The numbers are staggering:
Every year in New Jersey, 14,000 adult inmates and 1,600 juvenile offenders are released from correctional facilities. As many as 65 percent of the adults will be re-arrested within five years, and 37 percent of juveniles will return to correctional facilities within two years.
Given those statistics as a backdrop, it’s great to see NJ looking at ways to develop a combination of services that will work best to keep ex-inmates from returning to prison upon their release:
The $2 million program, called “Another Chance,” is part of the state’s stepped-up efforts to lessen the percentage of ex-cons who re-enter state prison. It’s also a key component of Gov. Jon Corzine’s strategy to combat gang and gun violence.
The pilot program offers a range of social, job and medical services to 1,300 people with criminal convictions, then tracking the results.
Let’s look at what the program includes:
Inmates and parolees in the program can receive an array of services including job training to behavioral therapy, anger management and parenting classes.
It begins with a diagnostic assessment, so services are customized to each person’s needs. Those in the pilot are divided into three components: newly admitted prisoners, who receive a full range of services; those who will be released within nine months, who get a discharge plan and are lined up to receive services once they are released; and those already on parole, who receive only post-release services.
The idea is to collect data on all groups “so we can connect with what really works to reduce recidivism,” said Jeffries.
And for those who will focus on the cost, the attorney who will oversee the program had this to say:
“Do we spend the money on the back end and incarcerate people, or do we intervene and try to move people into a place where they have the support system and connections they need? So, really, we are looking at the reallocation of dollars. We need to be smart about how we are spending our existing dollars.”
At least we are looking at ways to be pro-active rather than continuing to throw money at a problem we know exists. I’ll be interested to follow the progress of this pilot program.