Former prisoners in Massachusetts are sent back behind bars at a significantly lower rate than the national average, says a new study from the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute and the Massachusetts Department of Correction finds. Thirty-nine percent of the 1,786 male inmates the state released in 2002 were in prison again within three years, compared with the national average of 53 percent. Interviews with 178 men who returned to prison show that substance use and employment instability ranked among their greatest challenges.
During their initial incarceration, 96 percent of those interviewed participated in an in-prison program, and 76 percent had received help preparing for their return to society. Back in the community, few used any local programs or services. Substance abuse rates were high after release, especially among those without parole supervision. Drug sales were the most common self-reported crime after illegal drug use. Twenty-eight percent reported dealing drugs, and a quarter of those did so within 48 hours of release. Committing a violent crime is not a good predictor of a higher risk to reoffend, the study said. Forty-three percent of nonviolent offenders returned to prison, compared with 36 percent of violent offenders. Property offenders were back in prison at the highest rate: 57 percent.