Friday, January 23, 2009

PSD briefs lawmakers on offender reentry plan

Officials from the Department of Public Safety (PSD) yesterday emphasized the need for more collaboration with non-criminal justice government agencies and community-based agencies in order to successfully and efficiently leverage limited resources to expand programs and services offered by the offender reentry and reintegration plan.

House and Senate public safety committees held an informational briefing with PSD to discuss the State's Comprehensive Reentry Plan.The plan was developed in response to a law (Act 8, SB 932) passed during the 2007 Legislative session that required the PSD to incorporate strategies to aid offenders returning to their communities.

Approximately 6,000 offenders are imprisoned in Hawaii jails and facilities on the mainland. Of this amount, 5,700 will eventually be released on parole or probation.

Hawaii has one of the highest rates of recidivism compared to other states, but they have been gradually decreasing. Recidivism rates for parolees dropped from 72.9% in 2003 to 65.7% in 2006 and for offenders on probation, from 53.7% to 48.2%.

Although there has been a decrease in recidivism, several lawmakers were puzzled as to why Hawaii rates were higher than other states. Sen. Robert Bunda asked PSD officials, "What are they [other states] doing that we aren't?"

Tommy Johnson, Deputy Director for Corrections, reminded Sen. Bunda and other lawmakers that the rates reflect all arrests and not only convictions. The reason for the arrest could be as minor as breaking a probation rule to as large as committing a major crime.

By the end of the briefing, a solid answer to Sen. Bunda's question failed to materialize. However, Johnson did say that the only way a reentry program can succeed and lower recidivism rates is if we are able to understand why offenders re-offend. However, the diverse offender barriers particular to each individual incarcerated is one of the challenges the reentry program faces.

The reentry plan heeds three specific strategies and goals: immediately access the needs and risks of an offender; develop individualized transitions through appropriate services and programs; and constant monitoring, management and re-assessments of an offender's progress.

You can view the Dept. of Public Safety's slideshow presentations below:

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