Magazine article Corrections Forum

Reducing Recidivism: The Reentry Initiative

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Reducing Recidivism: The Reentry Initiative

Article excerpt

The reentry of serious, highrisk offenders into communities across the country has long been the source of violent crime in the United States. As more than 630,000 offenders are released from prison every year, the problem of their recidivism has become a crisis that affects all parts of a community. Fewer than half of all released offenders stay out of trouble for at least 3 years after their release from prison, and many of these offenders commit serious and/or violent offenses while under parole supervision.

The statistics regarding juvenile offenders present a similar picture. Juveniles were involved in 16 percent of all violent crime arrests and 32 percent of all property crime arrests in 1999. Based on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP's) Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement, an estimated 100,000 youth are released from secure and residential facilities every year and, because the length of incarceration for juveniles is shorter than for adults, a relatively greater percentage of juveniles return to the community each year. In addition, research indicates that a small percentage of juvenile offenders commit the overwhelming majority of juvenile crime.

Some correctional officialsunder pressure to cut costs-have curtailed prison programs and services that could ameliorate factors that place inmates at higher risk of recidivism after release. Tougher sentencing laws have, in some cases, removed or limited inmates' incentives to enter available treatment programs. Long, fixed prison terms for serious offenders can sometimes have the perverse effect of returning the most risky offenders to the community with the least control and supervision. There is sometimes little continuity between institutional programs and activities, offenders' reentry plans, and the supervision and services they receive once released.

These offenders, making these communities less safe, less desirable places to live, victimize communities of law-abiding citizens. Research has shown that criminal behavior can be predicted for individual offenders on the basis of certain factors. Some factors, such as criminal history, are static and unchangeable. Others, such as substance abuse, antisocial attitudes, and antisocial associates, are dynamic and changeable. With proper assessment of these factors, researchers and practitioners can classify groups of offenders according to their relative likelihood of committing new offenses with as much as 80 percent accuracy. Application of the risk principle requires matching levels or intensity of treatment/supervision with the risk levels of offenders. High-risk offenders require intensive interventions to reduce recidivism. Since the return of these high-risk adult and juvenile offenders is imminent, corrections, law enforcement, and community service agencies should collaborate to monitor offenders while assisting them in the development and implementation of a concrete, specific reentry plan. Unless communities do this, they will continue to be victimized by these offenders.

Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative

The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative-which was developed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (OJP), in conjunction with the federal partners-is a comprehensive effort that addresses both juvenile and adult populations of serious, high-risk offenders. It provides funding to develop, implement, enhance, and evaluate reentry strategies that will ensure the safety of the community and the reduction of serious, violent crime. …

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