Magazine article Corrections Forum

Attacking Recidivism

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Attacking Recidivism

Article excerpt

A Q&A with Warden Craig A. Lowe, Pike County Correctional Facility, Lords Valley, Pennsylvania

When an inmate doesn't participate in programs to reduce recidivism, this tough warden won't recommend parole.

Warden Craig A. Lowe, Pike County Correctional Facility, (Lords Valley, Penn.), started his career as a correctional officer and worked his way up through the system. Lowe was hurt on duty during a cell extraction, injuring his knee quite badly, which in turn served as a wake-up call. Lowe realized that a system that resulted in officers like him grappling with inmates had to change, and he had to be a part of that change. Lowe continued to move up through the ranks until he became warden of the Pike County Correctional Facility in May 2003. Corrections Forum caught up with him in his offices.

CF: Why does the system have to change?

CL: "This whole theory of being tough on crime has really backfired. If you take a look at the statistics, second to Russia, we have the highest inmate population in the world. We keep building new facilities and the taxpayers are bearing the brunt of it. That should tell you that something is wrong, there is a flaw in the system. We have progressed over the last ten or fifteen years, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

"This whole punishment ideology, locking them up and throwing away the key, and not giving them the programs to help them transition into society, will have a ripple effect on society.

"It was equally important to be provided the time to attain the goals I had envisioned. The Commissioners recognized my viewpoints and responded by granting me a contract for five years, which is pretty unheard of. Now that I had been assured of a suitable time span, I knew I could accomplish what was needed with the right people. I must say I'm fortunate for having two outstanding Assistant Wardens who support my viewpoints and work diligently to meet the goals we have set for the future. They both began their careers in corrections at Pike County, and both have progressed through the ranks from officer to sergeant to lieutenant, to their current positions as assistant wardens. Along with the rest of our facility support staff, we have a good core group to pursue our goals."

CF: What are you doing to change things?

CL: "In this facility, we've started different programs to attack recidivism. We've implemented the A.R.R.O.W. program-Actively Reducing Recidivism Opens Windows. We are at about the national average, about 70%, which inundates the court system, causes transport issues for the Sheriff and the DA's office is packed with the same people over and over. We also offer the C.O.R.E. (Correctional Offenders Reintegrating Effectively) program for the male inmates and the H.O.P.E. (Helping Offenders Promote Excellence) program for female inmates. The current county recidivism rate for inmates who completed the A.R.R.O.W./H.O.P.E. Programs now hovers around 6%."

CF: Why should the public care?

CL: "I look at it as a security issue for the public. When you talk about individuals who are incarcerated and just lock them up, and you don't give them a program to get them ready to rejoin society, you are doing citizens an injustice. They just go out and commit more crimes, and that means more victims. That's another failure of our system.

"We have to treat these people as human beings, not like animals that are just to be caged up. In the long run, the public is going to be safer. When we are talking dollars and cents, we haven't spent a dollar on these programs. They have been created with our time and the time of volunteers. At the end of the year, we have a dinner to recognize all the volunteers, to thank them for their efforts."

CF: How does combating recidivism impact your bottom line?

CL: At the Pike County Correctional Facility we sell our empty bed space to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the United States Marshal Service. …

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