What keeps former inmates from returning to prison?

The mission statement for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is: “Reduce recidivism among those we touch.”

But a big factor keeping a parolee from going back to prison is what the job opportunities are like where an inmate is released, according to a recent study.

Ex-offenders released to counties with higher low-skilled wages stand a better chance of not going back to jail, wrote Crystal Yang, a Harvard Law School researcher.

Yang studied 4 million offenders in 43 states released between 2000 and 2013. Among those were inmates released from Ohio prisons between 2009-2013. At the beginning of 2013, Ohio parolees numbered 14,653, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

At the beginning of 2015, close to 858,000 Americans once locked up were out on parole with about 10,000 entering the pipeline every day.

Ninety percent of prisoners return to live in the same county in which they were convicted – and at the mercy of their local economy.

Here are some key facts related to the study:

Wage growth during an up-business cycle decreases the risk of recidivism 2.3 percent to 4 percent.

A 1 percent increase in wages for low-skilled jobs reduced recidivism by 0.42 percent for ex-offenders aged 25 and under and 0.50 for those 40 and older.

One in four inmates studied were likely to be rearrested within three years and almost one in three within five years.

The release of a large number of ex-offenders during the Great Recession likely had substantial consequences for recidivism. Between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2009, real average monthly earnings for low-skilled men fell by 12 percent.

Recidivism risk of offenders released during the Great Recession increased by 5.5 to 9.6 percent.

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