Your July 3 editorial “Revolving door” was a much-needed look at Ohio as a national leader in reducing its inmate recidivism rate. But you understated or missed two key aspects of reducing recidivism: job training and opportunities, and reducing costs to Ohio taxpayers.
Your editorial astutely calls for an attitude shift within the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. But more important is a shift in public attitudes. Businesses must be more supportive of hiring workers who have made mistakes, have paid their dues, and want to rejoin society.
The RIDGE Project (Reality Instruction, Developing Generations for Excellence) has several jobs programs statewide that contribute to overall success in lowering recidivism. Our commercial driver’s license program, welding certification, and locally based culinary arts school have helped former inmates successfully re-enter society and rejoin their families.
Our collaboration with private companies and the cooperation of the correction department harness the strengths of public and private entities. Men enrolled in our programs in 2010-2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, had a one-year recidivism rate of 4.6 percent; for the same period, one-year recidivism rates were 12.5 percent in Ohio and 23.7 percent nationally.
Not only does each employed man add to state revenues through payroll taxes, the social value of an employed father and intact family is immeasurable. The correcton department Web site lists one-year costs to house a prisoner at the Youngstown state penitentiary at nearly $60,000. The average annual amount in combined state and federal assistance that a low-income single mother receives to support a child is estimated at $38,000, according to a 2006 Human Services Policy Center study.
A new attitude and greater cooperation are needed by all parties. Otherwise, even our best efforts will be marginal. And that means a continued revolving door of imprisonment, high taxpayer cost, and impoverished families.
RON and CATHERINE TIJERINA
Co-Executive DirectorsRIDGE Project McClure, Ohio