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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, July 29, 2018 1:00 am

Network focuses on rehabbing ex-inmates

Washington Post

A new project funded by the network aligned with billionaire industrialist Charles Koch is tracking and monitoring 1,100 inmates in four states after they are released from prison starting Aug. 1 to help them successfully reintegrate into society.

Through the project, called Safe Streets and Second Chances, a team of researchers from Florida State University will evaluate former inmates for 15 months after their release – a volatile period that often leads to their rearrest.

The project is in its pilot phase, as researchers prepare to test the effectiveness of a new re-entry model that focuses on individualized plans to help inmates find healthy coping and thinking patterns, the right employment opportunities and positive social engagement.

The past six months, the researchers have been interviewing the men and women in the program, who are currently housed in 48 prisons in rural and urban areas in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

The network is advocating for a shift in the criminal justice system to prioritizing rehabilitation and reducing recidivism, rather than punishment. For years, the network has been pushing for bipartisan support for overhauling the U.S. criminal justice system.

Among their efforts, Koch network leaders have pushed to roll back mandatory minimum sentencing laws and stiffen the burden of proof for the government to put people in prison. They support the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at lowering the recidivism rate by funding educational and vocational training, metal health treatment and rehabilitation programs for inmates.

“Rehabilitation programs are so important for people who are in the federal prison systems, to come out of prison less troubled, less traumatized, more skilled, educated and able to successfully reintegrate into society so they don't go back to prison,” said Mark Holden, general counsel and senior vice president of Koch Industries who was once a correctional officer.