A program that has reduced recidivism rates was praised today by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The governor toured the program operated by the office of Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe.
Since 2007, the Hampden County Sheriff’s office has operated a one-stop center for newly released inmates. Located in a nondescript one- story brick building in a tough Springfield neighborhood, the center helps former inmates transition back into the community with a range of support services.
Governor Patrick praised Sheriff Ashe, calling him “the most visionary sheriff in America”
Of the former inmates who have gone through the Hampden County After Incarceration Support Systems program since 2007, 82 percent remained out of jail for a year, and 60 percent for three years. Patrick said Hampden County’s recidivism rate is the lowest in the state.
Other sheriffs and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections are using anti-recidivism programs based on the one piloted in Hampden County. Sheriff Ashe called it a cost-effective crime fighting tool.
The sheriff credits the reentry program with reducing the inmate count by more than 650 since 2007 and allowing the budget for the sheriff’s department to remain essentially level funded.
The support center in Springfield served 3,070 people last year. Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Sordi, the administrator in charge of the support center, said specialists from more than two dozen agencies are on hand to help former inmates with issues including substance abuse, mental health, housing, vocational training and employment.
Maritza Morales of Springfield said she had been in and out of jail several times as a result of drug use. She said the support program has helped keep her free of crime for two years now.
Morales said she is taking computer classes.