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New approach lowers arrest rate of California ex-cons

Posted: October 29, 2012 2:00 p.m.
Updated: October 29, 2012 2:00 p.m.
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The rate at which California prison parolees commit new crimes has dropped slightly for the second straight year, according to a report released Monday, an improvement that corrections officials partly attribute to recent rehabilitation efforts.

The study is the first to track the results of a program that evaluates felons based on their risk of reoffending. The program helps prison officials target high-risk inmates with additional supervision and rehabilitation before and after their release.

For example, inmates receiving drug treatment before their release were half as likely to commit new crimes as addicts who did not.

The program is intended to lower a recidivism rate that is among the highest for the nation's prison systems. Even with the steady improvement, nearly two-thirds of ex-convicts in California still wind up back in custody within three years of their release.

"We're pleased to see that recidivism rates are improving and that the reforms we undertook in 2007 and 2008 are working," state corrections secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement.

The effort began when the department began using an evaluation in 2007 called Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions. It is designed to guide the department in assigning inmates to treatment programs based on their needs.

A year later, the department combined that evaluation with another program created by the University of California, Irvine that is designed to calculate how likely each inmate and parolee is to commit new crimes. The goal is to spot high-risk felons and intervene before it is too late.

Previously, the department based its rehabilitation efforts solely on the offense the criminal committed.

Even with the programs, nearly 74,000 of the 116,000 inmates released during the study period were re-arrested.

The study tracked inmates released from prison four and five years ago. It found the recidivism rate dropped below 64 percent, down nearly 4 percentage points over two years.

Lee Seale, the department's research director, said in an email that the rate at which California parolees are convicted of new crimes is about average among states. California historically has had the nation's highest recidivism rate, topping 70 percent, but that includes parolees who are arrested but not convicted as well as those who are sent back to prison for violating conditions of their parole.

Unlike California, most states don't put every ex-convict on parole, so they can't be sent back for parole violations.

California's system changed dramatically a year ago when the state shifted responsibility for lower level crimes to county jurisdiction. Most parole violators now also are incarcerated in county jails instead of state prisons.

The move saves the state money while reducing prison crowding.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

 

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