By increasing inmate participation in pre-release education and more contact with parolees on the street, Utah prison officials say recidivism rates have dropped by 9 percent over the past 18 months, saving taxpayers an estimated $5 million, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
Under the Re-Entry Initiative, inmates are identified six months before their scheduled released. “Ninety-five percent of these inmates are going to get out of prison,” said Utah State Prison Warden Clint Friel. “Where are they going to live?” About 48 percent of those paroled return to confinement within a year; the number jumps to 68 percent after three years. Under thhe re-entry program, the rate declined from 48 to 39 percent over a year and a half.
Prison officials credit a focus on living skills like how to balance a checkbook, pay bills, obtain a valid ID and a pre-release assessment of an inmate’s education levels, housing needs, and employment potential.
One motivation for the program has been $23 million in budget cuts over three years, forcing a reduction in the number of prisoners. On average, it costs the state $62 a day per inmate. Managing a parolee costs $6 a day. The state now looks after 5,800 inmates, 3,000 parolees, and 12,000 probationers. A positive behavior reward system shuttles inmates through school, vocational training, and rehabilitation programs; the system has contributed to a 20 percent drop in disciplinary actions against inmates.