IG: No Way To Know If Re-Entry Grants Are Effective.

Ryan J. Reilly reports on some frustrating news for re-entry advocates -- the Office of the Inspector General found that the systems for evaluating whether or not the programs receiving federal grant money are actually effective in reducing recidivism:

According to the report, the Inspector General’s office could not determine if Office of Justice Program grants were successful in reducing recidivism rates because the office does not effectively track how the programs that receive grants spend their funds.

The report included an audit of 10 grant programs worth $17.9 million from January 2005 through November 2009 which questioned how $5.2 million of that money was spent. The Inspector General found in the overall report, which covered three separate grant programs spanning from fiscal year 2002 through January 2010, that in many cases there was little documentation showing the office followed up with grantees after awarding them with funding.

So part of what happened as both parties converted to the "tough on crime" mentality was that states became laboratories for figuring out how to reduce recidivism and corrections costs. Some states -- like New Jersey or Hawaii -- developed programs that work really well, while other states are just throwing their money away. Ideally you'd want states to adopt programs like Hawaii's HOPE probation program (championed by blogger/author Mark Kleiman), which had some rather dramatic results, according to a study done by the National Institute of Justice and the Pew Center on the States:

HOPE.jpg

Obviously it's a serious problem if no one is distinguishing between the programs that do work and the ones that don't, not just because the government is actually wasting money but because the perception that the government is wasting money could discourage the growing bipartisan interest in re-entry programs all together. The Office of Justice Programs has said they're implementing new practices for evaluating the effectiveness of re-entry programs based on the IG's recommendations.

What I hope ultimately is that the country will end up turning more toward noncustodial sentencing for nonviolent offenders, which would work better than the rather draconian methods some states are considering in trying to force prisoners to pay for their own incarceration. Someone under electronic monitoring who is going to work and pay rent is paying for themselves without the collateral social and financial costs of incarceration.

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