Educational, Vocational and Transitional Services for Inmates and Ex-Offenders

Panelists: Jack Kavanagh, Deputy Commissioner, Maryland Division of Correction; Judith Sachwald, Director, Maryland Division of Parole & Probation

Moderator: Stuart O. Simms, Secretary, Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services


Secretary Simms introduced the panelists and provided an overview of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS). A major focus of MDPSCS is the transition of offenders into the community following incarceration. Due to inadequate funding for educational, vocational and social work programs within Maryland's correctional facilities, inmates return to the community without the skills necessary to lead stable, productive lives in the community. Secretary Simms encouraged forum attendees to support initiatives that reduce recidivism, and to advocate for additional funding for existing programs.

Deputy Commissioner Kavanagh provided an overview of the Division of Correction's intake and classification processes. Individuals who are convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than a year of incarceration fall under the jurisdiction of the DOC, and are remanded to one of the 26 correctional facilities it operates throughout Maryland. These institutions comprise maximum-, medium-, and minimum-security institutions, as well as pre-release facilities. Deputy Commissioner Kavanagh offered the following statistics:

  • As of July 2001, 23,886 inmates were in DOC custody. Of these, 22,620 were men and 1,246 were women.
  • Over half of these individuals are incarcerated in medium-security facilities, most of them for drug offenses.
  • Approximately 37% of inmates were between the ages of 31 and 40.
  • In FY 2001, 15,124 inmates were released from DOC institutions. Approximately 8,000 returned to neighborhoods in Baltimore City.
  • In FY 01, Over 45% of inmates who had been released within the previous three years were re-arrested for new offenses.

The DOC, in collaboration with other public and private organizations, responded to a request for proposal issued by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Labor, and Health and Human Services. This grant would provide $3.1M to expand the Re-Entry Partnership (REP) program, a public-private initiative designed to provide effective transitional services to inmates returning to target neighborhoods in Baltimore City. The Federal funders are expected to announce grant recipients in January 2002. (Note: In December 2001 the Federal government rescinded the proposed funding. A new grant cycle, funded by the three departments mentioned plus the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Housing and Urban Development, is expected to be announced in January 2002.)

Deputy Commissioner Kavanagh emphasized the importance of strategies that reduce recidivism. The high recidivism rate in Maryland is responsible for high costs to communities, and it contributes to the severe overcrowding problem in Maryland's correctional facilities.

Director Sachwald provided an overview of the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation (MDPP), which supervises the conduct of parolees and adult probationers. She offered the following statistics:

  • As of June 1, 2001, there were 70,113 active cases under MDPP supervision statewide.
  • 22,149 individuals with active cases reside in Baltimore City.
  • As of October 2000, MDPP agents handled a mixed caseload of high- and low-risk offenders, averaging 103 cases per agent.

While programs like Break the Cycle and Correctional Options are effective in reducing recidivism and connecting ex-offenders to services such as substance abuse treatment, these initiatives represent only "scattered pockets of strength", and are not currently part of a systemic, community-based correctional strategy.

Director Sachwald described Proactive Community Supervision (PCS), a new case management model adopted by MDPP. A comprehensive, community-based approach to ex-offender supervision, PCS is designed to:

  • Protect public safety;
  • Hold offenders accountable to victims and the community, and
  • Help offenders become responsible and productive members of society.

PCS accomplishes these goals by reducing MDDP agent caseloads and increasing agents' involvement in the re-integration of parolees and probationers into the community. This allows agents to supervise ex-offenders more closely and to engage the community supports (family, friends, clergy, businesses, job development providers, substance abuse treatment providers, etc.) that can facilitate offender re-entry. Another key element of PCS is the implementation of an electronic case management system that will enable agents to more effectively store, retrieve and generate report on a wide variety of information for each offender under supervision.

MDPP is seeking funding from the Maryland General Assembly to implement the PCS initiative.

 

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