By Mark Zaretsky
Connecticut has found success reducing recidivism, or recurring crime by former inmates, by paying attention to and tracking things that many other states do not, speakers said Monday at a University of New Haven public safety forum.
In fact, Connecticut is one of only eight states that track and publish three key measures of recidivism — rearrest, reconviction and reincarceration, said David D’Amora, moderator of a recidivism panel at the university’s annual Connecticut State Forum on Public Safety.
The panel was one of three at the forum, which took place at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science.
“There are lots of things that we pay attention to that other states do not,” said D’Amora, director of special projects for the Council of State Governments, before introducing a panel that included:
• Eric Ellison, deputy director of parole and community services at the Connecticut Department of Correction.
• Brian Hill, director of human resources, Connecticut Judicial Branch.
• Mirlinda Ndrecka, assistant professor of Criminal Justice at University of New Haven, and,
• Julie Revaz, Court Support Services Division, Judicial Branch
The other panels included Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell, Chief Public Defender Christine Perra Rapillo, state Victim Advocate Natasha Pierre, Bill Carbone, director of the Tow Youth Justice Institute and Scott Semple, commissioner of the state Department of Correction, among others.
To reduce recidivism, Connecticut targets eight risk factors, using risk and needs assessments to guide its decisions, with best results generally coming from a combination of good supervision and solid treatment, D’Amora said.
As part of its efforts, the state provides inmates and members of the re-entry population everything from substance abuse treatment and psychiatric care to help with transportation and supportive housing, he said.
Revaz, who works with juveniles, said the state is now training probation officers to work with young people over a longer period of time than in the past, aiming among other things to foster community connections that can be sustained after youths leave state custody.
Hill pointed out that 15 or 20 years ago it was difficult for the state to even say how many people were on probation in Connecticut.
But now, with better tracking in place, officials know the number of people on probation in Connecticut has dropped from 57,000 in 2009 to fewer than 40,000 today — although that drop in numbers also has come at a time of shrinking resources, he said.
The state also has seen “a great shift in practice, as to how people on probation” were treated, with much more attention paid to a risk-needs assessment, Hill said.
“I think we’re really on the cusp of realizing some really outstanding outcomes,” he said.
Ellison said those involved in the justice system are working to reduce recidivism particularly among offenders ranging in age from 18 to 24, employing risk-needs assessments and cognitive behavioral therapy under a grant-funded protocol called Effective Practices in Community Supervision.
“While we are making broad system changes, we’re focusing on changes with each individual offender” and taking a collaborative approach among various agencies, he said.
Ndrecka said that “when it comes to human beings, the best way that we learn is through cognitive behavioral treatment.”
Those guiding the support inmates and former inmates involved in re-entry receive have learned that “very simple things such as not having the transportation to get to the treatment or not having child care” can affect the success or failure of someone trying to make it back into society.