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New Virginia Council to Coordinate Re-Entry Programs

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By Kamika Dunlap on May 18, 2010 6:55 AM

A new Virginia council will look at ways to keep prisoners out of prison and more closely coordinate re-entry programs statewide.

Gov. Bob McDonnell created the state's first Virginia Prisoner and Juvenile Offender Re-Entry Council by issuing and executive order, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Governor McDonnell hopes the council will find ways to keep prisoners out of jail and to discourage repeat offenders.

The goal of the new council is to study why prisoners are going back behind bars and to find ways to bring state, private and faith-based resources together to better plan for a prisoner's re-entry into society. It costs about $25,000 a year to house an adult inmate, and $70,000 each year for juveniles.

The new program however, will not cost the state more money and instead will re-allocate funds going to other sources.

According to officials, about 29 percent of Virginia inmates commit another crime within three years of release.

By promoting more successful societal re-entry programs, the state hopes to improve public safety and reduce recidivism.

As previously discussed, the U.S. Justice Department, the national Council of State Governments Justice Center and the nonprofit Pew Center on the States took look at the root causes of crime, ways to lower recidivism rates and to manage the offender population.

Many states are participating in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which uses mapping technology and helps to provide geographic analyses to pinpoint which neighborhoods receive people released from prison and how state spending on programs often converges on the same families and communities.

Although Virginia already has several re-entry programs, Gov. McDonnell wants the Virginia council to create a more coordinated approach.

About two years ago, a law passed that requires the Department of Corrections to establish a re-entry plan for each offender, but budget constraints and poor coordination with community resources have hindered the program.

Each year, more than 13,000 adult and juvenile offenders are released from incarceration.

As a part of Virginia's new initiative addressing re-entry issues, the governor symbolically signed two bills designed to divert nonviolent offenders from incarceration and make it easier for offenders to work off court costs.

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