November 05, 2009

CARDIN CALLS U.S. RECIDIVISM PROBLEM A DRAIN ON OUR RESOURCES, SAYS SUCCESSFUL REINTEGRATION IS ESSENTIAL

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), member of the Judiciary Crime and Drugs Subcommittee, chaired a hearing today entitled "The First Line of Defense: Reducing Recidivism at the Local Level." The hearing featured expert witnesses who helped the subcommittee examine therole local jails can and have played in helping reduce recidivism and explore what the appropriate role is for the federal government in helping achieve this goal. At the start of the hearing, Senator Cardin recognized Crime and Drugs Subcommittee chairman Arlen Specter (D-PA) for his long-standing commitment to these issues. 
 
"There are 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. today and 95 percent of them are going to be released back to their community someday. However, most - more than two-thirds - are likely to go back to jail. The recidivism problem we face in this country is a waste of resources and does little to reduce crime or improve public safety.  Successful reintegration of offenders into the community is necessary. If we fail to provide the necessary services, the cycle will continue and individuals will move up and remain in system. 
 
"Re-entry services at the local level should be an integral part of our overall national strategy to increase public safety and reduce recidivism. They can and should operate as our first line of defense in protecting communities by immediately assessing an inmate when they first enter the criminal justice system."
 
Earlier this week, as a prelude to this hearing Senator Cardin toured the Montgomery County Department of Corrections' Pre-Release Center and met with program officials and participants. A national model, this center is a community-based work-release correctional program that provides re-entry services to approximately 180 inmates from county, state, and federal systems who are returning to Montgomery County. Stefan LoBuglio, Chief of the Pre-Release and Re-entry Division of Montgomery County testified at today's hearing
 
The U.S. has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world -- about five times the world's average. Federal and state prisons have grown by nearly 240% between 1980 and 2001.    Each year local jails process 12 million admissions and releases. That translates into about 34,000 people a day moving in and out of our criminal system. This can also translate into 34,000 opportunities to assess an inmate, link an inmate with community services, and provide an inmate with mental or physical health consultations. These daily opportunities should be used more effectively to increase public safety, minimize future criminal activity, and reduce recidivism.