(KCPW News) More than half of Utah’s convicted felons return behind bars within three years for a new offense or a parole violation, according to a new study. But Steve Gehrke, Spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections, says the numbers actually mark improvement, because Utah once held the highest recidivism rate in the country.
“We actually saw it as fairly good news from our perspective simply because when you look at our updated statistics and compare ourselves against ourselves in the past which is an apple to apples comparison, we actually decline and had one of the most dramatic declines in the study in terms of our recidivism rate,” Gehrke said.
The Pew Public Safety Performance Project conducted the study, and found that from 1999 to 2002, nearly 66 percent of Utah inmates ended up back in prison.
From 2004 to 2007, that dropped to 53.7 percent.
“Utah has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the entire nation,” says Gehrke. “So when you start from that angle, prison beds and those who come to us are inherently more difficult to rehabilitate than those in some states where there incarceration rates are higher and people are being imprisoned for more minor crimes. Our prison beds are reserved for people who are having very serious struggles in society to begin with.”
Minnesota now has the highest recidivism rate, while Wyoming and Oregon have the lowest.
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