Investments in education, full employment, housing and substance abuse treatment for ex-offenders are the best way to promote public safety, according to a recent study. The report says it’s also important for communities to support policing strategies.
One of the best-known studies of developmental prevention programs is the Perry Preschool Program consisted of an educational intervention plan and home visits at preschool age, and followed its participants into their late twenties.
Research shows the program reduced lifetime arrests by 50 percent and increased the subjects’ income, education and home-ownership levels. According to the research, the program found “$7.16 for every dollar invested.”
The educational component of this strategy is being implemented in San Francisco County Jail through its Five Keys Charter Schools program.
The class of 2013 included 20 graduates who earned their diplomas while incarcerated.
Most of the 250 in-custody students enter class for the first time with a fourth- or fifth-grade reading level and few future prospects for employment.
The five keys to an inmate’s success are connection to the community, a focus on family, recovery from substance abuse, education, and employment.
Steve Good, the school’s executive director, was quoted as saying, “I personally would prefer they spend their time in jail…in a productive way.”
The Five Keys charter school operates in the County Jail of San Bruno with several satellite locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles for released inmates who want to keep attending.
Since 2003, Five Keys has awarded 600 high school diplomas, certifi cates of completion or equivalency diplomas. The curriculum is tailored to meet the needs and interests of the students, with topics such as “Biology of Addiction” and “History of Oppression.”
School officials have tracked their graduates, finding that the recidivism rate for Five Keys graduates one year out is 44 percent compared with 68 percent of other inmates.
Officials say recidivism is down 24 percentage points for those coming out of the Five Keys program, which saves San Francisco $1.5 million each year – after deducting the costs of the school.
Perry Pre-school Program report:http://www.jstor.org/ stable/3481427?origin=JSTORpdf