By Matt Dummermuth, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs
People returning to their communities from prison or jail often face complex challenges. To help meet these challenges, the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs has announced awards totaling nearly $75 million to reduce recidivism among adults and youth. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 630,661 people were released from incarceration in 2016. Our ultimate goal is to reduce the number of former inmates who pose a threat to public safety and become burdens to their communities again.
High rates of recidivism greatly impact public safety and the victims affected by those new crimes, as well as the lives of offenders who are unable to break out of the cycle of repeat offending. A 2018 study conducted by OJP's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that five out of six state prisoners were rearrested within nine years of their release. Many entered prison with mental illness or substance abuse problems that perhaps went untreated when they were behind bars. They left still struggling with those issues and facing obstacles such as finding housing, accessing education and employment, and caring for their children — all of which contribute to the likelihood that they may commit new crimes and be incarcerated again.
OJP is working hard to help decrease the number of unnecessary barriers that ex-prisoners face. Since 2009, Second Chance Act grants have been awarded to agencies and organizations in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. In 2019 we continue to support state, local and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations in their work to reduce recidivism.
Among the awardees is the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, which provides food, housing, addiction treatment, job skills and gainful employment. Hope for Prisoners in Nevada works with local law enforcement mentors to provide long-term support to former inmates during the reintegration process. Programs at the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota will improve access to and delivery of services to offenders with co-occurring substance abuse and mental illness who are reentering communities post-incarceration.
The new awards will also support research. The National Institute of Justice, OJP's research and evaluation component, will examine the success of reentry strategies, programs and practices with an emphasis on using randomized controlled trials to evaluate effectiveness. Findings from the research will help practitioners and policymakers who want to implement effective interventions in their jurisdictions, and will advance the body of knowledge on best practices in offender reentry.
According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance, an estimated 145,000 people returning to their community after incarceration have participated in Second Chance programs. These awards represent a substantial investment in programs that are designed to improve reentry, reduce recidivism, and ultimately, contribute to our nation's public safety.