Lawmakers Push To Reduce Prisoner Recidivism

From Vermont Public Radio
Dec 20, 2011
John Dillon

(Host) Vermont has set ambitious goals to cut the number of prisoners who return to jail.
The effort to reduce the recidivism rate is still in the study phase. But officials say it’s critical to control the spiraling cost of corrections.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:
(Dillon) Right now, 43 percent of Vermont prisoners released from jail are incarcerated again within three years.

The Legislature recognized that the high rate of returning prisoners makes corrections one of the fastest growing areas of state government. Lawmakers passed a bill last winter called the War on Recidivism act. But that war is still very much in the planning stage. The first step was research.

(Schlueter) “I think the good news is that there are many successful programs in each and every one of the topics that you asked us to look at that are successful or at least promising in terms of reducing recidivism.”

(Dillon) Max Schlueter is director of the Vermont Center for Justice Research. He oversaw a study that looked at recidivism prevention programs around the country and in Vermont.
Schlueter says Vermont has been a leader in certain areas.

(Schlueter) “Closer to home, I think it’s safe to say that the Department of Corrections and its community partners have long embraced notions of evidence-based programming and in particular probably one of the most essential evidence based practice, the use of risk assessment.”

(Dillon) Dick Sears is a senator from Bennington who chairs both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Corrections Oversight Committee.

He says lawmakers want to reduce recidivism over the next three years from 43 percent to 30 percent.
(Sears) “And that may not sound startling but that reduces the number of crimes committed, reduces a lot of things, and the human toll and toll on victims and so forth.”

(Dillon) Sears sees the war on recidivism as part of a progression of reforms designed to reduce the corrections population and control costs.

(Sears) We started out talking about reducing the number of out of state beds. Now we’re talking about really reducing crime further and reducing the repeat offender. And that’s critical.

(Dillon) Vermont now has 522 prisoners doing time in prisons out of state.
Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito told the oversight committee that he’s working on initiatives that should cut that number over the next several years.

(Pallito) “We have a series of proposals in the 2013 budget that will bring our of out of state population, will continue to bring it down. I think you’ll be impressed when you see the totality of what we’re thinking.”

(Dillon) Pallito says the recidivism study is just the start of a multi-year effort. And he says a first step was agreeing on a common definition of recidivism so policy makers can track progress and see how Vermont compares to other states.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

Advertisements