Prisoner re-entry programs getting government funding should be required to commission high-quality, independent scientific evaluations, says criminologist James Byrne of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Testifying last week before the U.S. House subcommittee that handles Justice Department appropriations, Byrne said the lack of good evaluations of such programs so far means that corrections advocates are unable to cite “best practices” to support their requests for more funds. Byrne testified during three days of hearings held by the panel on prison issues in anticipation of more federal funding available for re-entry in the next fiscal year under the new Second Chance Act.
Byrne also said that re-entry programs that focus only on individual offendes may not produce significant reductions in recidivism “unless we also address the need to transform the “high risk” communities in which offenders reside. In a story published earlier this week on Connecticut recidivism study, Crime & Justice News reported an incorrect figure on recidivism rates associated with a state prisoner re-entry program. The recidivism of ex-inmates who completed the program within six months was 8 percent, compared with 34 percent for those who started but didn’t finish and 42 percent for nonparticipants.