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5 programs actively reducing recidivism rates

How can we limit our prison population, and save money in our prison system?


Female prisoner


By Megan Wells, Police1 Contributor

The United States has the highest population of incarcerated individuals in the world, and as you can imagine, the cost of maintaining a prison population of this size is massive.

For the year 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that an estimated 6,741,400 total persons were supervised by the US adult correctional system or approximately 1 in 37 adults. The budget to maintain the prison population is around $74 billion. Unfortunately, the data indicates that individuals who have been released often end up being incarcerated again.

A comprehensive study conducted in 2005 found that over two-thirds of released prisoners were arrested again within 3 years and over three-fourths were arrested again within 5 years.

With statistics like these, it is increasingly important to get creative in order to reduce recidivism. Reducing the recidivism rate nationally could offer numerous benefits. Here are five programs that succeed in guiding released prisoners to new paths.

1. Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP)

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is a nonprofit organization that connects released felons with executives and entrepreneurs. This re-entry program focuses on teaching leadership and innovation skills. Since the program began in 2004, there have been over 1,300 graduates who begun careers with starting wages 60 percent higher than the minimum wage and almost 100 percent are still employed 12 months after their release.

Most importantly, the recidivism rate for graduates is below 7 percent, which is far below the national average.

2. Community Bridges FACT Team

Statistics show that up to half of our prison population suffers from mental illness. Community Bridges in the Phoenix area offers help to individuals in a variety of ways like coordinating treatments plans and/or locating housing options. the FACT team also helps their clients secure benefits and employment.

The program has reduced in the number of arrests, incarceration days and hospitalizations of participants. As of January 2015, the program had an 85 percent success rate in preventing its clients from returning to jail.

3. Delancey Street Foundation

The Delancey Street Foundation is a residential self-help program dedicated to assisting drug addicts, ex-convicts, ex-gang members, and homeless individuals.

Delancey Street provides residents with skills that can be used in a job market and education that makes employment possible. Since its founding 40 years ago, over 10,000 men and women have graduated into society as taxpaying citizens leading successful lives. Along with recidivism, other risk factors have been substantially reduced for participants, including drug use, and overall well-being.

4. SAFER Foundation

The Safer Foundation has been operating for over 44 years in the state of Illinois and has always focused on helping individuals with criminal records and reducing recidivism. According to Loyola University in Chicago, participants in the program that have achieved employment upon re-entering society are 58 percent less likely to return to prison than without the help of SAFER.

Through their programs, SAFER helps over 300 individuals earn their GED annually; they have a network of over 400 employers that hire participants and they were able to match 4,200 individuals to positions in 2014.

Their PACE Program begins by offering a curriculum within the Cook County Department of Corrections and upon release; SAFER provides housing, training and employment assistance.

5. The Last Mile

This program is based out of San Quentin State Prison in California. The Last Mile teaches prisoners about technology, digital communication, and business. The Last Mile offers a program called Code.7370 where students are taught computer code. In 2015, the inmates were offered actual entry-level front-end coding positions from companies outside the prison walls. Programs like the ones San Quentin prison leads have as low as a 7.1 percent recidivism rate.

Recidivism comes with a high price tag. Lessening our prison population by lowering recidivism rates has the potential to decrease the current cost of the prison system.