Montco commissioners target recidivism rate

Montgomery County commissioners are hoping to start a project aimed at reducing the recidivism rate among former county inmates.

The commissioners this week approved submitting a grant application for $185,000 to the Department of Justice, via the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The money would be added to $270,000 in state workforce development funds.

The commissioners are "cautiously optimistic" that they will get the grant money, said communications director Frank X. Custer.

If their optimism is rewarded, the money will help pay for a 12-month pilot program at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility that would provide services and training such as job readiness, career counseling, assessment and training, job placement and retention.

"If you do not give these individuals the tools to succeed, you are just setting them up to fail, and that is not good for the former inmate, our communities or our taxpayers, said commissioner Leslie Richards.

Sixty-two percent of inmates who were incarcerated at the Montgomery County facility end up committing another crime that returns them to jail, the commissioners said. That's better than the nationwide rate. A 2011 Pew Center on the States report on recidivism in 33 states found a 43.3 percent recidivism rate.

"The recidivism rate, while better than the national average, is too high," said commission chairman Josh Shapiro. 

The program would start with 15 prescreened participant, with more being added each quarter.