To control recidivism and have a shot at controlling prison crowding and costs, states and localities must develop comprehensive programs that help former inmates find jobs, housing, training, drug treatment, and mental health care, editorializes the New York Times. It cites a promising model in Brooklyn, where District Attorney Charles Hynes started a re-entry program long before other jurisdictions even realized they were necessary.
Created in 1999, Brooklyn’s ComAlert was studied by the D.A.’s office and criminologist Bruce Western of Harvard. The study found that former inmates are more likely to get jobs and keep jobs – and more likely to remain out of jail – if they undergo a rigorous regime of counseling and drug treatment while participating in a companion program that offers them immediate work experience and job training. ComAlert graduates are less likely be re-arrested after leaving prison and much more likely to be employed than either program dropouts or members of the control group. Participants who complete the work-training component do even better. Despite flaws, says the Times, the program is headed in the right direction and deserves to be expanded and emulated elsewhere.