Half of PA Inmates Back in Jail Within Five Years

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We’ve got a recidivism crisis in PA – half of all inmates in the state will be back in jail within 5 years of their release. If prison is for rehabilitation, it’s not working.

Whether this revolving-door syndrome is a result of faulty rehabilitation efforts by the Department of Corrections, the inmates’ personal failings, both, or something else, the revolving prison door costs taxpayers a staggering amount.

Take last year’s five-year recidivism rate of 55 percent. Of the 13,792 inmates released in 2005, 7,627 were back in prison last year. The state spends $32,059 annually per inmate, so that translated to a taxpayer tally of roughly $244 million.

And that price tag is likely to grow given that state officials estimate that the overall inmate population will climb from 51,400 today to 61,146 in 2014.

“I don’t think the public knows that,” Jocelyn Fontaine, of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, said of the high cost of recidivism. “I don’t know if it’s an issue of out of sight, out of mind. I think they would be a bit more outraged about it if they knew.”

About Greg

I founded Keystone Politics in 2004. Now I make stuff on the Internet for a living.
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5 Responses to Half of PA Inmates Back in Jail Within Five Years

  1. a says:

    if 45% success is not good enough for you, what is your realistic improvement goal? 50%?? 99.999% what?

    • Greg says:

      What I'd like is for far less prisoners to end up back in jail, which is clearly failing its "rehabilitation" mandate.

      • phillydem says:

        I wonder how much recidivism is related to the drug trade? My guess is a lot. If so, then a really simple solution would be to make drugs legal, regulated and taxed. I'm sure the prison population would plummet along with the recidivism rate.

  2. Julieann Wozniak says:

    Part of the problem is that our prisons are packed with felons convicted of minor drug offenses with no access to substance abuse programs, particularly with today's budget-cutting fervor. Another side of the issue is the lack of employment prospects upon release. Sadly, no one will hire people with a history of substance abuse.

    • phillydem says:

      Not only substance abuse problems, but any kind of criminal record can get one excluded from a lot of jobs, even menial ones.