State officials think they have found a solution to that problem. According to a February 2013 announcement by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the state’s contracts with privately-operated halfway houses will be renegotiated to directly link pay with performance. If the recidivism rate of prisoners released from halfway houses declines, those facilities will receive higher payments.
Previous recidivism statistics indicate that about 40% of Pennsylvania prisoners return to prison within three years after their release. Now, however, when the state measures recidivism, it counts arrests as well as re-incarcerations, bringing the total recidivism rate to almost 60% according to a report released on February 28, 2013.
“We call it the Department of Corrections, and apparently, it’s not correcting anything,” noted Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.
Bret Bucklen, director of planning, research and statistics for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said the state’s private halfway house contractors “should be held to a better standard.... We’re playing the probability game, and there are things they can do to decrease the probability of inmates committing another crime.” He added, “[t]o put it another way, I like to gamble: if I’m card counting, I may still lose a hand of Blackjack, but my chances of winning are significantly higher.”
Tying halfway house payments to performance, as measured by recidivism rates, will hopefully reduce taxpayer expenses by providing a financial incentive for halfway house operators to offer the kind of environment and services that make it less likely for released prisoners to re-offend.
The new performance-based contracts are expected to be in place by July 2013. Halfway houses that fail to demonstrate a recidivism rate of 60% or less risk losing their contracts. Those that achieve recidivism reductions of at least 10% will receive higher per-prisoner payments, according to Bucklen. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said he thought the initiative was the first of its kind in the nation.
Sources: The Patriot-News, www.post-gazette.com, www.philly.com
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