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Location and Environment Seen as Core Strengths of Successful Prisoner Re-Entry Facility

Corrections officials in Montgomery County Maryland have developed a community-based re-entry program aimed at reducing prison recidivism rates, reported to be around 67% nationwide.

The Pre-Release and Reentry Services (PRRS) program points to its longevity (nearly 4 decades) and success rates in returning former inmates to productive citizens as being attributable to 4 key tenets: care, custody, control, and community. Those 4 tenets are demonstrated by the degree to which the county allocates attention and resources, both human and financial, to the program; the highly structured, closely monitored residential environment where soon-to-be-released inmates reside while participating in the program; the careful screening process for program candidates, on-going monitoring of progress, and data-tracking of results; and just as important, the operation of the Pre-Release Center in a vibrant, well-maintained, and economically diverse area within in the city of Rockville, MD.

In fact, the location and architecture of the Center are cited as being core strengths of the program in a recently released Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) report . Program administrators point out that being located in town, near transportation and jobs, enables inmates to return to work and integrate back into society. Likewise, setting expectations about behavior and creating an environment of normalcy helps inmates to see themselves as responsible and valuable members of the community.

Although some may balk at spending public funds on inmate programs, the County provides evidence in its report that in one year inmates who successfully completed the release program earned $2 million in gross income; paid $367,000 in taxes; and paid $193,000 in child support. In addition, the reduced number of people returning to jail saved the County 63,068 “detention jail bed days” and other associated costs of incarceration.

The 4-unit Center looks just like any other municipal campus – with attractive landscaping and a playful bronze sculpture that helps to create a sense of an open and relaxed atmosphere. The intent was for neighbors to accept the facility and not see its proximity as a negative factor that might pose a threat to their property values, businesses, or their personal safety.

The facility has a contemporary style with open spaces and abundant natural light. This contributes to a sense of calm and well-being, with an expectation of appropriate behavior in order to continue enjoying the pleasant environment.  Residents start off living in two-person rooms, not cells or dormitories, and can earn their way up a waiting list for a single room with private bathroom by following rules, which include looking for a job “every day until finding one”.  Residents go thru an exhaustive application process to get into the program, are required to carry Re-Entry ID cards, and must comply with extensive verifications and rules with zero-tolerance for infractions.

Continue reading more about the Pre-Release Center at the Montgomery County DOCR website.

You can download the PRRS Program Guidebook at:  http://bit.ly/XjBIlN

Keep the conversation going about how to reduce prison recidivism by sharing this article with anyone else who may be interested in re-entry programs or community-based pre-release housing facilities.

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