Sun Editorial: Pilot program to reduce recidivism rate worth a shot

Once they’re out, let’s keep them out.

By Alan Bauer:

Five former governors have put forth a plan that could save taxpayers a bunch of money. It’s designed to keep released prisoners from going back behind bars.

Jim McGreevey, Jon Corzine, Brendan Byrne, Thomas Kean and Jim Florio are behind a report from the New Jersey Reentry Corp. that proposes a three-year, $2.3 million per year education and job training program for released prisoners, along with a $1.2 million health-care program. That’s a lot of money, but also a gamble worth taking.

It costs $53,681 per year to incarcerate someone in the state. There are more than 41,000 people behind bars in federal, state and county facilities.

The governors’ plan would set up a three-year pilot program in six counties for more than 200 former inmates. It would spend $11,000 per inmate per year to educate them and offer job training. Compare that to the state average of $19,648 spent per student per year in public schools.

The health-care program would hire nurses, social workers and case managers. The plan also calls for the corrections system to partner with the pilot programs and for a commission to oversee the efforts.

Who knows if the program work?

What we do know is things aren’t going so great now. Per the report:

Some “10,835 prisoners were released from New Jersey correctional facilities in 2011, and of these, within three years, 52.7 percent were rearrested, 39.8 percent were reconvicted, and 31.3 percent were reincarcerated. Not counting the arrest costs and court costs, the state is now spending $182,051,328 per year on incarceration costs for prisoners released in 2011 who had been reincarcerated by 2014. To put this number in perspective, in New Jersey, $182,051,328 could lay 91 miles of road, build 506 houses each 2,400 square feet, or educate 9,265 children for one year.”

Yeah, let’s try to reduce the recidivism rate.