I feel like I’ve been saying this for 10 years -- actually, it will be 12 years in June since I first started writing on this subject in a sustained way -- but if Baltimore wants to reduce violent crime and crime generally, the state of Maryland has to do a better job of preparing offenders for the return to their homes in the city. If we want to stop first-time offenders from being repeat offenders -- or if we want repeat offenders to change their ways for good -- they need comprehensive therapy, education and vocational training while they’re behind the walls serving time for crime.
With violence continuing in holiday week and making 2016 Baltimore’s second-deadliest year, per capita, it’s clear that, despite recognition of repeat offenders as the source of most of our crime troubles, not enough is being done to change lives during incarceration. Even with Maryland’s good effort in recent years to lower its recidivism rate -- the number of inmates who return to the prison system within three years of their release on parole or probation -- we have not put enough corrections in corrections.
This is one area of public policy where I’ve found rare bipartisan agreement: It makes no sense to just warehouse criminals and expect them to behave differently when they are released.
Aside from those who receive life sentences and stay inside for decades, most inmates return to society within relatively short periods of time. That’s the time that should be devoted to preparing them for successful re-entry.
If we can’t provide all the necessary services while inmates are serving time -- something that would call for a wholesale change in the infrastructure of prison life -- then they must be provided, in a sustained way, immediately upon release.
Any effort in this regard is welcome. So I was pleased to see this statement the other day from the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore: “Our mission is preventing crime, not just sending people to prison.” It accompanied an announcement of a new list of government and private-sector agencies that assist adults recently released from state and federal jails and prisons. This guide to reentry contains hundreds of resources with direct links to programs in Baltimore and all Maryland counties.
“Former prisoners may face strong temptations to return to a life of crime, and we will hold them accountable if they do, but many programs are available to help them succeed,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. “Our mission is preventing crime, not just sending people to prison, so we focus our crime-prevention efforts on two groups: school students, to deter them from turning to crime, and ex-convicts, to stop them from re-offending.”
Rosenstein’s office received funds from the Department of Justice to hire a specialist to promote reentry and other crime-prevention efforts.
The new list is available through a link on the U.S. Attorney’s Office web site.
If you’re involved in a program that assists ex-offenders but not listed, you can contact Elizabeth Morse, the reentry and prevention specialist, at 410-209-4811 or Elizabeth.Morse@usdoj.gov.