by Caitlin Huston
The number of people returning to jail after being released has gone down significantly for the second year in a row.
According to data from the Indiana Department of Correction, 36 percent of offenders who were incarcerated in 2009 returned to custody as of 2012. Community Correction leaders say the numbers have been going down for the past three to four years because of programs like work release and evaluations of the inmates’ needs.
The recidivism rate was at a high of 39.3 percent in 2010, and decreased to 37.9 percent in 2011, before resting at 36.1 percent in 2012.
Douglas S. Garrison, chief communications officer for the IDOC, said these numbers are significant for the program.
“This is a fairly big jump for us,” Garrison said.
Garrison said they believe facility programs focused on substance abuse, education and employment have helped inmates be rehabilitated.
“What we’re doing in preparing them for coming back and working,” Garrison said.
A lack of employment, in particular, is one of the leading reasons that offenders will re-offend, Garrison said.
Garrison added that sending more class D felons to community programs, rather than IDOC, could have lowered the rate.
“That could have an effect on our recidivism rate,” Garrison said.
At Cass-Pulaski Community Corrections, Director Dave Wegner said he believes recidivism rates are lowered because of the wealth of options offered to the inmates when they come in.
Inmates go through a risk-needs assessment when they enter the system and then are assigned to work release, in-home detention or probation, or some programming like anger management or drug treatment. Inmates can also obtain a GED or other education credit, Wegner said.
“We develop the catalog to specifically address the needs when they come in,” Wegner said.
High-risk offenders are required to complete 200 hours of classes, he said.
However, Wegner said the lowered recidivism rate could also be because people who violate their work release or other program aren’t sent directly to jail.
“Most of them come back through here before they go back to DOC,” Wegner said.
Garrison agreed, saying that they’re seeking sanctions like taking away credit for technical violations.
“We’re trying to emphasize more swift sanctions,” Garrison said.
However, both Garrison and Wegner noted that the recidivism rate isn’t yet where they’d like it to be.
“The sad fact is that a number of people who come out of prison will come back,” Garrison said.
Wegner said it’s a “long process” to help clients change their ways of thinking.
“With our clientele, they have a lifetime of patterns of thinking and behaviors,” Wegner said.
Cass Superior Court II Judge Rick Maughmer also said he’s seen a lot of the same people in court, especially people who have committed misdemeanors.
“We have a lot of repeat offenders,” Maughmer said.
To help further lower the recidivism rate, Garrison said the DOC is working to offer more mentoring programs as people transition into the community.
“We’re going to do more in mentoring offenders that get out of prison,” Garrison said.
Ideally he said they’d like to get the number under 30 percent.
Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or email@example.com.
For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition.