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Research Shows Clear Rules Can Lower Recidivism for Non-Violent Drug Offenders

Research Shows Clear Rules Can Lower Recidivism for Non-Violent Drug Offenders


October 31, 2017

With prison systems across the country clogged with inmates, including the 50,000 residing in Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections, state governments are investing heavily in efforts to keep offenders from returning once they’ve served their time. Despite these efforts, nationally more than 67 percent of offenders end up back behind bars. One Drexel University researcher believes it could be due to a simple lack of communication and consistency.

Jordan Hyatt, PhD, JD, an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been working for a number of years to lower the recidivism rate in Pennsylvania, where maintaining the state’s sizeable prison system costs taxpayers $20,000 per inmate annually.

“High rates of recidivism are representative of the failure of the current prison systems to achieve its goals of deterrence and rehabilitation,” said Hyatt. “We needed to make the system more effective.”

Hyatt began working with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in 2014 to evaluate innovative criminal justice interventions happening throughout the country. During this time, he came across a program that was having success in reducing recidivism in Hawaii and became intrigued with what it could do if implemented in Pennsylvania.

Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program was created by First Circuit Judge Steve Alm in 2004. The program created more opportunities to avoid incarceration and implemented, what Alm called a “swift and certain” punishment system, which made clear to each parolee, exactly what would happen if they violated their conditions of probation.

Hyatt saw this as a program that could also work in Pennsylvania because it provided a clear set of rules, regulations and reactive consequences — as opposed to Pennsylvania’s procedures, that were not consistent or particularly well-understood by parolees.

Together with officials from the Department of Corrections, Hyatt modified Hawaii’s program to create a system that could lower re-offense rates in Pennsylvania. The State Intermediate Punishment program, based on its Hawaiian counterpart, was dubbed SIP-HOPE and went into effect in 2014, starting with offenders in transitional housing communities who are low-risk, non-violent offenders not fully released but also, not in prison.

Read more at the Drexel News Blog