Reducing Madison’s Recidivism Rate

–submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Jeff Burkhart


Linda Ketcham, Executive Director of Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM), told Rotarians about the many ways that her organization, in conjunction with many other agencies and non-profits, is working to increase prisoners successful return to community life. MUM has a long history of promoting social justice and studying issues such as transitional housing that bring partners to the table.

Incarceration is a major problem in the U.S. and in Wisconsin and Madison. More than 90% of prisoners return home after serving their terms, and they face daunting problems that often lead to serving additional time. Furthermore, the system is flawed so that people of color represent a large segment of the jail population. Children and other family members experience collateral damage from the incarceration of a mother or father.

MUM has a long history of helping returning prisoners. Circles of Support is a program that links volunteers with persons released from jail. Extensive research has produced a body of literature that identified 8 principles that lead to effective strategies. These include the need to assess the risk of a person committing new crimes. It is more productive to focus on the medium to high risk individuals rather than on the low risk ones. Create a needs assessment on each individual to determine if specific issues, such as addiction, should be addressed first. Target interventions to their learning styles. Provide skill training and provide positive interactions and ongoing support.

With all their efforts, in conjunction with United Way, MUM has helped to reduce the recidivism rate from 66% to 12% in Madison. MUM continues to work with other nonprofits to provide mental health programs, housing, building of credit scores, and employment. Even though these programs are expensive, they are far cheaper than keeping people in jail at a cost of $29,000 each year.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

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