The Mouse that Roared
FOCUS, our very small offender reentry program in Boulder, Colorado has roared into the Criminal Justice system with remarkable results. We are amazed, delighted, eager to share these findings:
- Based on four, third-party assessments, FOCUS is successful with an astonishing 17% recidivism rate for its offender clients. The sampling was small and FOCUS continues to gather data to verify these results.
- This recidivism rate is in contrast to the 65% standard recidivism rate for the county, and the 70% rate nationally.
- Results indicate that the presence of a trained and committed adult mentor in the life of a newly-released offender is the unique and critical piece that can lead to success and self-sufficiency for that individual.
- FOCUS’ approach has been identified as a unique program nationally.
- FOCUS’ process is aligned with a cutting edge communication theory that presents how mentoring relationships create and restore the social fabric necessary for successful reintegration.
Why should we care? For many reasons, both humane and practical.
First, when parents of young children are incarcerated you have youngsters in turmoil, families in chaos and the ripples of disruption extending far into the community.
Second, when offenders change their behavior patterns and stabilize long-term, they are often reunited with their children. This is a main motivating factor among female offenders.
Finally, incarcerating offenders is not only expensive (approximately $24,000/per year/per offender) but also with a 70% national recidivism rate, it is a highly ineffectual method for creating change and reducing crime.
Although some form of containment/punishment may be appropriate, incarceration alone is not an effective method for long-term transformation of the offender population. Altering behavior is the first step, for when offenders do not recommit crimes, the community benefits significantly through enhanced safety for all members and reduced costs for its criminal justice system.
FOCUS which began in 2005 (see www.focusreentry/aboutus.org ) sprung from the view and work of Restoring the Soul Community Partnerships, an organization dedicated to the development of social capital as the most effective way to address crucial community problems, such as what happens to offenders when they are released from our local jail?
A few members of the Partnership: a Jewish female deputy district attorney, an elder of a Christian Evangelical church, an ex-director of a Buddhist meditation center, a founder of a national prison meditation program and others with no religious affiliation met together for months discussing ways to work locally with the problem of reentry. 95% of offenders released from incarceration return to their home communities.
The nation was desperate, the crime problem runaway. 2.3 million people behind bars at any given moment:
How much of the population can you put behind bars?
How many new prisons can you build?
What do you do with the children left behind?
The national criminal justice system was at the beginning of asking questions about the rampant and unsuccessful “containment and punishment model.” Nationally, 70% of offenders recommit crimes, in Boulder County it is 65- 67%.
FOCUS Offender Reentry Mentoring Program: Analysis and Recommendations Research paper by Jacob A. Edson for Capstone Advanced Seminar in Criminal Justice, Course CRJU 5561, School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado-Denver.
FOCUS: Results for Evaluation – Outcomes and Longitudinal Surveys
Report by William Oliver, Ph.D., Marcus Breitenbach, and William Dieterich, Ph.D. – Northpointe Institute for Public Management, Inc.
Prisoner Reentry, Recidivism & The FOCUS Offender Re-entry Mentoring Program
Research paper by Courtney S. Coffman for Urban Social Problems, Course PUAD 5628, School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado-Denver.
Rethinking Recidivism: A Communication Approach to Prisoner Reentry
Matt Koschmann, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, University of Colorado-Boulder.
Testimonial from Kelly Barge
This email was sent to FOCUS’ Executive Director in October, 2012.