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Recidivism rates falling

4-10-2009 Indiana:

Rehab programs contribute to decrease in repeat offenders

Changing the thinking patterns of criminal offenders is one key to keeping them from reoffending, prison officials say.

From looking at the number of repeat offenders in state prisons, it must be working, as the recidivism rate over the past three years has declined, the Indiana Department of Correction reported.

Officials at the IDOC have studied and monitored Indiana’s recidivism rates for four years and found the overall recidivism rate has gone down for the third consecutive year, falling to 37.4 percent.

DOC officials attribute the improving recidivism numbers to their focus on the successful re-entry of offenders.

At the Miami Correctional Facility, offenders are offered multiple programs aimed at rehabilitation, said public information officer Ann Hubbard.

Hubbard said the DOC tries to make its prisons more than just a place to house criminals. If they choose, inmates can work on issues such as substance abuse and anger management. They can take classes on fatherhood and on character and faith development.

“You can see a change in men who get involved in these programs,” Hubbard said. “They change their way of thinking. They realize there is more to life than just themselves, and they realize what they’ve done to other people.”

To ensure an offender leads a lawful life once released, DOC tries to instill the tools needed for success outside prison walls. Hubbard believes that approach is good for all Indiana communities.

“We have to do something,” she said. “These people in here, most are going to get out, and if we don’t do something to better their lives and improve the quality of their lives, they’re certainly not going to improve the quality of our lives when they get out.”

The IDOC defines recidivism as an offender’s return to incarceration within three years of their date of release from a state correctional institution. An offender is included in this study when he is released via one of the following avenues — Community Transition Program, probation, parole or discharge.

Once released, an offender is verified as a recidivist if he returns to the institutional custody of the IDOC for a new conviction or a technical violation of post-incarceration supervision.

For offenders released in 2005, only 37.4 percent had returned to prison by 2008, which is lower than the 2007 recidivism rate of 37.8 percent, according to the IDOC.

Rates for 2005 and 2006 were 39.2 percent and 38.6 percent, respectively. During those four years, the demographics of the offenders studied remained consistent.

In addition, one statistic regarding a class of offenders stands out — the recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05 percent, one of the lowest in the nation.

In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low, said IDOC’s chief communications officer Doug Garrison.

Garrison added that sex offenders often wind up back in prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, but he said instances of them returning to prison for committing a new sex crime were extremely low.

These improving recidivism numbers demonstrate the IDOC’s focus on the successful re-entry of offenders in recent years is beginning to pay off.

“Even though conventional wisdom would have us believe that recidivism is inevitable, I firmly believe that the hard work and dedication of IDOC staff has proven that the successful re-entry of offenders is more than possible,” said IDOC Commissioner Edwin G. Buss. “The third consecutive decline in Indiana’s recidivism rate is good for all, offenders, IDOC staff members, and Indiana taxpayers alike.”

Hubbard acknowledged that some inmates will end up back in prison because they never had intentions of stopping their criminal behavior. Because of that and other factors, she said, the recidivism rate will never reach zero.

“You’re always going to have your bad apples,” she said. ..Source.. by MIKE FLETCHER

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