NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Effective Reentry Programs Can Keep Ex-Prisoners Out of Jail

May 6, 2011

According to a new Pew report, 43 percent of American offenders are returned to state prison within three years of their release.  Unless they are offered a good reentry program, prospects are bleak for those returning home, says the Economist.

Over the past 30 years, the emphasis in correction supervision has been on surveillance.  As a result, the number of people sent back to prison for parole violations increased seven-fold from 1980 to 2000.  In 2009, parole violators accounted for a third of all state prison admissions.  A recent report from the Council of State Governments Justice Center, which highlighted programs that were working well, argued that adhering to four principles would greatly help to lower costly recidivism rates:

  • First, the focus should be on the people most likely to reoffend, since early intervention is crucial; according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 30 percent of all re-arrests occur within the first six months of freedom.
  • Second, programs should be based on scientific evidence and measurable outcomes.
  • Third, community supervision must improve.
  • Fourth, ex-prisoners must get support in their own neighborhoods rather than looking to centrally-based institutions.

Source: "They All Come Home," The Economist, April 20, 2011.

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