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New Report Says Society Benefits When Prisoners Get Release Supervision

A new report by the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts found that everyone benefited and public safety did not suffer when prisoners’ sentences were shortened to permit them to receive post-release supervisory services.  According to Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s public safety performance project, said, “There’s a broad consensus that public safety is best served when offenders have a period of supervision and services when they leave prison.”

Unfortunately, Gelb noted, “the trend is toward releasing more and more inmates without any supervision or services whatsoever.  Carving out a supervision period from the prison sentence can cut crime and corrections cost.”

Such a move makes good sense, since most prisoners have not resources and few job prospects at the time of their release.  Despite that fact, however, many prisoners still serve all of their sentences in prison without any form of halfway house placement, a figure that was 25% in 2012.  According to the Pew report, between 1990 and 2012, the number of inmates who maxed out their sentences grew 119 percent, from fewer than 50,000 to more than 100,000.

States with the highest “max-out” rates of over 40% included Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah. States with “max-out “ rates less than 10% were Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.

The Pew report also noted that the general public, now wary of mass incarceration, is more understanding of the challenges newly-released prisoners face, and the very real risk of recidivism if they are not given the services needed to succeed.  U.S. Justice Department figures show that rates of recidivism for released prisoners is still high, which causes the states and federal government to spend even more money for their re-incarceration.  When polled as to whether they preferred non-violent offenders to serve a full three-year sentence, or two years plus one year of mandatory post-release supervision, “voters preferred the latter option, 69 to 25 percent,”  the report noted.

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