Reducing recidivism

It is not being soft on crime or criminals to try to reduce the number of repeat offenders. Lowering recidivism means lowering crime and saving tax dollars.

Last year the Connecticut legislature, backing an initiative from the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, enacted legislation to encourage prisoners to participate in programs to further their education, deal with underlying issues that may fuel their anger or misogynistic actions, improve behavior and other rehabilitative efforts. The incentive for their participation is sentence reduction.

It is understandable, however, why the "Risk Reduction Earned Credit" policy has some crime victims angry. In Monday's edition, Staff Writer Karen Florin told the story of a woman irate that the man convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting her, John Moniz, will likely be freed in less than the 10 years a judge sentenced him to last year.

Only other sexual assault victims can possibly relate to what this woman went through in 2002. (Police did not arrest Mr. Moniz until 2010, when new evidence became available.) But most everyone can understand her desire not to see the suspect have even one day eliminated from his already too short sentence.

Yet corrections' officials need incentives to get prisoners to care about working on rehabilitation. Offering the chance at obtaining freedom sooner appears an obvious one. The program is only open to inmates who are almost certain to get out anyway. They may get out a bit earlier, but if prison and parole authorities can reduce recidivism, that's a fair (if unpleasant) trade off.

Yes, some will work the system, signing up for programs, but with no genuine intention to change who they are and how they act. But the law has a reasonable safeguard, with those convicted of violent crimes required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

And most ex-cons have parole hanging over their heads, meaning a return to prison if caught reoffending or violating parole rules. Mr. Moniz, for example, faces 15 years of parole.

It is vitally important for the state to follow this initiative in the coming years to determine its effectiveness in reducing the number of reoffenders. While society may want to throw away the key, attempting rehabilitation is the more realistic course.

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