Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Addressing Recidivism


The 2016 Legislative Session has arrived. This is one in a series of posts from the staff of the New Mexico Corrections Department. We intend to send a daily update to all our legislators with key points, facts, figures, personal stories describing life here at NMCD.

Recidivism, in a public safety context, can be defined as the reversion of an individual to criminal behavior after he or she has been convicted of a prior offense, sentenced, and (presumably) corrected. Recidivism data is gathered from the NMCD Criminal Management Information System (CMIS), which contains over 1400 tables with hundreds of thousands rows of data. Although due diligence has been applied to assure the accuracy of reported data (despite the cumbersome and antiquated nature of current offender management software), the Corrections Department has confidence that outcomes reported are as comprehensive as possible with minimal margin of error. To best inform your decisions as a state leader, the department shall outline a handful of cautions when considering criminal justice outcomes and comparing the work of our state against others.          

how is Recidivism calculated?
Recidivism, or post release criminality, is the outcome measure used most frequently in evaluating correctional programs and organizations. Some consider recidivism to be the sole criterion for assessing both. But if used indiscriminately, without regard for its appropriateness or limitations, it could misinform public safety policy decisions. Most of us are generally aware of what recidivism is (or should be), but haven't considered the issue in depth. Our lack of in-depth knowledge about recidivism may be best illustrated when we consider the differences between how those who do research on correctional effectiveness, those who compute recidivism statistics for administrative purposes, and those who merely read of such statistics perceive and value the calculations that inform our policy decisions. It’s important to note that no consistent definition of recidivism currently exists for the variety of programs and states across our nation. For example, outcome measures for programs, as well as those used by different states, may involve a follow-up time of 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years. Moreover, follow-up time computations may start with release from prison in one state or program, and be defined as release from community supervision (probation and/or parole) in others. Additionally, recidivating events may be defined as technical violations of the conditions of community supervision or arrest on a new charge in particular programs and/or states, while driven exclusively by return to prison in others. To further compound these inconsistencies, for some time now, in our attempts to measure outcomes and allocate our state’s resources, our lack of awareness of these issues, we have reported recidivism on annual, even quarterly intervals.

To inform your decisions as a state leader, please note that our rate is calculated when a distinct offender who is released, returns to prison within the time-period specified. We calculate this in the same way that NMSC, BJS and NIC do, which is a return to prison within a three-year period. It remains important to note that assumptions relating to the effectiveness of New Mexico’s correctional operations must take into account that the time interval for measurement is the sum of: release to arrest, arrest to hearing, hearing to trial, trial to sentencing, and sentencing to recommitment. Simply put, offenders must first undergo programming and complete their sentence(s) to initiate the three-year follow-up period. As a result, evaluation of correctional programs is a multi-year, not an annual, process.

The organization and predictability of the work done within our prisons and neighborhoods is essential, not only to smooth and secure operations, but to evoke effective outcomes for our public safety responsibilities.  As testified to over the last two years, the department’s current offender management system is antiquated and inadequately captures and tracks data relating to the variety of correctional processes. Moreover, the software is at end of life, as Microsoft no longer offers upgrades and maintenance for the platform. Because, undoubtedly, if New Mexico harness the potential of more effective recidivism data collection, we will become better positioned to measure and improve our performance; use money more wisely and enforce accountability. Your attention and support in replacing this system is more important than ever.


NMCD has been proactive in offering inmates the opportunity to educate and rehabilitate themselves. Whether the programming is adult basic education, advanced education, or job skills needed to re-integrate and be a productive member of society, NMCD has made significant efforts in reducing recidivism and investing in evidence-based programming. NMCD Recidivism Reduction is currently working with PEW MacArthur foundation on a compilation of a program inventory. Once this phase is complete, the NMCD will be utilizing information garnered from the Clearinghouse from PEW MacArthur to determine if programs are evidence based, in order to make determinations for successful programming and funding.


1.      Reducing its use of segregation from approximately almost 12% of the total inmate population to a recent low of 6.5%. This rate fluctuates depending on security risks. NMCD is on track in terms of our original goal of 5%. Through the implementation of a step down program, inmates are no longer released straight from segregation to our communities.

2.      Implementation of RDAP, an evidence based drug and alcohol program, which is now delivered with fidelity to a greater number of inmates.

3.      The growth of educational programming. We have 54 different programs involving over 4700 inmates.

4.      Development of a policy, which now requires that 75% of programming offered must be evidence-based. All of Probation and Parole Division programs are evidence-based.

5.      Providing a greater number of inmates opportunities to actively work in a now-increased number of Corrections Industries programs, which range from kitchen and warehouse management to horticulture, and landscaping.

6.      Working to increase understanding among inmates about the relationship between access to healthcare and re-socialization. Each of them is given the opportunity to apply for Medicaid before leaving prison.

7.      Ensuring that sexual offenders, who have at least five years or less to their date of release, now undergo specialized evidence based treatment in their own special management unit.

8.      Requiring that inmates, in order to earn good time, pursue education with GED as their goal.

9.      PPD (Probation and Parole Division) supervising offenders where they work and live, in lieu of the traditional office reporting of the past.

10. Making sure that NMCD is now 100% PREA compliant.

What is the Recidivism Reduction Division?

Undoubtedly, recidivism is an important part of the story of success post-incarceration. But so is education. So is employment. So is health. If states only collect recidivism data to track adult correctional outcomes, which many do, they leave out these crucial metrics. Accordingly, the Recidivism Reduction Division, as well as our entire organization is committed to providing quality academic, cognitive, family reunification, post-secondary (college), reentry, and vocational programs, healthcare and access to it post release, as well as library and legal access services to incarcerated individuals. We are committed to the ethical pursuit of educational excellence as we assist incarcerated individuals to become responsible members of the family, workforce, and community upon release. 

By understanding these realities, the Recidivism Reduction Division works to deliver high-quality   educational programming, through teamwork, dedication, and collaboration with other departments, agencies, and the community at large. 

Under the direction of RRD, the Education Bureau provides Adult Basic Education and Adult Secondary Education skills preparation for GED testing, career/technical and college readiness with Special Education and adult literacy assistance. Instructional methods include classroom, one-to-one, and small group instruction, community volunteer and peer tutoring, computer-aided instruction, cell-to-cell instruction, and educational television. 

The Education Bureau also provides the identification and special education services for all individuals under age 22 who qualify as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) eligible by state and federal regulations. The Education Department assures all qualified students are provided appropriate education according to state and federal mandates.


   The Cuffs to Cufflinks program was implemented and expanded to six facilities, which is designed to assist our returning citizens with transition back into their communities by providing donated professional attire to reenter the workforce upon release. 

   Provided Adult Basic Education and Adult Secondary Education instruction to 3,543 inmates statewide and assisted 227 inmates to attempt their GED Test. Out of the 227 attempts, 109 inmates obtained their GED, a 64% pass rate. 

   Of the 3,543 inmates, the National Reporting System for Adult Education reported 1,296 inmates who had completed a minimum of 11 hours of Adult Basic Education or Adult Secondary Education instruction and were provided a pre and post tests to assess their educational needs 701inmates (54%) had a TABE level gain (grade level) and 595 inmates (85%) of the 701 had a TABE level gain (grade level) of more than one level.

   Collaborated with PB&J Family Services to provide the following Gender Specific Programs for our female inmates: Therapeutic Visitation, Parenting Reentry/Family Reunification and Heeling Hearts Dog Rescue

   Collaborated with the Amity Foundation to provide the Gender Specific population the La Entrada Offender Reentry Program for our female inmates

   Collaborated with the Matt 25, Life Skills Learning Center to provide the Learning to Live, Learning to Love cognitive program for male inmates at the Roswell Correctional Center

   Collaborated with Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and Mesalands Community College to provide courses offered via correspondence, computer-based and distance learning.  Certificates leading to labor market driven occupations are awarded. In addition, Associate of Arts degrees in Business Administration, University Studies, Liberal Arts and Applied Sciences are awarded.

   Collaborated with the New Mexico Livestock Board to provide an Equine Rescue vocational program for male inmates at the Springer Correctional Center

   Collaborated with the Joni & Friends International Disability Center to provide the Wheels for the World, Wheelchair Restoration shop for male inmates at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility

   Collaborated with the Social Security Administration to provide the process of requesting a reprint of their social security card for inmates at the following facilities

   Collaborated with the New Mexico Public Education Department and the Central Regional Educational Cooperative to provide specialty education services to inmates at all eleven (11) correctional facilities

   Collaborated with Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell to provide Library Support Services for all eleven (11) correctional facilities

   In addition to basic education, other forms of programming under RRD include:

   Cognitive: Programs assist offenders in recognizing destructive behavior patterns and developing positive, pro-social thinking habits in all areas of their lives. 

   Family Reunification:

   Programs that prepare offenders and their families for successful reunification after incarceration which include parenting skills, family literacy, and child support management. 

   Post-Secondary (College):

   Courses are offered via correspondence and computer-based, distance learning. Certificates leading to labor market driven occupations are awarded. In addition, Associate of Arts degrees in Business Administration and University Studies from Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell are awarded. Mesalands Community College awards Associate of Arts degrees in Liberal Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees.       

   Reentry: Transitional/career advisement programming is offered at every prison to all inmates through pre-release programming. The introduction of Making the Right Turn to Reentry curriculum has greatly enhanced pre-release. This evidenced based curriculum will be modified in the coming year to better serve the needs of releasing inmates and returning citizens reflecting the diverse culture and society that in New Mexico.

   Vocational: Provide vocational programming in a variety of career-technical fields to qualified inmates. This programming is intended to meet the needs of the inmate population and to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to acquire viable, meaningful, and career oriented employment upon release.

   NMCD directs all Classification Officers to strongly encourage inmates who have thirty days to the door to sign up for Medicaid in preparation for their release. The inmate can sign up online via Yes New Mexico.

   In July 2015, NMCD joined with Project ECHO to collaborate on treatment for Hepatitis C. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a collaborative model of medical education and care management. From July, 2015 to early January, 2016, NMCD has treated 26 patients. Of those 26, the virus is now undetectable in 9. In FY17, NMCD is projecting to treat 150 people. Project ECHO has a training program for peer educators within facilities that is geared toward the prevention of infectious diseases, including Hepatitis C.

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