For decades, academics and many criminal justice practitioners have been proclaiming that the key to rehabilitation for reentering prisoners is to provide services like mentoring, job training, substance abuse, drug counseling, and transition housing.
However, years of evaluations show that these service-based programs are failures, often to the point of actually making the problem worse, as we have noted.
The only vigorously evaluated programs that have shown some success are cognitive behavioral efforts, those working to encourage an internal change within criminals.
Unfortunately, this new effort being broadcast for California is sticking with what doesn’t work, and, according to this report in the San Diego Union-Tribune, isn’t using what does.
“More than 160,000 inmates are serving time in California prisons. Two-thirds of released state prisoners return to prison within three years – contributing to the high cost of incarceration. Our state currently spends nearly $9 billion annually on corrections.
“To help California close this revolving door, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has created a partnership with Prison Fellowship, which reaches out to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, to strengthen rehabilitation services. Next week, we are inaugurating Out4Life California, a statewide effort to bring together businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches and other community groups. Our goal is to form local coalitions to help returning offenders make a successful transition back to the community by providing training, mentoring and other services.
“Ninety-five percent of California inmates will eventually be released and become our neighbors. More than 10,000 offenders a month are released from overcrowded state prisons and return back to our local communities. At a time when the government cannot afford to expand programs to prepare prisoners for release, community and faith-based groups should be called on to help provide needed services at no additional cost to the taxpayers.
“Most corrections experts agree that a successful prisoner re-entry strategy must include a variety of components, including hands-on community supervision, access to substance abuse treatment, educational programs, and job training and placement. We are seeking coalition members who are willing to help released prisoners in communities across California by providing:
• Mentoring, to provide a strong support structure during the critical first six to 12 months after release.
• Job training and assistance in finding steady jobs.
• Substance abuse treatment services.
• Mental health services.
• Transitional housing.
• Help for the children of ex-prisoners, who face unique challenges at home, in school and in all aspects of their lives.”