Monday, January 24, 2005

New Strategies for Curbing Recidivism

US: State and federal lawmakers are finally realizing that controlling prison costs means controlling recidivism - by helping newly released people establish viable lives once they get out of jail.

A report just out from a group of 100 policy makers, including elected officials, established by the Council of State Governments argues that the country needs to reinvent its corrections system.

In the place of a system that locks people up and shoves them out the door when their sentences are finished, the report, by the Re-Entry Policy Council, envisions "re-entry" services that reintegrate ex-offenders into their communities.

This line of thinking is long overdue. The United States has 2.1 million people behind bars on any given day - nearly seven times the number three decades ago. Corrections costs have risen accordingly - from about $9 billion a year two decades ago to more than $60 billion a year today - making corrections the second-fastest-growing expense in state budgets, after Medicaid.

The portrait of the inmate population offered in the report leaves no doubt as to why two-thirds of the people who leave prison are rearrested within a few years. These people were marginally employable before they went to jail - nearly half earned less than $600 a month. They are even less employable afterward, thanks to criminal records. In addition, many of them suffer from mental illnesses that often go untreated after release.

The social services necessary for successful re-entry are virtually nonexistent in most communities. The new report offers an exhaustive prescription for changing the status quo: states will need to coax disparate parts of their systems to work together.

State officials will also have to re-educate voters, who have grown accustomed to a corrections philosophy that begins and ends with merely locking people up for the longest possible period of time.

These policies will need to change, and quickly, if the states are to solve the recidivism problem and develop programs that help former inmates find homes, training, jobs and places in their communities. Until that happens, corrections costs will continue to soar, siphoning off billions of dollars that could be used for more constructive purposes.


Our authors share the pain and violence of their pasts, their present existence in the sterility and brutality of prison, and their hopes for a future of freedom. They also share their remorse and the changes they have undergone in their resolve to find self-worth and value in their lives. Their goal in this very difficult task is to help us understand the roots of crime and recidivism and the factors that encourage crime prevention and habilitation.

"It is the height of arrogance and folly to ignore any person, regardless of prior bad acts, who is attempting to articulate a message of hope and redemption."

(Steve J. Martin)

Illustration: The Crime Zone

By Just Us posted 24 January 05



Prison System Fails Women, Study Says
State policies designed for violent men make female offenders' rehabilitation difficult, an oversight panel finds. "If we fail to intervene effectively in the lives of these women and their children now, California will pay the cost for generations to come," said Commissioner Teddie Ray, chairwoman of the subcommittee that produced the report.

Child Offenders on Death Row
Recent Australian studies of alcohol and cannabis use show that girls are increasingly inclined to behave boldly. But boys out number the girls, two to one; and three to one in the juvenile justice system, mortality figures, speeding infringements and car crash statistics.

Restorative Justice and the Law
To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe."-- Marilyn vos Savant.

Restorative Justice Practices
Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation and Other Indigenous People of North America. This is part one in a series of articles about restorative justice practices of Native American, First Nation and other indigenous people of North America. The series is not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather a broad thematic overview. A related eForum article, "The Wet'suwet'en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program: Restorative Practices in British Columbia, Canada," can be read at:

The Long Trail to Apology
Native America: All manner of unusual things can happen in Washington in an election year, but few seem so refreshing as a proposed official apology from the federal government to American Indians - the first ever - for the "violence, maltreatment and neglect" inflicted upon the tribes for centuries.

England and Wales

Winning goals: Rethinking Crime and Punishment
I would reallocate resources within the prison service budget to give a higher priority to rehabilitation, retraining for future employment, and an improvement in literacy standards. During my own prison journey I was struck by the astoundingly high levels of illiteracy among prisoners. Tests show that about a third of all prisoners read and write at skill levels below those of 11-year-old schoolchildren.

London police may moor prison ship on Thames
UK: The London police are holding discussions about possibly mooring a prison ship on the River Thames in a bid to ease pressure on the spiralling prisoner population.

Prisons accused of ignoring age trend
UK: A 70-year-old prisoner who uses a wheelchair has to pay "unofficial helpers" six chocolate bars a week to help him get around and to collect his meals, according to an investigation by the chief inspector of prisons into the growing number of elderly inmates.

Scandal of society's misfits dumped in jail
Up to 70% of inmates in Britain's jails have mental health disorders. In the first of a three-part series, Nick Davies hears their shocking stories.


Prison boom will prove a social bust
Hardened criminals are not filling NSW's prisons - the mentally ill and socially disadvantaged are, writes Eileen Baldry.

Isolation, psychiatric treatment and prisoner' control
The 2003 NSW Corrections Health Service (now Justice Health) Report on Mental Illness Among NSW Prisoners states that the 12 month prevalence of any psychiatric disorder in prison is 74%, compared to 22% in the general community, and while this includes substance disorder the high rate cannot be attributed to that alone.

Where the Norm is Not the Norm: HARM-U
In the absence of public policy, this paper is an attempt to shine a light through the rhetoric and test for coherency in the policy and function of NSW’s only supermax prison, the High Risk Management Unit. Its present use will be compared with the ‘vision’ flogged by the Premier and the Department of Corrective Services (the Department) at its inception in 2001.

Crime and Punishment
Mark Findlay argues that the present psychological approach to prison programs is increasing the likelihood of re-offending and the threat to community safety.

Government justice not personal justice
Mr Brett Collins of Justice Action said, "Victims should be looked after properly by implementing restorative justice measures and victims should be compensated for their pain and suffering. " However prisoners are entitled to serve their sentences in peace and privacy as well."

Sentencing: Violent crime and practical outcomes
In addition introducing restorative justice programs giving the offender a chance to interact with the offended person if they wish and visa-versa. People are not "dogmatic" therefore should be given a second chance opposed to Life means Life!

Carr Govt dramatic increases in the NSW prisoner pop...
Following the opening of the 500 bed Kempsey prison, and a new 200-bed prison for women at Windsor the Council of Social Service of NSW (NCOSS) and community organisations specialising in the rehabilitation of prisoners, have expressed concern....

New Zealand

More jails will create more crime says expert
NZ: Once a world leader in restorative justice, New Zealand is regressing by locking more people up for longer, visiting expert Sir Charles Pollard says.