When looking at recidivism rates (the national average being 75 percent), the answer to this gruesome statstic is education.
But while the majority of prisoners do not have enough money for an education, it becomes time for prisons to step up and find the means to educate its prisoners. These sky-high recidivism rates are a burden to taxpayers and the money used to incarcerate a person could be well used elsewhere.
This is the case with John R. Pete, Allendale Correctional Institute’s Warden in South Carolina. “I wanted to make a difference. I chose to make a diffenece because some of the facts speak for themselves.” says Pete, who states, “Now, do you want the same inmate I locked up 15 years ago to be released and come back to your community, or do you want me inside the prison to give this inmate some programming to try to change his character and improve that person before he is turned back out into the community?” Expanding further Pete says, “we cannot keep a man in a cage and expect him to improve himself.”
With 75 percent of prisoners with no high school education and a 50 percent recidivism rate in South Carolina, Pete is seeking to reduce the recidivism rate by five percent. This could mean $17 million per year in taxpayer dollar savings. Of the 22,000 prisoners in South Carolina, 95 percent of them will be released some day.
Last year alone it cost $300 million to incarcerate its prisoners, roughly $13,600 per prisoner.
With these horrifying numbers, Pete has actively worked to change this trend by implementing numerous programs in his prison to allow prisoners to better themselves.
Among the 218 programs offered at Allendale are several religious programs. Pete is raising money to build a worship center through a non-profit at his prison. GED classes are offered.
A parental program called Proverbs 226 aims to fix broken relationships to keep their kids out of prison. A blueprint reading and beekeeping certification class are available as are AA, pottery, financial planning and bible study. Prisoners may also take in unwanted dogs and cats to prepare them for adoption. And there are quilting classes as well.
According to an article in Bluffton Today, there are 15 Sun City residents who volunteer at the prison through the Kairos Prison Ministry. Pete is always looking for more people to volunteer and if there is any way anyone can donate their time or skills, Pete says, I promise I can use you.” You can even take a tour to see what prison is really like.
As long as a prisoner is learning and improving himself, Pete is all for it, and he certainly has done his part to give them the tools they need to reach that goal. Pete may very well contribute to a reduction in recidivism, and prisons nationwide need to aspire to do the same. The answer? Education.