« Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decided one Indiana case yesterday, a must read on independent research by judges [Updated] | Main | Ind. Courts - More on: ESPN files its brief in its state court appeal to obtain access to the reports of the Notre Dame police »

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Indiana struggling to reduce prison recidivism"

The ILB has reported this week on the Tuesday meeting of the legislative Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code's consideration of a proposal to collect DNA of all arrestees.

But the bulk of the meeting was devoted to another topic, this agenda item:

The problems faced by offenders when the offenders are: (1) released from a penal facility; and (2) attempting to find employment; including studying the possibility of establishing programs to encourage employers to hire these offenders.
Dan Carden covers this topic today in his NWI Times story, "Indiana struggling to reduce prison recidivism." (The ILB watched much of the Tuesday hearing and recommends the archived video of the testimony at the Aug. 18th meeting.) Some quotes:
State lawmakers learned Tuesday that Indiana has numerous in-prison and post-prison training and job programs that improve the lives of Hoosier offenders and significantly reduce recidivism, saving taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

However, only a fraction of the 20,000 men and women annually released from the Department of Correction participate in the services due to limited state financial support, staffing, space and business cooperation.

"We are not funding and we're not doing what we should be doing if we are going to be serious about this," said state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, a member of the General Assembly's study committee on corrections.

That panel is tasked with devising potential legislative solutions to improve the transition from prison to society and reduce the 36.7 percent of felons who end up back in prison within three years of leaving.

While state prison officials told lawmakers there is no single answer, the programs they offer to offenders — including education courses, intensive drug counseling and apprenticeship training — routinely cut recidivism by one-third to one-half for active participants.

"It's one thing to lock somebody up and confine them and make sure they don't get out, but to change who they are from the inside out is a lot tougher thing. That takes the programs you've heard about ... combined with work," said Doug Evans, manager of PEN Products, the state's in-prison manufacturing program. * * *

But even if an offender is trained for work behind bars and ready to re-enter society, he or she almost immediately must deal with a host of practical problems relating to housing, transportation, health insurance, child care and family life on the outside.

Pam Ferguson, assistant superintendent of Rockville Correctional Facility, said the staff at her women's prison strive to wrap services around female inmates from the day they enter, to prepare them for the day they'll leave, and many times it's still not enough.

She said the state should establish a network of safe houses in major cities where newly released inmates could be reunited with their children and have a free or low-cost place to live while they start work, enroll their kids in school or daycare and just get on their feet.

"If I had a magic wand we'd have a house that was safe for her and her children," Ferguson said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 20, 2015 09:30 AM
Posted to Indiana Government