Maryland can do more to reduce recidivism

We applaud agency officials who have made prisoners' reentry to the community a priority by providing employment training and other services to them prior to release ("Closing prison's revolving door," Oct. 2). But Maryland could realize even lower reoffending rates if it adopts proactive policies and invests more in programs with track records of keeping people out of prisons and jails.

One policy change that could lead to lower reoffending rates is ending the automatic prosecution of youth as adults for certain crimes. The Task Force on Juvenile Court Jurisdiction, which was created by the Maryland legislature this year, will release a report in December about the effectiveness of this policy. We hope that task force members will heed research findings that youth who are prosecuted as adults are more likely to reoffend than their peers in the juvenile justice system. If we want to see lower recidivism rates among youth, then we must stop inappropriately treating them like adults.

Also, in 2011, Maryland's Task Force on Prisoner Reentry released a report detailing how the state could use its cost savings from fewer people returning to prison to invest in reentry services. Nonprofit reentry programs work behind the scenes to provide educational, job training, housing and mental health services to men, women and youth who return to Baltimore neighborhoods from incarceration. Yet each year they struggle to secure funding to continue these services.

Private foundations that sustain these organizations need state agencies to match or replace their funding commitments so that fewer Marylanders cycle in and out of the justice system.

Rajani Gudlavalleti, Baltimore

The writer is program coordinator at the Open Society Institute-Baltimore.

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