By Christopher Zoukis
Maryland has increased its efforts to focus on crime prevention and rehabilitation programs for offenders as a way to reduce recidivism and reliance on the prison-industrial complex.
It is of increasing importance and necessity crime-reduction programs are installed to prevent crime before it begins, and rehabilitation is the focus for offenders so they can lead productive lives and contribute to their communities, instead of falling back into old patterns.
To do that, corrections — not just punishment — should be a key philosophy, and facilities should provide support in the form of re-entry programs and skills building. Across the country, there is a need to do a better job preparing incarcerated individuals to return to home. It's ludicrous to lock up offenders, give them no education, skills or tools, and expect that they will all come out transformed, or even know how to change.
Politicians, lawmakers, nonprofits, and other community leaders are all getting on board, realizing change needs to maintain momentum. “Our mission is preventing crime, not just sending people to prison, so we focus our crime-prevention efforts on two groups: school students, to deter them from turning to crime, and ex-convicts, to stop them from re-offending, said Maryland State's Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a statement. Rosenstein’s office has received funding to promote re-entry and crime prevention programs and efforts. These programs are crucial, considering 600,000 individuals will be released and returned to their communities this year — more than 8,000 of them in Baltimore.
There is a comprehensive list of programs in Maryland available to newly released adults, organized by county. The list is 181 pages and covers resources for substance abuse, mental health, emergency funding, conflict resolution, job training, mentoring, food help and legal assistance.
Here are a few of those programs:
• Several counties offer SHORE UP! The organization name is an acronym for Self Help on Rural Economics and Urban Problems, with the main focus being to help low income and disadvantaged persons reach economic sufficiency. Programs include energy assistance, emergency assistance for food, housing and medical, job training and employment programs including Job Start for youth ages 16-19, Adult Basic Education and GED, and housing programs.
• The Druid Heights Community Development Re-Entry Program’s mission statement is "to cause, encourage and promote community self-empowerment through the development of economic, educational, employment and affordable housing opportunities." It focuses on newly released ex-offenders. Services provided include transitional housing, peer mentoring, mental health services, family reunification, life skills, conflict resolution, computer literacy, resume writing and job placement assistance. This comprehensive range of services helps to ensure a complete and successful reintegration into the community.
• Maryland Correctional Enterprises' Continuing Allocation of Re-Entry Services (CARES) is a reintegration program for inmates nearing their release, with the goal of reducing recidivism by 20 percent in comparison to the general MCE release population. Participants receive three months' training in cognitive behavioral therapy, and three months of the Employment Readiness Workshop, with a minimum of 50 contact hours providing assessments, interview skills, job search strategies and skills building.
Christopher Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016). He can be found online at ChristopherZoukis.com, PrisonEducation.com and PrisonLawBlog.com.