What does it really take to keep a person from going back to prison? Let’s see. Resources that work, perhaps faith and prayers, a change in peers or environment, and, most important of all, the willingness and commitment of the offender to do what it takes to make that change.
But, like the war on drugs, we’ve been foundering on the sea of inertia in recent decades as more and more folks not only head to lockup but also continue to return. It seems for too long the Department of Corrections has required a name change to Department of Baby-Sitting.
Given that up to 95 percent of offenders eventually return to society, we need to do better. According to one major study, two-thirds of offenders are arrested again within three years of their release. In Minnesota, up to 36 percent of offenders are sent back to prison for a felony within three years of release, pretty much mirroring the national situation.
That’s costly. So the recession is in one way the best thing that ever happened to community re-entry efforts for offenders. Faced in recent years with shrinking state prison budgets and a rising prison population, both budget-conscious politicians and corrections officials are pushing harder than ever to support cost-effective and evidence-based re-entry initiatives that work.
And — I say this cautiously but with some optimism, since, like you, I’m paying for some of this — at least one of them seems to be making some promising inroads in the Gopher State.