce recidivism for those who already face a very high chance of returning to prison once they are released.

Ken Hohenberg, the Police Chief of Kennewick, has stated that “from my perspective, this is not only going to be able to help keep people out of the criminal justice system that truly don’t belong there, but also provide some hope for their families and friends. We see this as the right thing to do.”
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Community Supervision

Visits between parolees and their probation officers have been an instrumental part of the criminal justice system. The goal has always been to promote rehabilitation while keeping the public safe. But is this worth the countless hours parole officers spend driving to see their clients while facing safety risks during curfew checks at night in rough neighborhoods?

Are unscheduled visits more effective? Is it more productive to have visits at home or the workplace? Are these extra lengths worth the immense caseload? With all these factors on the table, answers to these questions are critical. An insightful recent study gauged the effectiveness of these practices. The evaluation consisted of data analysis, examination of officer’s visit checklists, interviews and focus group discussions. Though the results were promising, they did not give sufficient answers to the underlying questions. It is increasingly difficult to evaluate a visit between a parolee and their officer. The results varied greatly between jurisdictions.

An online survey by the American Probation and Parole Association in accordance with community supervision authorities in Ohio and Minnesota was sent to corrections departments. An online survey was also sent to all 50 states in an attempt to get a firmer grasp on the struggles of parole meetings and their effectiveness on rehabilitation. Thankfully, field visits overall seemed to decrease recurrence. In Ohio, people who have been contacted in the field by their parole officer at least once have had a reduction of 47% in returning to prison within two years, and a decrease of 54% in returning to prison for the rest of their life.

Some of the other results from the survey between Ohio and Minnesota were concerning, however. Supervision officers stated that they preferred field contacts at the home of the offender, so that they can understand the client’s environment, but also liked visits at their place of employment as well. This was to ensure compliance with their work requirements and helps to avoid a client having to take time off work. Which is more effective? Which is less disruptive to a client’s life and routine? Unscheduled visits in Ohio were equally as effective as scheduled ones, while in Minnesota the unscheduled visits led to significant reductions in recidivism. Why such a drastic change?  In Ohio, evidence-based practices such as motivational interviews during field contacts were important for alleviating recurrence, but in Minnesota they had no impact.

There are many variables, but the results clearly show that field visits are a critical practice to reducing recidivism. More thorough programs that assist probationers and parolees while protecting the public is crucial. There are 9.3 million people on community supervision in the United States, and over 200 caseloads per officer. These numbers are overwhelming, and with the recent changes to mass incarceration, parole is becoming even more common. TRACKtech’s revolutionary app, TRACKphoneLite (TpL), has been proven to reduce caseloads for officers while streamlining critical visits. Stressful, time-consuming traveling and dangerous evening visits are a thing of the past for officers utilizing this application. With TpL’s video conferencing system, officers can be shown around the client’s home, look in their fridge, etc. while talking face to face with the client. The application also employs a check-in system, so clients can verify their location whenever requested by their officer, negating the need for curfew visits.

Visitation is not the only aspect of parole that this intuitive application assists with. It can also help to provide rehabilitative support and behavioral health assessments tailored to each specific client. TpL monitors compliance, tracks locations, and assists with remote meetings while ensuring that the public is safe. All of the information gathered is sent to TRACKcase, lessening the strain on an officer’s caseload immensely. TRACKtech’s platform enhances the capabilities of officials and agencies in implementing individualized and responsive case plans with a more expansive spectrum of data and workflow automation, connecting program members (supervised individuals) to prosocial and communal resources, satisfying criminogenic needs, and reducing the chance of recidivism. Reaching out to those on probation and parole is imperative to increasing their chances of becoming a successful citizen of their community, and TRACKtech is here to help – one future at a time.

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Success Stories

In an uplifting article by the WPSD Local 6 news, a Vienna Correctional Center program by the name of Orange is the New Green, explains their efforts of preparing incarcerated people for life after prison while helping the community. It is open to inmates who have a high risk of recidivism or are veterans. During the first half of the 11-month program, prisoners complete a gardening course – including botany, fertilizer, hydroponics, irrigation systems and more.

“We take students through the University of Illinois Master Gardener curriculum. So, that takes us about six months to get through. There’s a lot of book work and a lot of lectures,” explained Nathan Ryder, Orange is the New Green’s lead instructor and coordinator. “We talk about everything from soil and how to have healthy soil out on your farm or in your garden plot, all the way up to how to grow different fruits and vegetables. We talk about lawn care and how to propagate grass. We really take them through a lot of different aspects of growing plants. It’s not just focused on flowers and vegetables.” Ryder states that once the inmates earn their master gardener certificates, they can transition into the business section of the program.

“For about six weeks, they learn marketplace literacy skills, basically how businesses and consumers interact with each other. Then, we take that, and they write their own business plans. So hopefully, if they get out of here and they want to be an entrepreneur, they want to employ themselves, they’ll already have that business plan written. And they can take it out in the real world and get financing for that,” said Ryder.

Many inmates are enjoying the program. Robert Parker says that it gives him a sense of achievement, and that he turned a bad situation into something positive while learning a new trade. He believes that the program really involves teamwork. They help each other repot plants or answer each other’s questions. “We’ve got a really good teacher, but it’s more like a community. It’s like a little brotherhood huddle.”

Philip McDowell, another inmate participating in the program, says he is excited to take what he’s learned in the program and apply it to a new job outside prison. “I want to give myself the most opportunity. In this instance, I think that by doing this I’ve learned several things, even about greenhouse operations, irrigation systems, and pesticide applicators. These are all the things that are incorporated into this class above and beyond just growing a particular plant,” said McDowell. He also agrees that the program involves teamwork, and really improves social skills. “It is some teamwork and how to get along with other people. Because obviously we’re not social being in here for so long. I’m just trying to give myself the biggest leg up to try to get something going on for myself.”

The Vienna Correctional Center partnered with Shawnee Resource Conservancy and Development and with the University of Illinois Extension to make this program possible. This is the second year for Orange is the New Green and they are thriving. Classes include about 40 inmates and they have plans to continue classes next year. Most of the fruits, vegetables and herbs the prisoners are growing will be delivered to the dietary department for food preparations at the prison. The rest is donated to local food pantries.

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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

The latest Bureau of Justice Statistics recidivism study found that within five years 77 percent of almost 70,000 prisoners released from 30 states have been convicted of new crimes. Prison efficiency is frequently measured by the rate of re-offense by those released into the community. The relatively high recidivism rate observed among prisoners demonstrates the ineffectiveness of current US prison systems. Not only have punitive policies been largely ineffective, they have also been wasteful and expensive. But can we diminish the costs of incarceration while also increasing the efficiency at which we prevent recidivism?

From the 1970s to the mid-2000s, prison population boomed, not only through more punitive sentences but also an increase in crime rates and, perhaps most notably, government expenditure. Punitive approaches have historically rarely achieved positive results in corrections. These approaches tend to not reduce recurrence, because they do not address the reasons why the individuals who have are released fail to transition from prison to their community. With an effective program in place, prisoners willing to participate, will lead to less recurrence and reduce both the use and costs of imprisonment.

Before evidence-based decision making and practices, those who were incarcerated had scarce access to resources necessary for their rehabilitation, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), treatment of substance abuse and dependency, sex offender treatment, education, employment programming and social support intervention. These practices have been proven to be highly effective and give the most value for our investment when applied as a system.  Therefore, it is important to incorporate and apply these programs by helping prisoners manage their needs through existing resources and support systems, ultimately reducing recidivism.

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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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