Will Prisoners Make Use Of Re-Entry Programs?


Now that the federal government is pouring more aid into prisoner re-entry efforts under the Second Chance Act, will the inmates take part? A study of a Connecticut re-entry program found that only 18 percent of convicts completed it successfully. Of inmates eligible for “transition services,” 38 percent didn’t even appear for their initial session and 16 percent came at least once but later dropped out, said Damon Mitchell of Central Connecticut State University.

Mitchell reported his results at the annual meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, which concluded Saturday in Boston. Recidivism rates were lower for those who finished the program–8% compared with 34% for those who started but didn’t finish and 42% for nonparticipants. Why did the departing inmates not make use of the services they were offered? Mitchell hypothesized that they overestimated their chances of getting jobs after release. That seemed to coincide with another re-entry study presented by Stephen Haas of the West Virginia Statistical Analysis Center. Haas found that more than 80 percent of surveyed inmates believed they were “prepared to get a job upon release,” which Haas believes is too optimistic in many cases. At least in West Virginia, prison staff members are not doing enough to help prisoners prepare for re-entry, Haas said. He concluded that “the quality of interpersonal relationships between staff and inmates was poor” and that many inmates said staff “did not view their problems realistically.”

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