By Aleksandra Robinson
WASHINGTON – Local facilities are the first line of defense in keeping prisoners from re-entering the corrections system after release, said Stefan LoBuglio, who heads Montgomery County’s prison pre-release program.
LoBuglio testified Thursday at a Senate Judiciary Crime and Drugs subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill. Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin chaired the hearing, called, “The First Line of Defense: Reducing Recidivism at the Local Level.”
“We now have something like 2.3 million people — Americans — behind bars,” Cardin said, citing a recent study on recidivism among state prisoners that found that more than two-thirds are re-arrested within three years of their release.
Cardin visited a Montgomery County pre-release center earlier this week and spoke with officials and participants. The facility was built in 1978 and meant to be a model for Maryland — a promise that was never fulfilled, LoBuglio said at the hearing.
According to LoBuglio’s written testimony, the Montgomery County program is working with 175 participants. The program helps offenders find jobs, housing and engage social services as needed.
Cardin has called the facility a national model for community-based work-release re-entry programs.
“Our program,” LoBuglio said, “is one of the many successful models of prisoner re-entry that exist across the country, and our field has seen an explosion of interest.”
Cardin said the criminal justice system is not successfully preparing inmates for life after lockup.
“If our principle objective is to increase public safety, we’re not doing our job,” Cardin said.
The major barriers to reintegration, Cardin said, are a lack of education and housing and drug addiction — most of which boil down to inability to find employment.
“One of the real challenges of re-entry is working with the community,” he said.
The hearing was held to help find ways for the federal government to provide assistance to re-entry programs.
“We need better statistical information,” Cardin said, “to find what works and what doesn’t work.”