Criminal justice reform is perhaps one of the most pressing and difficult issues of our time. Despite being the “land of the free,” the United States incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other country in the world. This is not only a problem in its own right; it also contributes to a destructive pattern often seen among imprisoned offenders.
Numerous studies have suggested that criminal offenders who spend time in prison may actually be at a higher risk of reoffending after their release. This is not a case of “once a criminal always a criminal.” Rather, it has to do with how much money and resources are spent locking up offenders compared to helping them rehabilitate and reintegrate once their sentence has been served. Many have argued that the criminal justice system could ultimately save money and lower recidivism rates simply by investing more in the reintegration of individuals who have served their sentence and are out on parole or probation.
Various agencies in parts of Milwaukee have been testing such an approach since 2010 with the creation of the Milwaukee Collaborative Offender Re-entry Program. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, MCORP is a collaborative effort between police officers and state probation-parole agents. Within days after an offender is released from prison, the officers/agents make efforts to stop at their home, talk to offenders and their families and offer access to certain resources and services when appropriate.
Currently, a program for juvenile offenders is being created using MCORP as a model. As with the adult program, the juvenile program seeks to build relationships in order to improve offender accountability and to hopefully reduce the chances that offenders will reoffend.
MCORP and similar efforts have their critics, and this type of intervention is not something that may be needed or wanted among some offenders and their families. It is at least encouraging, however, to see that local and state agencies are investing time, money and resources into helping offenders instead of just addressing their crimes.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Milwaukee program aims to keep juvenile offenders from re-offending,” Ashley Luthern, Mar. 9, 2014