Why Recidivism Rates are Dropping

Why Recidivism Rates are Dropping

Why Recidivism Rates are Dropping

In Georgia there has been a reduction in the rate of ex-offenders returning to prison. In the most recent report from the Georgia Department of Corrections, 25.3 percent of those released from all facilities (private, state, inmate boot camps, county, transition centers) in state FY 2018 were reconvicted for a felony after three years. That number dropped from 27.7 percent previously.  In the last few years, the growing number of ex-offenders returning to a life in prison has become a more widely recognized issue among policymakers and organizations. We believe the percentage is slowly dropping due to the Second Chance program, and organizations like GCO working to help ex-offenders find stable employment, and the elimination of policy barriers that keep this population from working. 

Even so, recidivism rates are still too high. Each number—each piece of data—is a person seeking direction and purpose to succeed and be self-sustaining. Not to mention, in a time when federal spending is high and inflation is growing, recidivism is a very costly issue for taxpayers. 

It’s a common misconception government assistance programs fill the gap for this population as they reenter society. The key to mitigating the usage of assistance programs and aid in breaking the cycle of poverty and crime for many is stable employment. This might sound elementary at first, but as we move deeper into this idea you’ll see it is common sense.  

The Success Sequence provides an outline of how to reverse the cycle of poverty in our communities. GCO uses this as a framework for much of our work.

 

  1. Jobs provide financial support

We all have bills to pay. A job provides a paycheck. However, let’s not get lost in the dollar signs. A job is more than a paycheck, too. A job is long-term financial security. Having a job allows people to plan for the future and set new life goals, essentially helping to define a person’s purpose. In a 2000 study by Christopher Uggen titled “Work as a Turning Point in the Life Course of Criminals: A Duration Model of Age, Employment, and Recidivism,” he found those over the age of 27 with a job were less likely to return to criminal activity. 

  1. Jobs provide purpose

Plain and simple, we all have the inherent need to be needed. Work allows each one of us to use our talents and gifts for positive impact. Fulfilling work allows us to play a part in a community, whether that is a community of coworkers or the actual community we live in. Every job, no matter how big or how small, has intrinsic value. A job helps us to develop daily structure, meet goals, and take our place within society. It’s not easy to go from being told when to eat and sleep to freedom. Jobs help create boundaries and play a part to keep our daily activities moving forward in a positive direction. 

In 2005, a study called  “Ex-Offender Employment Programs and Recidivism: A Meta-Analysis” found “having a legitimate job lessens the chances of reoffending following release from prison and that recidivism is less likely among those with higher wages and higher quality jobs.”

When people have a sense of purpose, they become more committed, responsible, creative thinkers. They become healthier and more passionate about serving in a way that helps others. 

 

  1. Jobs provide dignity

People generally obtain a large portion of their self-worth from their work. At the end of the day, no matter who we are we want to be treated with respect and equality. These are usually derived from our place of employment.

Without a job people are economically vulnerable to the cost of living and the economy’s fluctuation. Having a job and a sense of self-worth also helps reduce mental health issues among those who have spent time incarcerated. 

Those who end up in U.S. prisons are perhaps among the lowest skilled adults in society, and have a number of personal problems (health and behavioral) that render many of them difficult to employ.” 

Relationships with coworkers often provide the social structure and friendships needed for people to ease back into society and reduce the feeling of isolation.Through employment former inmates are able to receive the mental health and medical health support needed to integrate back into society in a dignified way. 

 

Wrapping up

GCO has dedicated much of its time and manpower to working with policymakers to reduce the barriers formerly incarcerated people face when looking for employment. To learn more about what we’re doing click here

 

 

The Georgia Center for Opportunity has signed on to a letter in favor of the EQUAL Act

The Georgia Center for Opportunity has signed on to a letter in favor of the EQUAL Act

The Georgia Center for Opportunity has signed on to a letter in favor of the EQUAL Act

banner - prisoners

The Georgia Center for Opportunity has signed on to a letter with 37 organizations across the ideological spectrum in favor of the EQUAL Act now pending in Congress.The EQUAL Act would end the federal prison sentence disparity between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine offenses—that is not grounded in evidence and contributes to over-incarceration, particularly within communities of color.

GCO’s take: “This important bill in Congress would correct a harmful policy put in place 35 years ago,” said Buzz Brockway, GCO’s vice president of public policy. “A crucial part of criminal justice reform is identifying unfair and harmful laws on the books and correcting course. We urge Congress to pass this bill and restore equal justice under the law when it comes to cocaine offenses.”

 

Buzz - statement Equal Act

BETTER WORK adds direct-to-business job applications

BETTER WORK adds direct-to-business job applications

BETTER WORK adds direct-to-business job applications

Working to more quickly connect our communities to work.

In efforts to better address the needs of the unemployed in our communities, we have taken an evolving learning approach to how we support those in need. Not only are we looking to learn from those in need, but we also listen to the business and service providers that are vital to the success of programs like BETTER WORK (formerly Hiring Well, Doing Good). This has led to the rebranding of the project (you can learn more about that here) but has also helped us as we create tools and align resources.

We are excited because this week we launched our job application resource in the Gwinnett County and Columbus areas that we serve. Through this resource, we are able to help remove many of the obstacles that people may face to finding employment and connect them directly to businesses hiring people in their situation.

 

BETTER WORK is helping people connect more quickly and directly into jobs and providing additional resources to help those who are motivated prepare for better work opportunities in the future. When everyone is able to find the right resources, attain safe housing, and find gainful employment, we will experience less poverty, less crime, and greater prosperity across our communities.”

Kristin Barker
BETTER WORK Columbus

Through the job application resource, users will be able to quickly answer a few questions and apply for multiple jobs in their area. Local businesses also benefit because they have helped us craft the questions on the application itself. This means they know that each applicant meets their specific criteria to start working.

A great example is someone coming out of the prison system. Oftentimes returning citizens looking for work may only be able to work nights and weekends due to family and child needs. With our new resource, we can connect these individuals directly to an employer willing to hire returning citizens that offer nights and weekend work. Thus we alleviate the barriers workers face trying to find the right work. And we support our local economies through local businesses.

Work is a vital step in helping people feel a sense of purpose, belonging, and responsibility to themselves, their family, and their communities. It is why we constantly say that work is “more than a job”. This new tool will help remove another barrier faced by workers and will drive more people to independent and flourishing lives.

Learn More About Our
BETTER WORK Project

Through BETTER WORK we are able to connect local resources with local needs and restore dignity through work.

Is it time for voting rights reform for felons?

Is it time for voting rights reform for felons?

Is it time for voting rights reform for felons?

prisoners listening

Coming off the contentious 2020 election, the issue of voting rights has been in the news lately. That is likely why, this year, there is a renewed push among some lawmakers in the Georgia legislature to reform voting-rights laws for those convicted of a felony.

This issue is central to our mission here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO). For well over a decade now, GCO has advocated for criminal justice reforms that help returning citizens create a new life—through joining the workforce, caring for their loved ones, and becoming productive members of society once again. Voting rights are part of that.

Here’s where Georgia law currently stands: Those with a felony on their record automatically have their voting rights restored once they complete their sentence, which includes serving all parole and probationary periods and paying all outstanding fines, fees, and restitution. They are also eligible to vote if they have First Offender status and that status has not been revoked.

“Just coming out of incarceration period, you feel like you have no opportunity. You feel like there are no options. I don’t have any options.”  

 

Understanding the challenge of voting rights for felons

The goal of voting rights laws for those with a criminal record should be moving them in the quickest way possible to becoming positive, contributing members of society again. Once the individual has fully paid his or her debt to society, it makes perfect sense—and is in the best sense “just”—to reinstate their voting rights.

At the same time, there are good reasons for restricting felons from voting until the end of their sentences. Society has an obligation to prevent people who have demonstrated impaired ability to make good decisions from voting. That’s why we don’t let children or the mentally ill vote. 

Felons have an added strike against them in that, in addition to poor judgment, they’ve also—in many cases—expressed contempt and disregard for the laws that govern us and shouldn’t be allowed to impose laws on the rest of us until they have shown their respect for and willingness to abide by the law.

 

A good place to begin

So, where should we begin with reforms to voting rights for felons? A great place is also the simplest and most non-controversial: There is strong evidence that even some felons who have fully paid their debt to society face challenges in having their voting rights restored.

For example, in 2019 a representative from the Georgia Justice Project testified before a state Senate committee that there is frequently misinformation within voter registration offices, and sometimes among volunteers, about whether someone ever convicted of a felony can vote. There are also challenges with felons proving they are officially “off paper” (i.e., they have completed their probation or parole) and are now legally eligible to vote.

Let’s begin here with clearing up misunderstandings around the law on voting rights for returning citizens and ensuring that all election-related officials are applying it correctly. A big step would be for election officials to be required to accept Certificates of Sentence Completion from the Department of Community Supervision as sufficient proof that a returning citizen should be added back to the voter rolls.

 

Work is important, too

A central goal of the Georgia Center for Opportunity is to help returning citizens reintegrate into society. Voting rights is one aspect of reintegration, but there are others—like finding stable employment—that are far more important to improving outcomes for returning citizens. 

We know that work is a key way to reduce recidivism: Research has shown that if an ex-offender can keep a job for six months or more, their likelihood of ending up back in prison drops dramatically. It also improves the odds that a returning citizen will reconnect with loved ones, especially their children, another key to preventing recidivism.

GCO’s efforts through initiatives like Hiring Well, Doing Good are making progress here, and stories like Kevin’s are inspiring.

 

A true second chance | THE LAGRANGE DAILY NEWS

A true second chance | THE LAGRANGE DAILY NEWS

A true second chance | THE LAGRANGE DAILY NEWS

In July 2020, I wrote a column about Senate Bill 288 (SB 288). At the time, the governor ended up signing the bill that can help many Georgians remove the stigma of having a criminal conviction…

More than 4 million Georgia residents had a criminal record in 2016, according to the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO)

“It is vital that we continue to reform Georgia’s criminal justice system so that reformation and reintegration is the goal, and not just punishment,” said Corey Burres, GCO’s vice president of communicaitons. “With SB 288, we are making real efforts to help past offenders access opportunities that may not be available to them due to their criminal record.”

Read the full article here