Gary D. Maynard: Maryland's recidivism rate is improving substantially
Daily Times - Online, The

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In his impassioned plea for us to work together to close the revolving door of ex-inmates returning to prison, Ron Pagano mentions an overall recidivism rate for Maryland offenders that is incorrect.

Nationally, recidivism is measured in three-year cohorts. Maryland’s recidivism rate for the most recent cohort for which we have numbers, ending in 2011, is 43.3 percent. That’s down almost eight points from 2007, when the recidivism rate was 51 percent. The number cited by Pagano, used in a Governor’s Office of Crime & Control report, was specific to only a certain group of offenders, not the entire population of prison releases.

This significant achievement is thanks to the many partnerships and evidenced-based programming undertaken by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services since 2007. More programming for inmates, more job training, employment readiness and educational opportunities, expanded behavior management programs, better utilization of drug treatment resources and a restorative justice program where inmates do public work in the community are some of the many efforts we’ve made since 2007 to better prepare inmates for reentering society.

Last year, more than 26,000 educational and job readiness slots were filled inside our institutions. Inmates completed 2.8 million hours of employment and training working for Maryland Correctional Enterprises. And minimum security or pre-release inmates worked more than 705,120 hours doing community-based public works projects all over the state through the Public Safety Works initiative. Inmates — including many at Poplar Hill — are being certified and trained in vocational fields that will yield good-paying jobs on the outside, further reducing the recidivism rate.

For the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland, that means tens of millions of oyster spat and thousands of shoreline-restoring bay grasses have been planted by inmates in Chesapeake Bay waterways and on Eastern Shore islands.

Inmates have also planted a million trees and helped towns like Crisfield recover from flooding. Eastern Correctional Institution inmates train service dogs for veterans who were wounded serving our country and raise money for charities through service projects and walk-a-thons.

Better-prepared and focused inmates impact more than recidivism. Along with the Department’s six-year focus on institutional security, they are contributing to safer, less violent prisons as well. Serious assaults on staff have been driven down 65 percent and serious assaults on inmates have been driven down 47 percent, both since 2007.

Pagano has a fine program at work in the Wicomico Detention Center and we hope efforts like these expand statewide. In the meantime, please know that our staff at the Eastern Correctional Institution, Poplar Hill and in the community supervision offices serving the Eastern Shore are making a difference by helping us achieve a noteworthy decrease in the number of inmates returning to prison.