DEDHAM, MA, Aug. 15, 2011 – Norfolk County Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti has joined forces with Northeastern University to conduct a comprehensive study of the effectiveness of inmate programs designed to prepare offenders to be productive members of society after finishing their sentences at the Norfolk County Correctional Center in Dedham.
“Our Inmate Reentry Initiative is at the core of all of our inmate programs. They are designed to address the behavioral deficiencies that led to the inmate committing crimes in the first place,” Sheriff Bellotti said. “We believe we have a set of first-rate programs to prevent inmates from reoffending when they finish serving their sentence and return to our communities. This study by Northeastern will help us determine which programs work best and which ones need to be tweaked to accomplish the desired goal, which is the reduction of crime.”
The research team comprises 10 graduate researchers who will gather and analyze a vast amount of data. The in-depth study will involve a detailed demographic survey of the criminal offenders and will include interviews with staff members and inmates. Ultimately, the university researchers will design a new system to measure the effectiveness of the programs by determining how many inmates reoffend, otherwise known as the recidivism rate. Sheriff Bellotti said the researchers will need at least three years to obtain a large enough inmate sample to accurately measure the rate.
“The timing of this study is perfect because it coincides with the implementation of news programs here, such as our new inmate mentoring program that is funded by a U.S Justice Department Second Chance Act grant,” Sheriff Bellotti said. The mentoring program pairs inmates one-on-one with community volunteers to help them navigate potential pitfalls when they leave the jail and rejoin society.
The inmate programs include occupational training for culinary arts, baking, HVAC and landscaping and self-help programs that address domestic violence, anger management and substance abuse. Sheriff Bellotti’s GED classes prepare inmates for the high school diploma equivalency test, and inmates from the Dedham jail have a 91 percent passage rate of the state-administered test.
“In the past, inmates would complain that they turned to crime because they were unable to find a job due to the fact that they didn’t have a high school diploma. By providing them with the tools to succeed as productive members of society, we are taking away those excuses and requiring them to accountable for themselves,” Sheriff Bellotti said.
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