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Courts and Crime


Ohio preps prisoners for release, dramatically cutting recidivism
Ohio's already low rate drops even further
by WKSU's ANDY CHOW


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Andy Chow
 
Courtesy of Andrew Bardwell
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The rate at which ex-convicts go back to prison has reached an all-time low in Ohio, and officials say the reasons range from community support, to in-prison preparation, to Medicaid. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow has more.

CHOW: Fewer ex-cons return to prison

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CHOW: Fewer ex-cons return to prison, extended story

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Recidivism is the rate at which a former inmates return to prison within three years of being released. Ohio’s rate continues to drop. Last year it was at 28.7 percent; now it’s at 27.1 percent. That’s a four point dip from three years ago and well below the national rate of 44 percent.

Gary Mohr is director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. He says it’s important to the department that fewer people become victims of the men and women that the state has already served through the prison system. On top of that, Mohr adds, a lower rate means more families are staying reunited.

Mohr says there are many reasons for the reduced rate, including re-entry programs within Ohio’s communities. Another strong influence, according to Mohr, is the prison system’s reintegration units. This program, which serves about 3,000 people, creates a community of inmates expected to go about their daily activities just as if they were living outside the prison walls.

“It’s a whole different environment, and we want to inspire hope in all of the inmates that they can work their way into these reintegration units before they’re released. It causes them to act and to work and to have a schedule just like they expect when they’re released.”

Mike Brickner, spokesman for the ACLU of Ohio, agrees that the state’s programs have played a big role in helping inmates once they’re released. However, Brickner says the ACLU would like to see even more inmates enrolled in the program.

 “Offering even more expansive programming options -- educational programs, vocational programs --would hopefully shrink that waiting list and ensure that everyone is able to get access to those types of programs that are so successful.”

Along with these initiatives, Director Mohr says, in his 40 years of experience, Medicaid expansion may make the biggest difference for ex-cons..

“It basically means that — when offenders leave our prisons — we are going to assign those eligible members up for Medicaid expansion and a majority of them will be eligible.”

Both Mohr and Brickner say the expansion of Medicaid should especially help with those suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues.

 “That will really help to stem this cycle of incarceration that we often see a person who has a mental illness commits a crime, they’re incarcerated, they’re treated while they’re in prison, they come out they don’t receive treatment and they commit a new crime.”

Brickner adds that the ACLU would like to see other changes, including making it harder for landlords to refuse housing to former inmates.

 

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