We know how to reduce recidivism

Any reduction in recidivism rates is good news ("Under Maynard, prisons have crises, but fewer repeat offenders," Aug. 10). People are less likely to return to prison if they have jobs, a safe place to live, and the will to succeed. Children are reunited with parents, and communities become stronger when there is less criminal activity. Achieving this kind of success is not easy. It requires a serious commitment from the person who was formerly incarcerated as well as state and local entities, plus the knowledge base of the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.

In Maryland, the work begins before people are released from prison. The state has chosen to work in partnership with nonprofits and faith communities to begin the long and complicated process of reducing recidivism. Programs such as Jericho Reentry, Maryland Public Safety Compact, and many others work together to address the host of barriers faced by the 7,000 people who leave prison to live in Baltimore City on an annual basis.

Substance abuse treatment, housing, literacy and numeracy education, and job training are the core areas that must be addressed for a person to renter the workforce and avoid returning to prison. This work requires a commitment of money from all sectors: government, philanthropic and private sectors.

Taxpayers spend approximately $38,000 a year to house a person in a Maryland prison. Nonprofits spend approximately $6,000 a year per person to help change their ways. We are not always successful. But we are a proven alternative to offering no services. The know-how of reducing recidivism exists. Are we ready to acknowledge this need and put more resources where they are needed?

Nancy Fenton, Baltimore

The writer is acting executive director of Episcopal Community Services of Maryland.

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