I have always thought we had a revolving door policy – although unintended – in our prison system. Some 35 percent of the 10,880 state inmates who got out of prison in Alabama in 2004 returned within three years, a rate that was virtually unchanged from the three-year period between 1999 and 2002, according to a study released last month. Although the recidivism rate has remained unchanged, Alabama had the 15th-lowest rate of the 41 states that reported data, according to the study by the Pew Center on the States. Nationally, the recidivism rate between 2004 and 2007 was 43 percent, compared with 45 percent in the 1999-2002 period. Apparently this was the first-ever state-by-state examination of return-to-prison rates. Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project, made this observation:
Prison spending has escalated enormously over that period, over the past 30 years, but with barely noticeable impact on the rate of offenders returning to prison.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb believes the state’s return-to-prison rate will improve with the expansion of drug court programs, which provide treatment in lieu of prison for some Defendants. She says that almost every county in Alabama now has one. Judge Tracy McCooey, a well-respected Circuit Judge from Montgomery, was instrumental in getting the drug court program started. Data show there is a significant reduction in recidivism as inmates go through the program. Simply put, the drug courts really do work. The data show that drug courts save millions of dollars and make people safer.
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