RSS
 

Reducing Recidivism is Key for Families, Communities & Taxpayers

04 Oct

On any given day in America, more than 2 million people are incarcerated, according to a prison study conducted by the bipartisan Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons (Confronting Confinement).  Over the course of a year, 13.5 million spend time in prison or jail.  For many, it is not their first time.
Why do ex-offenders recidivate?  Most  inmates dream of a different life on the outside.  They plan to reunite with family, to get a good job, and lead a responsible life.  Most never intend to return to illegal drugs or alcohol and the problems their addictions led them to experience.  So how does it happen that over 40% of ex-offenders end up returning to prison within 3 years of their release? Among state prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 about two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years.

There is plenty of debate over the reasons for high rates of recidivism.  The causes cited range from the inherent problem of exposure to other criminals while in prison to insufficient education and rehabilitation programs in prisons to lack of support once released.  All of these and more certainly contribute to the problem.

What we do know is that the problem needs to be addressed.  The average cost of prison is approximately $30,000 per person annually.  The Federal Bureau of Prison’s 2014 annual budget is $6,936 million (43,361 positions; 20,911 correctional officers).   Among the 40 states that participated in a survey conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice, the cost of prisons was $39 billion in fiscal year 2010, $5.4 billion more than what their corrections budgets reflected.  Reducing recidivism offers significant potential savings to taxpayers and greater safety in our communities.

While the volunteers involved with the Women Moving Forward (WMF) conference are aware of the significant costs of prison, it is actually a more human aspect that drives them to continue to invest time and resources into the program.  They care.  They care about the women, approximately 65% of whom are mothers.  They care about the children of those mothers and they want to interrupt the cycle of crime and incarceration.  Children who have a parent in prison are five times more likely than their peers to commit crimes.

When asked why Dr. Shawn Flower, Principal Researcher at Choice Research Associates, volunteers her time to the WMF conference, she says, “I believe that opportunity is the key to success.  The Women Moving Forward conference provides these women with the opportunity to obtain information that may help them to successfully return to the community.  It is not a panacea – but it is a start.”  Choice Research Associates focuses their research on issues pertaining to prisoner re-entry, female offenders, community corrections, and program evaluation.

The WMF Re-Entry Conference will be held on October 11, 2014 at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Maryland.  The conference will provide much needed information on how to find a job and a place to live, how to get IDs and Driver’s License, and how to continue Alcohol and Narcotics Anonymous support.  WMF gathers leaders and motivators to give mini-workshops to inspire the inmates who are going to be free within 9 months and to steel them against the temptations that will land them in trouble.   Perhaps the most important element is that the same judge that handed down a sentence is now lending a hand for success.

The Women Moving Forward Conference, a collaborative Reentry Program for Women at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, conference was initiated by the National Association of Women Judges(NAWJ) in 2008 and has been held annually since.  It is funded through contributions from companies and individuals. To support this effort, go to http://wmfmd.org/donations.html.

 


 

Shawn M. Flower, Ph.D. is the Principal Researcher of Choice Research Associates, providing criminal justice research services that focus on issues of prisoner re-entry, female offenders, community corrections, and program evaluation which employ rigorous methodologies. Dr. Flower has worked as a Program Evaluator in the field of Criminal Justice Research since 2002 and has a solid foundation working with program administrators, direct service providers, and funding agencies. In her work, she conducts both process and outcome evaluations of a variety of programs including prisoner reentry, BJA/SAMHSA funded enhancement services project for Baltimore City District Drug Treatment Court participants, and services for at risk populations including the unemployed and public housing residents. In conducting these evaluations, Dr. Flower often employs a model of researcher-practitioner collaboration called the Program Development Evaluation (PDE) method, developed by Drs. Gary and Denise Gottfredson. Dr. Flower also provides research services and policy and strategic planning support to state, local, and national criminal justice agencies.

Dr. Flower also works with Justice Research Statistics Association as a Research Associate on the National Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center project and is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Governmental Service and Research (IGSR) working on a project-by-project basis..

In April 2009, Dr. Flower was appointed to the State of Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Female Offender Management Workgroup, and served on the Program Quality Subcommittee. In 2010, Dr. Flower was selected as the Chair of this workgroup and conducts quarterly meetings to discuss the needs and issues related to women offenders along the criminal justice continuum. Dr. Flower has also served as a board member for the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women College Degree Program since 2010. This program provides incarcerated women the opportunity to participate in college classes. Dr. Flower also served on the Montgomery County Pre-Release Center Community Advisory Board from 2007 to 2012.

Since 2008, Dr. Flower has been the evaluator for the Women Moving Forward Conference, (see www.wmfmd.org) sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges and held each year at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. Dr. Flower has also been involved as a steering committee member and in 2011, served as Co-Chair of the conference. This annual day-long event provides approximately 125 women with the opportunity to attend workshops focused on re-entry issues including housing, education, mental health counseling and available resources, as well as providing an opportunity to participate in job interviews.

For more on Dr. Flower, see About Dr. Flower.

 

 

Leave a Reply