Research shows that the 72 hours after a prisoner’s release are critical, says the Boston Globe. Those first few days offer a window when an ex-convict can sometimes be set on the path toward rejoining society, rather than returning to associations, activities, and behaviors that are all but certain to steer them back to crime and incarceration. The stakes are high for the state, which has seen its prison population triple since the 1980s and now spends nearly $600 million a year to keep 11,000 people in state prisons. Johnny Chheng and Jonathan Lunde of a Lowell, Ma., prisoner re-entry nonprofit say their success rate in helping gang members resist the undertow is good: just 15 percent of the young people they work with return to jail.
In Massachusetts, six of every 10 young people released from prison commits a new crime within six years, says MassINC, a Boston think tank. Many reoffend early in their release; a California study found that almost one-third of parolees there were rearrested within 30 days of release. Anne Morrison Piehl, a Rutgers University economics professor who has studied the effects of incarceration, said getting and holding a job — especially a good job — is an effective way to reduce recidivism. But a job alone is not the answer to the riddle of whether a former inmate can change. “The challenges are serious,” Piehl said.