With new policies in place, three Midwestern states report declines in recidivism
In 2008, more than 28,000 people were released from Ohio’s prisons. Three years later, close to one-third of them had returned. Most came back because they committed new crimes, others because of violations of their parole. It is a revolving door in Ohio and states across the country that lawmakers have been aggressively trying to close in order to improve public safety and save taxpayer dollars. These efforts appear to be paying off, according to a report released in September by The Council of State Governments Justice Center.
Ohio is a case in point: Its three-year recidivism rate fell 20 percent between 2000 and 2008 — from 39.0 percent for prisoners released in 2000 to 31.2 percent in 2008.
The CSG Justice Center report highlights Ohio, Michigan, Kansas and four other U.S. states where recidivism rates have been falling. It also explores policies that likely contributed to the positive trend.
Closer look at Michigan, Ohio and Kansas
In Michigan, when comparing prison releases between 2000 and 2008, the three-year recidivism rate decreased by 28 percent.
Over the past decade, the state has transformed its criminal justice system to reduce the risk of individuals reoffending. Under the Michigan Prisoner Reentry initiative, the state has targeted more resources for individuals at the greatest risk of reoffending, in part by improving its process for assessing the risks and needs of released prisoners.
Through the initiative, the Justice Center notes, Michigan has provided community-based housing for parolees, subsidized employers who hire them, and maintained funding for community-based transition-support services.
In Ohio, new training programs for probation and parole officers have been developed, and evidence-based strategies for improving community corrections have been adopted.
This investment in research-driven, evidence-based programs is cited in the new report as being an essential part of any state strategy to reduce recidivism. Other key components include putting more resources into individuals most likely to reoffend and into geographic areas where a disproportionate number of people released from prison or jail reside.
The final part of the four-pronged strategy is effective community supervision, which was at the center of legislative reforms passed in Kansas in 2007. SB 14 created a performance-based grant program for community corrections agencies.
Prior to passage of the bill, the state had already established a Reentry Policy Council, launched pilot programs focusing on parolees at a high risk of reoffending, and strengthened community-supervision training and services. Kansas’ three-year recidivism rates fell 14.8 percent between 2005 and 2007.
Additional policy actions will be considered in Kansas when the Legislature convenes in January. As the result of legislation passed earlier this year (HB 2684), a multi-branch team of state legislators and other leaders has been exploring strategies for justice reinvestment: evidence-based options for cutting corrections spending and investing in public safety. CSG Justice Center experts are providing assistance.
The center has also worked to employ reinvestment strategies in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Last year, Ohio lawmakers adopted HB 86, which, in part, seeks to improve risk assessments, bolster the supervision of those at a high risk of reoffending, and improve reentry services.