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OTS Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the recidivism rates for offenders leaving state prison in New Jersey?
A. The most recent outcome study conducted by the Department of Corrections reveals that the overall re-arrest rate for adult offenders previously incarcerated in a New Jersey state correctional facility is 55%, the reconviction rate is 43% and the re-incarceration rate is 31%. In New Jersey, as well as nationally, the highest risk period formerly incarcerated persons face is within that initial period following their release from prison. Of those offenders rearrested, about half were rearrested within nine months of release.
Q. How has the growth in the prison population impacted the state correction budget?
A. In less than 30 years, the prison population in New Jersey more than quadrupled from about 6,000 to over 27,000, despite an overall decrease in crime. These trends have had enormous effects on state spending. Over the past 25 years, spending on corrections and parole has grown at twice the rate of the rest of the state budget. In 1983, the taxpayers spent just under $200 million on corrections, parole, and the juvenile justice system. Today the budget for the Department of Corrections alone is over $900 million. Every year, the Department of Corrections spends an average of $34,600 for every inmate under its custody. In addition to reducing crime, even modest reductions in recidivism save the taxpaying public significant dollars.
Q. Who's leaving prison?
A. Most are male (91 percent), single (83 percent) and black (63 percent). The average age of an offender leaving state prison is 34. At least half of the inmates have minority children. The average reading level of the returning offender is the 6th grade, the average math level is the 5th grade. Two thirds have no GED or High School Diploma. They have spent an average of 2.5 years behind bars. The population has a myriad of complex issues, ranging from severe drug addition and mental illness to poor employment skills and extensive histories of criminal behavior and lengthy incarceration. About a third have been diagnosed with at least one chronic and/or communicable physical or mental health condition, not including substance abuse. More than 60 percent of New Jersey inmates were identified as having moderate to severe drug and alcohol addictions.
Q. What communities are most effected by returning prisoners in New Jersey?
A. The vast majority (95 percent) of those released from a New Jersey prison will return to communities in New Jersey. Almost one-third (31 percent) will return to two counties in the state, Essex and Camden. Essex and Camden counties present specific challenges to successful prisoner reentry, especially with regard to finding or preparing oneself for employment and supporting oneself financially. The residents of Essex and Camden counties face many economic and social disadvantages compared to many other parts of the state. According to the 2000 Census, one-quarter of Newark's families and one-third of Camden's families lived in poverty. High concentrations of returning prisoners to a single community generate incredible costs to those communities, including costs associated with crime and public safety, greater public health risks, and high rates of unemployment and homelessness.
Q. What are some of the barriers facing returning offenders?
A. Barriers facing offenders during their reintegration back into society range from restricted access to public housing, limited employment opportunities, restricted voting rights and driving privileges to the social stigma as an "ex-con."
Q. What is the New Jersey Department of Corrections doing to prepare offenders for their release from prison?
A. The New Jersey Department of Corrections has long believed that providing comprehensive rehabilitative programming to prisoners increases the likelihood of prisoners' successful return to the community. The department has written policies to ensure that all inmates are given an initial assessment, are reviewed every year for their appropriate level of custody, and that all inmates leave custody with a discharge plan. During the intake process, inmates are assessed and referred to programs that meet their individual needs. The Department of Corrections has adopted the use of the level of Services Inventory- Revised (LSI-R). The LSI-R is a risk needs assessment identified by reentry authorities as a best practice approach to measure inmate's risk to reoffend. Each inmate also completes a drug and alcohol assessment, undergoes a complete physical examination and mental examination ,and is assessed for their educational level with the Test of Adult Basic Education test. In every facility, inmates are afforded the opportunity to attend anger management, educational and vocational training program, parenting classes, narcotics anonymous and alcoholics anonymous, cognitive behavioral therapy and a restorative justice program that focuses on victim empathy.

During the release, process linkages are created to community-based services such as Social Security, the Veterans Affairs, the faith-based community, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Labor One Stop Centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers and others. They work with inmates to obtain their social security card, apply for SSI, register to vote, find housing upon release, address detainers, and find employment in the community.

The department has recently entered an agreement with the Social Security Administration for ensuring inmates obtain duplicate social security number cards before they leave prison and we are working with Parole to pre-qualify inmates for social security benefits for inmates prior to their release. Every inmate is also given a picture ID good for 30 days and for those who need medications, the department releases them with a two-week supply and a 30-day prescription to be filled in the community. Transportation is also available at reduced rates through the New Jersey Transit Authority.

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