Repeat offenders still crowd prisons - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Repeat offenders still crowd prisons

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Dougherty County Jail Director Colonel John Ostrander Dougherty County Jail Director Colonel John Ostrander
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A recent study found that more than one third of those prisoners will be back behind bars within three years of being released. But it seems there has been a slight improvement in prison recidivism.

This revolving door in Georgia prisons is a very expensive problem. The Department of Corrections latest budget is about one billion dollars. And even as startling as Georgia's prison's numbers of repeat offenders is, it's still better than the national average.

There are some marginal improvements at Georgia prisons, as the recidivism rate has fallen. A study the Pew Center on the States shows that 35% of convicts released from Georgia prisons in 2004 were back in prison by 2007.

In 1999 the rate of return behind bars was 38%. Experts say drugs and the lack of jobs are big reasons the rate is still so high. 

"I'm not surprised the rate is extremely high, and I think it's going to get worse due to the fact of the situation with the economy,"  said Dougherty County Mental Health drug counselor Jon Howard.

Dougherty County Jail officials say they have programs to get inmates off drugs and finishing some education goals to try to stop the revolving door.

"So we feel like if we can help them get the GED while they are here, that will create opportunities for them so they can have a more productive life, and perhaps not come back," said Dougherty County Sheriff's Office Jail Director Colonel John Ostrander.

Nationally, the numbers are even worse. The Pew report says in 1999, 45% of convicts released from prisons were back within three years. In 2004 the statistic improved to 43%. 

"But I do think we are on a positive trend, the numbers are down over time. And hopefully that trend will continue,"   Ostrander said.

But Howard said a lack of job opportunities could lead more persons just released from prison to give up, and return to drugs and crime in desperation.

The Georgia Department of Corrections spokesperson says they are still looking over the Pew Center study, and that Commissioner Brian Owens would comment on it next week.

Besides the 52,000  current inmates incarcerated in Georgia prisons now, there are more than 154,000 people on probation. @@@

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