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March 5, 2014

Just what is Ohio doing so right with respect to reentry and recidivism? Can it be replicated nationwide?

The question in the title of this post is my reaction to this wonderful new AP news from my own state, which carries the headline "State reports record-low Ohio prisoner return rate."  Here are the details:

Fewer Ohio prisoners than ever are going back to prison after they’ve been released, the state announced Wednesday, attributing the drop to community programs that work with newly released prisoners, and new prison units that prepare people for life outside bars.  The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction says the current inmate return rate of 27.1 percent, down from 28.7 percent a year ago, is far below the national rate of 40 to 44 percent.

The rate affects not just the prison system’s bottom line but the bigger goal of reducing crime in Ohio, prisons director Gary Mohr said.  “If our people being released from prison are committing less offenses, then we have less crime victims,” Mohr told The Associated Press. “I think that’s the most important piece.”  Saving money on prison operations also means more state dollars can be spent earlier in people’s lives on things like education, he added.

Going forward, the expansion of Medicaid is expected to help connect incarcerated people to needed resources as they come home.  The state projects that roughly 366,000 residents will be newly eligible for coverage by the end of June 2015 by increasing the state-federal health care program for poor children and families.  Mohr says a lower return rate will also help the state reduce its prisoner population, currently about 50,500.

A 2011 sentencing law meant to lower the number hasn’t had the desired impact, leading to fears that the state may need to spend millions to build a new prison after 2017, while pushing judges to rethink sentences and placing a greater emphasis on rehabilitation.  The current prison population hasn’t changed much since 2011, despite projections that it would drop to 47,000 by 2015 and continue to decline.... Ohio’s prisoner population could grow to 52,000 in two years and top 53,000 in six years, Mohr warned last year....

It’s not that the 2011 law is failing.  Challenges, including a recent increase in violent crime and an uptick in cases filed by prosecutors, are holding back promises that the law would lower the prisoner population.  Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has said the courts are also part of the problem and called on judges to be more diligent about reducing the number of offenders behind bars.

The rate announced Wednesday is based on a three-year study of inmates released in 2010.

The report/study on which this article is based is available at this link under the simple title "DRC Recidivism Rates."  I would be grateful for any and all help figuring out if there are other big important conclusions or lessons (good or bad) to be drawn from this report beyond the one discussed above.

March 5, 2014 at 02:51 PM | Permalink


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Am not sure that the definitions give much guidance. Defining recidivism by return to prison creates a measure of limited use.

I would want more data before drawing conclusions. For example, a breakdown by the return rate for new crime based on the number of commitments and type of crime. Likewise, the data treat all returns for new offenses the same. I would want to know the average number of new offenses per returnee and the type of new offenses. I would also want some data on whether some non-returnees are getting probation instead of a new commitment. Additionally, some data matching particular programs to return/non-return.

While there are limits to designing programs for individual needs, I think that this type of data -- to see what type of programs are working with what types of offenders (and are there some that do not appear to be working with any offender) is necessary before assessing the impact of the new programs.

Posted by: tmm | Mar 5, 2014 3:35:56 PM

What is interesting is that the statistics show the Ohio Parole Board is holding more that 20% of eligible parolees to full-term expiration of their sentences. Parole in Ohio has not been an option since 1996. Determinative sentences under Ohio's non-parole regime (since 1996) are one-half or less of the prior maximums under parole. One has to wonder why the Ohio Parole board makes old law inmates serve sentences that are, in some cases, more than twice as long as inmates under the new law. Is it just so they (members of the Ohio Parole Board and their staff) can continue to have jobs?

9sine 1996)are less than half of what an inmate abolished in Ohio since

Posted by: ? | Mar 5, 2014 10:22:01 PM

@tmm has some good comments and questions. The real insight would come from breaking down new crimes. While it is good that this number has been declining, is it a decline in minor or serious new crimes?

You would also want to know if the decline in new crime is the result of changes in the type of inmates released over the time period. If the prison started releasing older inmates, convicted of minor crime who had served a great deal of time, we would expect them to be less likely to recidivate than inmates normally released during a given year.

Posted by: Paul | Mar 6, 2014 8:20:39 AM

hello I am just an everyday working individual who is very very tired about how the parole board operates in determining to release someone that is being held under the old mall I have a friend who just went before the board in May of this year and they were maxed out which means they would not be out until 2020 even though they have implemented several different programs wow they have been in the system and they have done their best to show that they have been reformed they were denied by the board stating that they were a threat to society my concern about that is is everyone that's going before the board is still a threat or has not been rehabilitated then that means that the system is failing and why should taxpayers keep putting money into a system that doesn't work is it the inmates that are dangerous or is it the individuals which are making the decision on whether or not they should stay incarcerated for the left back on the street you tell me

Posted by: Elois craig | Jun 29, 2014 4:56:30 PM

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