Over the past several years Oregon, like many other states, has seen a sharp growth in our prison population. Of the approximately 14,000 inmates in Department of Corrections (DOC) custody, 93 percent will someday be released when they have completed serving their sentences in custody. This translates to the fact that more men and women will re-enter society labeled as an "offender." When a released inmate re-offends the results are immeasurable to the victims of recidivism. The results of recidivism are also substantial to the taxpayers in additional system costs of law enforcement, the judicial system and corrections. The cost of incarceration alone is about $100,500 per inmate for an average custody of 39 months.
Inmates face many challenges upon release prison. Ensuring to the greatest degree possible that offenders have the tools they need to be successful after their release from custody serves a fundamental public safety interest for Oregon’s communities. Many of our local and state agencies share a common mission in protecting the public’s safety. We are challenged to identify ways to break down the barriers that are faced by those who are released from our custody so that they have the opportunity to be productive members of society who do not return to criminal activity.
Governor Kulongoski made re-entry a priority and he understood that this transition back to our communities is not solely a corrections issue. In May 2007, the Governor created the Re-entry Council. The Council members are: directors from many state agencies, a State Senator, a State Representative, representatives from the Oregon Association of Community Corrections Directors, the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, the Oregon District Attorneys Association, the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the Oregon Judicial Department, the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, social service providers that concentrate on offenders’ transition and business leaders from the employment sector.
The Council is working collaboratively to identify and minimize the barriers that offenders find when transitioning out of incarceration. It is clear, both in Oregon and nationally that unnecessary barriers to successful re-entry are many and that some extend far beyond the boundaries of the criminal justice system.
An example of one such barrier that offenders often face is the lack of valid identification, which is a requirement for looking for a job and finding housing. The Council created an opportunity for DOC and our community partners to work with DMV to ensure that those transitioning back into society have that necessary ID.
Breaking down the barriers to successful re-entry is no small task. It will require the work of every Council member and the agencies and organizations that they represent. Aiding offenders in their transition is critical in our efforts to enhance community safety and reduce the risk of future victimization.
Governor's Re-entry Council Members
The Council consists of:
- Directors from many state agencies
- Senator Chip Shields
- Representatives from the Oregon Association of Community Corrections Directors
- The Oregon State Sheriff's Association
- The Oregon District Attorneys Association
- The Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
- The Oregon Judicial Department
- The Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police
- Social service providers that concentrate on offenders' transition
- Business leaders from the employment sector