Bradford Co. one of the best, but recidivism needs to continue to improve statewide
Bradford Co. one of the best,
but recidivism needs to continue to improve statewide
Going to prison is awful; returning after being released is even worse. Recidivism also is terrible for taxpayers, given that the annual cost of incarceration is about $30,000 per prisoner.
Keeping people out of prison is one of the nation's most vexing problems in terms of its cost to governments at all levels and of mass incarceration's impact on society. The U.S. Bureau of Corrections has eclipsed the FBI as the largest bureau within the Department of Justice; corrections has been the fastest growing segment of the state budget for a decade.
It is heartening, then, that Pennsylvania has made substantial progress against recidivism during the Rendell and Corbett administrations, under the guidance of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.
The Justice Center of the Council of State Governments recently cited Pennsylvania as one of eight states that have made substantial progress. The statewide recidivism rate declined by 7.1 percent from 2007 through 2010, not yet reflecting innovative programs established by Mr. Wetzel.
For example, a new program under which halfway house contractors receive bonuses tied to reduced recidivism has produced results. Most prisoners are released from prisons to halfway houses before their final releases. Since 2010, the rate of recidivism has dropped by 16 percent for the first six months after prisoners leave halfway houses.
The administration has been committed to the improvements since taking office. It canceled the construction of two new planned prisons and focused on reducing the inmate population. According to the Justice Center, the improved recidivism performance so far is equivalent to keeping 500 people out of prison - about half of a typical prison population.
The results have not been uniform across the state. Bradford County has one of the lowest rearrest and reincarceration rates in Pennsylvania, a 42 percent recidivism rate. But nearby Lackawanna County is in the top 10 for rearrests and reincarceration of inmates - a roughly 60 percent recidivism rate.
But as the center noted, the new report reflects the early results of the anti-recidivism focus, and even better results are likely.
This is a case study in a policy shift producing substantially improved results on the street, an effort that should continue regardless of the outcome of this year's elections.