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California Grapples With High Recidivism Rate

By Abraham Thompson
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 2, 2011 Last Updated: February 2, 2011
Related articles: United States » West
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SAN FRANCISCO—California inmate recidivism is approaching 60 percent according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Some sources estimate the rate to be as high as seven out of ten, indicating that California has the biggest problem with recidivism in the U.S.

“Recidivism in San Francisco is over 60 percent,” said San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi during an interview with The Epoch Times, and, “Repeat offender rates, when people get out of prison or county jail, they are very likely within three years to repeat their offence.”

Statistics published online at CDCR show that out of all felons released from prison for the first time in 2005, roughly 59 percent were back in prison by 2008. This rate has been increasing gradually since 2004.

Recidivism rates differ slightly with gender. Comparing male and female felons as two separate groups of study, approximately 48 percent of female felons, and 60 percent of male felons returned to prison within the same study period.

Mirkarimi is not satisfied with San Francisco’s recidivism rate and finds certain budget spending policies to be counterintuitive to the overall goal of ensuring felons don’t reoffend once released.

“When you think about our police budget, $400 million for the SF police department… but you still have a recidivism rate of over 60 percent. Then you look at the budget for reentry [which] is significantly less, just a few million… It does not compare,” commented Mirkarimi.

Reentry programs help former prisoners adjust to their new life back in society.

“We should be investing in programs that will help that recidivism rate,” said Mirkarimi, and, “We should understand who these people are, who are committing these offences.”

For instance, military veterans account for 10 percent of the nation’s prison population according to the National Association of Probation Officers. Mirkarimi drives home his point on the importance of providing reentry programs based on the felon’s background.

“Veterans, who are coming back from wars, are one of the fastest growing populations in our jails, and to treat vets the same way you treat others is a complete disconnect in where they are coming from,” explained Mirkarimi.

“We should have a framework and understanding in how to deal with our criminal justice system with the challenges of reentry, because obviously we’re not succeeding,” the supervisor concluded.

The California New Start prison-to-employment program is one initiative targeted at reducing the recidivism rate by improving the employability of inmates.

“Numerous statistical studies demonstrate that a parolee who finds and maintains a steady job—and who also has stable housing and avoids substance abuse—is more likely to avoid subsequent offenses and to successfully complete his term on parole,” states the CDCR.

It is important to address each felon’s situation individually, as the combination of multiple risk factors only increases the likelihood that someone will return to prison over time.




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