The Indiana Department of Correction is expanding programs to help inmates reintegrate into society after their release from prison, the Associated Press reports. Prisoners’ rights groups say the initiative is unprecedented. Over the past two years, the state has added $2.5 million to the budget for re-entry and work-release programs for inmates. The department has reclassified and shifted jobs to focus more employees on community corrections duties that will help ex-cons adjust to life after prison.
The state has had a 40 percent rate of recidivism within three years of release. At that rate, about 5,600 of the 14,000 inmates released last year by Indiana’s prison system would return behind bars. The state’s plan sounds like the sort of support system that prisoner advocates have been urging for decades, said Celia Sweet of the national prisoner rights group Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants, or CURE. “Re-entry is kind of a new animal around here,” she said. “If the public knew what happens to these guys when they get out, they wouldn’t believe it.” Sweet said more than 90 percent of prisoners will be freed, at least for a while, and everyone benefits if former inmates stay on the straight and narrow. “These people are going to be your neighbors one day,” she said. “Do you want them to be educated, or do you want them to be desperate? It’s going to be worse for everyone if they’re angry.”