By Louise Wasilewski
Getting out of prison rightly gets a lot of reentry attention, but even short stays in a county jail can have follow-on effects. Even a few days in jail can cause a person to miss work, resulting in loss of their job. Without that income, the rent doesn’t get paid, with the loss not only of a stable roof, but often most of his possessions. So let’s look briefly at a few jails that are working hard to make sure their citizens have the best chance of success when they leave.
Gwinnett and Rockdale are two Georgia counties with similar programs, GRIP and RRIP. In both cases, inmates have the opportunity to opt into the reentry program. If they do, a staff member assesses their needs and then provides a connection to outside service providers to help them get back on their feet. Both programs get results: In Rockdale, the average recidivism rate has fallen from 58% to 45% and the rate for people who opt in is only 12%. This isn’t a randomized control trial - it is results in the real world. In Gwinnett, over 1100 people have been referred to services. The three year recidivism figure was 25% and is now down to 8.2%. There are different measures of recidivism, and for apples to apples comparisons, it’s important to understand what those are, but regardless of the measure, making such significant changes over time should encourage us all that interventions can make a difference.
Washington State Institute for Public Policy is one place that does rigorous comparisons. They have analyzed a lot of different programs (http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/BenefitCost?topicId=2), looking at whether or not they are likely to work and if they save money. Case management (with sanctions) for substance abusers is 95% likely to produce a benefit, with a savings of over $9000.
Finally, let me introduce you to Montgomery County, MD where the jail even has a job center on site, and people can access education to improve their chances of getting a job. Here’s a link to a Newshour story:
There is always more that can be done in our communities to improve public safety and increase the chance of success. I hope these programs provide some encouragement that we can make a difference.