A series of horrific crimes three decades ago by inmates on temporary release resulted in a cutback of such programs that hampered successful prisoner re-entry into society, President Jeremy Travis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice writes in the New York Times. Virtually all prisoners are eventually released; two-thirds are rearrested within three years, and almost half those arrests occur within the first six months. When New York clamped down on temporary releases, it curtailed the programs that provide support when failure rates are highest.
Only nine of New York’s 70 correctional facilities offer temporary release programs now. Fewer than four percent of inmates participate. Travis urges a drive to seek significant reductions in the rearrest rates of everyone leaving prison, not just those assigned to special programs. Support and supervision resources should be shifted to the front end of the re-entry period, he says. “In short, we should align resources with risk, and invest in proven interventions that reduce new arrests during this critical transition period,” Travis writes. This year, more than 25,000 men and women will be released from New York prisons. Re-entry programs cannot prevent all reoffending but can reduce crime overall by helping inmates return home safely, he says.