Approximately 15,000 state offenders are released each year from Louisiana prisons to Louisiana communities-usually the communities where they were living when they committed their crimes. Many offenders release with only a bus ticket and a few dollars. Once in the community, they are expected to get a job, earn a living, contribute to the well being of a family, follow the law, and generally get along with their law-abiding neighbors. Within five years, nearly half will be back in prison, either for violating conditions of their release or committing new crimes. That translates into more dollars, more victims, more frustration and diminished success when the offender is released the next time.
People are spending years, sometimes decades, cycling in and out of probation and parole offices and prisons, seemingly unable to disengage from the criminal justice system. In Louisiana, the recidivism (return to prison) rate is approximately fifty percent after five years. Reducing the return-to-prison rate by even ten percent, would result in significant dollar savings for the state and its citizens and, hopefully, an enhanced quality of life in communities across the state. The question of what happens to men and women when they leave prison has never been as urgent as it is today.
In 2002, the Department organized and standardized programs and services to deal with these issues and to better prepare offenders for a successful reintegration into their communities. Offenders are provided the opportunity to participate in a variety of educational, vocational, faith-based and therapeutic programming to aid their reentry efforts. Louisiana’s response will improve public safety, reduce recidivism, decrease victimization, and reduce the financial burden of its correctional system.
Additionally, every eligible offender releasing from a DOC facility or a local reentry center receives a complete reentry curriculum consisting of 100 hours of instruction in various topics. The classes offered range from how to find a job, money management and victim awareness to name a few. The commitment to preparing the offender to reenter society with the 100 hours is a serious one. Without the ability for the offenders to prepare for release through this program, many will have a significantly more difficult time adjusting to life once back in their community.
Click here for a PBS story on Louisiana’s Reentry program.
Key elements contributing to reducing the return to prison rate are:
- basic education
- job skills training
- substance abuse treatment
- values development
- community involvement
Soon-to-be released offenders secure their driver’s license/identification through the Department’s Office of Offender Reentry. A major part of the Department’s Reentry programming calls for offenders to have identification, social security cards and birth certificates upon release all of which increase their chances of being ready for employment right away.