What's next for Minnesota's ex-cons?
May 19, 2010
What does it really take to keep a person from going back to prison? Let's see. Resources that work, perhaps faith and prayers, a change in peers or environment, and, most important of all, the willingness and commitment of the offender to do what it takes to make that change.
....Given that up to 95 percent of offenders eventually return to society, we need to do better. According to one major study, two-thirds of offenders are arrested again within three years of their release. In Minnesota, up to 36 percent of offenders are sent back to prison for a felony within three years of release, pretty much mirroring the national situation.
....Minnesota's Comprehensive Offender Reentry Plan (MCORP) was devised five years ago and funded three years ago to help cut the recidivism rate.
Following a national model, the effort seeks to begin re-entry efforts the day an inmate enters prison rather than a few months before the offender is released.
....The MCORP concept launched a pilot project more than two years ago. The targeted population: prison inmates from selected communities in the state — Hennepin, Ramsey, Dodge, Fillmore and Olmsted counties. These counties are among those that annually send state prisons the most returning offenders.
The effort tries to reduce community-based probation officer caseloads, ramp up post-release supervision as well as provide housing, employment and social-support services. Bottom line: make the lockup-to-release support transition as seamless as possible.
Of 269 selected inmates, 175 were steered for MCORP interdiction. That included a host of jobs, education, chemical-dependency treatment, restorative justice and other post-release offerings. Most notably, perhaps, the program significantly reduced — by roughly half — the offender-release caseload handled by county probation officers.
In contrast, 94 offenders were selected as a control group to undergo existing offender-release referral efforts.
The outcome? Consider a preliminary in-house evaluation by Dr. Grant Duwe, the state prison system's research director.
- Lowered the risk of rearrest for a new offense by 37 percent.
- Decreased the risk of reconviction for a new crime by 43 percent.
- Reduced the risk of reincarceration for a new felony offense by 57 percent.
- MCORP increased the chances that an offender found employment within the first six months after release by 91 percent.
- MCORP offenders were about 17 times more likely than offenders in the control group to report having a source of social support.
- MCORP offenders were more than four times more likely to participate in mentoring, restorative justice circles or faith-based programming in the community.