_CULTURE SOCIETY Recidivism

_Corrections Clarity

The solution to prison recidivism may be to improve communication and consistency in how rules violations are addressed.

_Jordan Hyatt

Hyatt is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Justice Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Jordan Hyatt believed that high national prison recidivism rates could be due to a lack of communication and consistency, so he did something about it.

Hyatt began working with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in 2014 to replicate innovative criminal justice interventions from around the country. One successful program he observed was in Hawaii.

Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program created more opportunities to avoid incarceration, and it made it clear to each probationer exactly what would happen if they violated the conditions of their supervision.

Hyatt saw this as a program that could also work in Pennsylvania’s halfway houses because it provided a clear set of rules, regulations and reactive consequences — as opposed to Pennsylvania’s existing inconsistent procedures.

Since working with the Department of Corrections to monitor the program, called State Intermediate Punishment-HOPE, Hyatt and his colleagues have found an impressive 13 percent reduction in re-arrests among participants.

“Further, SIP-HOPE participants spent fewer days in prison or jail, demonstrating the ability of this approach to not only reduce crime, but also to reduce the use of costly prison beds,” says Bret Bucklen, director of research and planning for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.