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Recidivism Rate for W.Va. Fourth Lowest in Country

CHARLESTON - A new report released by the Pew Center on the States shows the rate of recidivism for West Virginia's incarcerated population is the fourth lowest in the country.

The study examined the rate at which inmates released in 1999 and 2004 returned to prison in the three years following their release, according to information issued late last week by the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety and the state Division of Corrections.

West Virginia, with a 26.8 percent recidivism rate, fell behind just three states - Oregon (22.8 percent), Wyoming (24.8 percent) and Oklahoma (26.4 percent).

Compared to the national average of 43.3 percent recidivism, West Virginia's rates are encouraging, officials said.

"The Pew Center's report shows that we can continue to ensure public safety while being cost-efficient through a unified commitment to recidivism reduction," said Joe Thornton, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Recidivism rates provided in the report are meant to assist states in determining how successful their current rehabilitation and deterrent systems are, as well as what other states have done to produce positive results. Since so many of the country's inmates are repeat offenders, officials said focusing on recidivism reductions will help prevent future victimization and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent effectively.

"I am proud of our staff's commitment to the WVDOC's goal of reducing offender recidivism. This shows that our efforts are paying off, and while West Virginia's recidivism rate is already lower than in most states, the Division of Corrections remains committed to enhancing offender re-entry programs," said WVDOC Commissioner Jim Rubenstein.

Rubenstein also said he is confident the WVDOC will meet the myriad of challenges ahead by staying on the cutting edge of evidence-based practices, which was echoed by Thornton.

"Our correctional industry leaders and employees have recognized that operating a successful prison system includes preparing the incarcerated population for a productive life outside of the system. This effort involves parole and probation agencies, social service providers, work-release employers and support from the community," Thornton said.

Not all states participated in the study due to a lack of adequate data. In the study of prisoners released in 1999, 33 states were analyzed. In the study of prisoners released in 2004, 41 states were analyzed.

The full report is available at www.dmaps.wv.gov/news.

The Martinsburg Journal - Monday, April 18, 2011  

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