State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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New state report shows rate of return to crime by inmates

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 3, 2013 10:57 PM

The state's Department of Corrections is touting what it calls a landmark study of recidivism rates. The report is, unlike many that land on desks throughout the Capitol, meant to sit on a shelf for a while. Instead of offering recommendations, it establishes what the agency calls a baseline against which to measure future recidivism rates.

Corrections Department research director Bret Bucklen said it also allows the state to connect pay to performance when it comes to roughly 40 private contractors that run halfway houses. Those contracts, he said, will be renegotiated with additional requirements on the private managers.

"We're re-bidding all of those contracts and one of the new things that we're doing in that rebidding is asking them to maintain a baseline recidivism rate as is established in the report and the data behind the report and if they maintain that, great, if they reduce it, then there'll be an incentive for reducing recidivism," said Bucklen.

Last fall, the Corbett administration signed into law the second half of a raft of prison policy changes. The entire package is aimed at reducing the prison population and recidivism - in part, by relying more on community-based facilities like halfway houses.

The agency's study shows that between 2000 and 2010, six out of 10 inmates left state prison, only to be arrested again or locked up once more within three years. The rate of return to crime by inmates has been relatively flat for the past decade, according to the report. It shows the highest recidivism rates were in Dauphin, Philadelphia, and Allegheny counties.

Bucklen said Dauphin County's recidivism rate was consistent with its crime rate, which is the highest per capita in the commonwealth.

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