In light of the latest statistics showing the astoundingly high rates of incarceration in this country, we hear these two tidbits:
For example, said Mimi Carter, director of the Maryland-based nonprofit Center for Effective Public Policy, convicted criminals who spend long stretches in prison are more likely to commit new crimes after they are released.
“The longer we incarcerate them, the worse they get,” she said.
Solving the problem of overcrowded prisons and jails will take a coordinated effort involving a wide spectrum of state, local and private interests, Carter told about 15 people on the ad hoc Detention Dilemma Group, a committee of the Montana Board of Crime Control. The group was formed last year to look for short- and long-term solutions to overcrowding at county jails and state prisons.
Shawn Abbott, who runs a treatment program in Great Falls for sex offenders, said many people behind bars are young men who had sex with girlfriends who were underage at the time.
“We stigmatize them badly by labeling them sex offenders and forcing them to register with law enforcement for the rest of their lives,” she told the council.
“We need to be able to tailor our treatment of them,” she said.
Many of those offenders are classified as Level 1 sex offenders, said Mike Scolatti, a psychologist from Missoula who works with the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.
“In general, I don’t think Level 1 offenders deserve to be in prison,” he said. “These guys aren’t predators.”
Of the 608 sex offenders in prison in Montana, 137 are Level 1, he said. Their treatment costs $49,000 a year each, or $6.7 million annually.
“If the courts sentenced half those 137 Level 1 men to outpatient treatment, the state would save $3,381,000 a year,” Scolatti said.
About 100 other inmates have completed their sex-offender treatment and are just waiting to complete their sentences, he said.
“If we leave those guys sitting in prison for another year, it costs the state another $5 million,” he said, adding that the additional prison time does the offender no good.
“The vast majority of these guys aren’t sexual predators,” he said, noting very low recidivism rates. “Less than 1 percent of them are. Contrary to popular belief, we’re getting some very good results from treatment.”
Fascinating stuff to see in conservative and largely “law and order” Montana media.