Reentry Housing Program Coordinator Nelson Simao, 508-650-4559
Prisoner Reentry Throughout the Past Decade
The Governor's Commission on Criminal Justice Innovation highlighted the public safety crisis surrounding prisoner re-entry that has reached epidemic levels across the nation, where each year approximately 600,000 inmates are returning back to the communities from jails and prisons. Sixty-two percent of those inmates are expected to be re-arrested within three years. Massachusetts is not immune to this problem, where approximately 20,000 inmates return home each year from incarceration, often without receiving appropriate treatment while incarcerated or establishing a solid release plan for post-release supervision. Worse yet, under current sentencing practices, nearly half of all state inmates, who have historically been categorized as the most serious and violent offenders, have no post-release supervision at the end of their sentence and simply leave the prison setting without either the support or the supervision to assist in their reentry. The end result is that public safety is compromised.
How Supervision Can Make a Difference
One might ask why we are we spending resources on individuals who have committed crimes and proven to be a burden on society? The answer is that, regardless of the type of crime or crimes they committed, most of these offenders are returning back to the community
Certainly punishment and incarceration play an important role in controlling the prison population. However, without appropriate treatment and rehabilitative programs both inside and outside the prison walls, the consequences of our policy decisions and budget allocations are clear. Prisoners, once released, are ill-prepared to overcome such barriers as substance abuse, a lack of housing, mental and physical health issues, and employment. Without the means to overcome these challenges, offenders more often than not return to a life of crime. Given the fact that 97% of inmates will be released at some point during their sentences, attention should be focused on rehabilitation and effective programs to assist the inmate in reentering the community. The return on this investment would be manifest in the money saved and, more importantly, in decreased recidivism.
Regional Reentry Center Initiative
While there are no guarantees in any fields involving human behavior, we believe that opening the Regional Reentry Centers ('RRC 's') will assist more offenders in successfully returning to the community, resulting in a safer Commonwealth.
Solid practices and policies addressing the reintegration of offenders make sense, from the perspective of both public safety and fiscal responsibility. The high recidivism rate among inmates returning to the community is accompanied by an increase in the number of new victims and a high cost to the community.
The implementation of evidence-based practices proven to lower recidivism would result in fewer victims and fewer inmates in the Commonwealth. The cost of re-incarceration would be significantly reduced. By addressing barriers such as the lack of employment, adequate housing, and the availability of substance abuse monitoring and counseling, the likelihood is greater that an individual will not return to criminal lifestyle.
The Regional Reentry Centers concept was initiated by the Executive Office of Public Safety (EOPS) as an initiative between the Department of Correction (DOC) and the Massachusetts Parole Board after reviewing the recommendations made by the Governor's Commission on Criminal Justice Innovation and the Governor's Commission on Corrections Reform. Each report highlighted the need to reform strategies for transitioning offenders back into the community, starting with the moment they are incarcerated.
The focus of the RRC effort is to enhance public safety and restore confidence in the criminal justice system by reinventing the traditional model of parole, based on philosophies and practices of correctional reform that are emerging nationwide. Specifically, the RRC 's will serve as the nucleus of reentry services for all state offenders released from a correctional facility. These centers will be operated in our existing community based field operations in Mattapan, Quincy, Brockton, New Bedford, Framingham, Lawrence, Worcester, and Springfield.
As three main objectives, the RRC proposal will attempt to improve information sharing between criminal justice, law enforcement and social service agencies, reduce duplicative efforts in order to maximize and leverage existing resources and strengthen the reentry component for parolees and ex-offenders who have been released without supervision.
The Regional Reentry Center Initiative focuses on:
- Enhanced information sharing:
Parole officers will provide local police departments with updated intelligence information and photographs of offenders released to their communities. Home plans will be verified prior to and upon release from a correctional institution. The Department of Correction will transport the offender to the parole office in the region to which he or she is returning.
- Enhanced accountability of sex offenders:
Classified level 2 and 3 sex offenders will be transported to the police department in the community to which they are returning in order to facilitate their registration requirements. In addition, parole officers will conduct address audits on classified level 0 and 1 sex offenders residing in the community.
- Parole Aftercare Services
Services will be made available to offenders who complete their sentences without supervision and to parolees in the areas of employment, mental health, substance abuse services, vocational training, and housing.
- Enhanced victim services
Victim service case managers will be assigned to the RRCs and work within these respective communities to provide services to crime victims, such as safety planning, information, and access to available services.
There is a need to develop and implement realistic reentry strategies in the Commonwealth. The reintegration of offenders into society needs to be better coordinated to reduce the likelihood of recidivism.
This collaborative initiative involves public and private agencies and departments including the Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Health, Department of Transitional Assistance, Division of Employment and Training, Sex Offender Registry Board, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership and the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance.