It is no surprise that effective rehabilitation equals reduced recidivism. Reduced recidivism means less crime, more stable families, reduced prison budgets, and at the end of the day—A better society. The inmates who completed the California industries program during the period of 2007–2011 had a 7.13 percent recidivism rate. A study by the Pew Center in 2011 concluded that more than 40 percent of released inmates are rearrested within three years of their release. It is our opinion that many of the rearrested inmates did not have jobs. If inmates are released with job training, they will have a better chance of succeeding on the outside. Job training in prison gives an individual hope, dignity, and a sense of self worth in a hostile environment. The concepts of job training and education are not “Rocket Science”. It is time for the correctional systems in the United States to embrace effective rehabilitation. The following article reported on rehabilitation and recidivism in California.
By James Nash – Bloomberg BusinessWeek
California (STOCA1)’s prison industries program, which includes ventures from coffee-roasting to furniture-making, is the largest such U.S. effort to give felons a life after lockup. Yet Governor Jerry Brown’s very success in reducing inmate overcrowding is endangering it.
Prison labor, once best known for making license plates, has grown to 57 factories doing such work as modular building construction, toner cartridge recycling, shoe-making and juice packaging, according to its latest annual report. Convicts supply closed-captioning for television and transcribe movies into Braille.
“Everyone says the most valuable product we put out there is a person who’s not going to go back and re-offend, who has job skills and dedication,” said Josh Bayer, who manages the prison industries at the California Institution for Men, Chino. “That’s our product: rehabilitation.”
Yet even with workers paid 35 cents to 95 cents an hour, business is off. Sales are exclusively to state and local governments, almost all under budget pressure. The biggest customer, the Corrections Department, has 43,000 fewer inmates since 2006, many shifted to county jails to ease crowding. Revenue slipped 18 percent to $173 million in the fiscal year that ended in June, from almost $210 million five years earlier.
“We are statutorily required to be self-sufficient,” said Eric Reslock, a spokesman for the California Prison Industry Authority. Some work programs have been scaled back and all are being reviewed, he said.
To be sure, most inmates don’t work. About 7,000 of the more than 132,000 prisoners are in industrial programs, according to the annual report.
Brown, a 75-year-old Democrat, signed a bill in 2011 to transfer felons convicted of nonviolent, low-level crimes to jails or alternatives such as electronic monitoring, after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s order to reduce the population because of inadequate health care.
As recently as 2008, California had 173,670 inmates, the highest number in the U.S., according to a 2010 report by the Pew Center on the States. The prisons, once at 175 percent of capacity, are down to about 150 percent, according state records. The court ordered the numbers reduced to 137.5 percent of capacity.
Brown’s inmate transfers, known as realignment, hit prison industries in two ways: by reducing the pool of convicts who package juice, sew shirts and stamp license plates; and by reducing demand for products sold back to prisons, Reslock said.
Further shifts to county lockups are expected to reduce prison industry revenue by another $5.5 million for the year that ends June 30, according to the prison industry authority’s most recent annual report.
There’s no reason for California’s prison industries to retrench, said Martin Horn, a former New York City corrections commissioner who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. California’s prison workforce has room to grow, and the market for products such as school desks and filing cabinets is “virtually inexhaustible.”
“They will need to move into other municipal markets,” Horn said by telephone.
From fiscal 2007 through 2011, so-called graduates of the prison industries program had a recidivism rate of 7.13 percent, “the lowest of any rehabilitative program,” according to the prison industry board.
As state prisoners move to county jails, some vocational programs are going with them. Sacramento County began teaching welding in jails in January 2012 in response to the shift of inmates, said sheriff’s Captain Milo Fitch. Sacramento County also is starting a program in which inmates will refurbish toner cartridges from printers and copy machines and sell them to county departments, Fitch said.
“We’re looking at the needs of local public safety,” Fitch said by telephone. “One of the key factors in preventing recidivism is ensuring that people can get a job on the outside.”
Los Angeles County, the most populous in California, has about 7,200 of its 18,100 prisoners in work programs, up from 1,500 a year ago, said Lieutenant LaMar LaFave of the county’s Education Based Incarceration program. Inmates make clothing, run a printing shop and weld metal, he said.