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March 28, 2009

Reducing returns to prison

Indiana’s recidivism rates decline for third consecutive year

BUNKER HILL — Although some offenders end up back in prison a second, third or even fourth time, the Indiana Department of Correction is making headway in reducing that frequency.

According to a recent study, Indiana’s recidivism rates have declined for the third consecutive year. The number of offenders incarcerated within three years of their release from a state correctional institution has dropped to 37.4 percent from 37.8 percent the previous year.

Offenders were included in the study upon their release either through community transition program, probation, parole or discharge. Once out, an offender was counted in the study if he or she returned to prison for a new conviction or a technical violation of parole.

For offenders released in 2005, 37.4 percent returned to prison within three years, which is lower than the 2004 recidivism rate of 37.8 percent. Rates for 2002 and 2003 were 39.2 percent and 38.6 percent. During those four years, the demographics of the offenders studied remained consistent.

DOC officials attribute the improving recidivism numbers to their focus on the successful re-entry of offenders.

At the Miami Correctional Facility, offenders are offered multiple programs aimed at rehabilitation.

Public information officer Ann Hubbard says the DOC tries to make its prisons more than just a place to house criminals. If they choose, inmates can work on issues such as substance abuse and anger management. They can take classes on fatherhood and on character and faith development.

“You can see a change in men who get involved in these programs,” Hubbard said. “They change their way of thinking. They realize there is more to life than just themselves and they realize what they’ve done to other people.”

To ensure an offender leads a lawful life once released, DOC tries to instill the tools needed for success outside prison walls. Hubbard believes that approach is good for all Indiana communities.

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