When Virginia ranked last year as the state with the lowest recidivism rate in the country, it wasn’t a fluke. The Old Dominion has repeated the performance. Of the 11,576 offenders released from prison in 2013, only 2,588 wound up back in jail by 2016. The percentage of felons readmitted to state-responsible incarceration within three years was 22.4%.
“I am proud of the work my administration has done to pursue policies and initiatives that rehabilitate incarcerated individuals, helping them develop the tools and skills they need to be successful,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe in a press release. “A low recidivism rate means fewer victims, it means safer communities, and it means we are returning offenders to their communities better prepared to be productive, law-abiding Virginians.”
Continues the press release:
Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) tailors its programming and supervision to address each offender’s criminogenic risks and needs in keeping with the agency’s mission to enhance the quality of life in the Commonwealth by improving public safety. About ninety-three percent of individuals incarcerated in Virginia will one day be released back into their communities.
“We are in the business of helping people to be better,” said Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke. “Virginia’s leading rate is due to the successful reentry programming and treatment offered by the Department of Corrections during an offender’s incarceration, and the effective supervision in the community after release through VADOC Probation & Parole.”
Bacon’s bottom line: Virginia should be proud of its record of low recidivism. Unless people are monkeying around with the numbers (a possibility never to be dismissed), we have the best prison programs of the 45 states surveyed for reintegrating felons into society. (I have written in the past about the special efforts made to ensure that inmates get drivers’ licenses and ID cards immediately upon release from prison, as well as programs in local jails to kick substance abuse, learn anger management, and master other life skills.)
However, I have to call McAuliffe for the boastfulness of his press release. The prisoners alluded to in the 2016 data were released from prison in 2013. McAuliffe didn’t set foot in the Governor’s Mansion until 2014. Whoever deserves credit for their low rate of recidivism, it wasn’t McAuliffe, it was the McDonnell administration. Hopefully, the McAuliffe team built upon the good work of its predecessors. But we won’t really know until McAuliffe is out of office.