BOSTON – United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz announced today her office’s partnership with the Worcester Reentry Initiative Program. Drawing on its experience with reentry programs throughout the Commonwealth, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, Worcester County District Attorney’s Office and Worcester Police Department convened the initiative, bringing together important stakeholders in an effort to reduce recidivism rates.
A 2008 study funded by the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, reported that four out of 10 inmates returning from prison in Massachusetts are re-incarcerated within three years of being released. The federal statistics are equally, if not more stark. Even though the United States comprises just five percent of the world’s population, it incarcerates almost 25% of the world’s prisoners. More than 219,000 federal inmates are currently behind bars. Almost half of them are serving time for drug-related crimes, and many have substance use disorders. Nine to 10 million more people cycle through America’s local jails each year. And roughly 40% of former federal prisoners – and more than 60% of former state prisoners – are rearrested or have their supervision revoked within three years after their release, at great cost to American taxpayers and often for technical or minor violations of the terms of their release.
Citing those above statistics in a speech last month, U.S. Attorney General Holder said that while the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation. To be effective, federal efforts must also focus on prevention and reentry.
U.S. Attorney Ortiz said, “We must never stop being tough on crime. But we must also be smart and efficient when battling crime and understanding the conditions and individual choices which cause it. We look forward to the interagency and community partnerships that will measurably contribute to a decrease in crime and improvement in the quality of life for Massachusetts residents.”
“The cooperation on this initiative among law enforcement and social service agencies has been spectacular. It is never a good idea have a prisoner behind bars one day and out on the street the next day without some sort of re-entry buffer. That is a recipe for failure. Having so many parties working together to allow a former prisoner to reintegrate into the lawful parts of society gives us the best chance to stop recidivism. Without these services we have a pretty good idea that history will just repeat itself,” said Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.
The Worcester Reentry Initiative Program is part of a nationwide trend to reform the paradigm of punishing repeat criminals with more prison time. Through the Worcester Reentry Initiative Program, federal, state, and local law enforcement join forces with social service agencies, mental health and substance abuse providers and faith-based organizations to tackle the complexities associated with reentry into the community after incarceration. Members of the Worcester Reentry Initiative Program will work with an average of 90 to 100 high-risk inmates per year.
High-risk prisoners agreeing to participate in this reentry program will be provided with information regarding pre- and post-incarceration services as well as the consequences of reoffending. Law enforcement, probation/parole officers and prosecutors, including a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will conduct meetings every other month with Worcester Reentry Initiative Program participants in an effort to educate them about the realities of future criminal behavior. For many, reoffending could result in significant state or federal prison sentences.
Through the Worcester Reentry Initiative Program, participants will be offered “wrap-around” services, receiving focused assistance from social service providers, case managers, parole and probation officers and others to ensure accountability and continuity of care. They will be provided enhanced opportunities to participate in employment training, education programs, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and to work with mentors. Pre-release, participants will be encouraged to build relationships with individuals representing resources that are needed for success on the outside, including the parole or probation officer who is a crucial component of the program. Participants will undergo intense supervision upon release from prison to ensure greater success and accountability.
The Worcester Reentry Initiative Program social services and mental health partners include: Worcester Sheriff’s Department After Incarceration Support Services, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Spectrum Health Systems, Valley Psychiatric Services and the Counseling and Psychotherapy Center, Worcester Community Action Council, Workforce Central, the WISR Program and Straight Ahead Ministries.
The Worcester Reentry Initiative Program model is based on the award-winning Boston Reentry Initiative (BRI), which has achieved measurable success and national attention for its model of recidivism reduction. Both programs focus their resources on inmates who pose the greatest risks to reoffend.
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