California State University, Long Beach
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Corrections $956K Grant Aims to Reduce Recidivism Rates

Gary Greene of CSULB’s Department of Educational Psychology, Administration and Counseling, recently received a $956,139 U.S. Department of Education grant aimed at extending the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Incarcerated Youth Offender (IYO) program through 2008 and up to two years beyond. Greene serves as program evaluator of the project run through CDCR and subcontracted through Fresno Pacific University. The goal is to reduce California’s recidivism rate, one of the highest in the nation at nearly 70 percent.

“I’m very pleased to receive this extension to our funding,” said Greene, a faculty member since 1987 who has served as program evaluator since 1999. “When the program began, California’s recidivism rate was at 60 percent and above. The goal for the program when it began was to reduce the recidivism rate by 10 percent. In the nine years of running the program, the rate for our participants who have exited prison and been followed for one year has plummeted from 60 percent to between 11 and 14 percent. That is so excellent. Washington, D.C. considers this program one of the best they support. There are tons of data to show this program is working.”

Greene is responsible for reviewing data from 11 California prisons, from Folsom in Northern California to the Richard J. Donovan Institute in San Diego, tracking ex-convicts enrolled in the IYO program. Participants must be no older than 25, must have less than five years to serve until parole, must have a high school diploma or general education degree and must be a citizen. With these conditions satisfied, participants are offered instruction by correspondence through Fresno Pacific University in such topics as psychology, history, sociology, health, math and literature. While Fresno Pacific units are not transferable to universities, the project recently has included courses offered through Coastline and Palo Verde Community Colleges which are transferable. “The Fresno units help them gain confidence but they do not appear on their transcripts,” Greene explained. “The Coastline and Palo Verde units do.”

The major thrust is for participants to take their courses and complete them to gain self confidence and to feel ready to continue with their education after they exit prison. “We want these participants to understand that life can move past crime,” he said. “With this education, they have a higher likelihood of not repeating their crimes. That’s the major goal of this grant, to reduce recidivism.”

The second major goal is to track released inmates. “We have a contract with a support agency so that, when they are released from prison, the program guarantees that the inmates will be contacted with 72 hours,” he said. “The program provides up to 12 months of counseling, the participants are helped to find housing, employment and classes in drug counseling and anger management. A small amount of funding is made available to help obtain the minimal things they need to start their jobs such as tools for construction or a uniform. Inmates are tracked to keep track of how many are engaged in productive activities and how many recidivate.”

Greene is an author, consultant and educator who is an expert in transitioning the disabled from school to quality adult life. He is the author of a 2003 book Pathways to Successful Transition for Youth with Disabilities from Prince Hall Merrill and is preparing a second edition. He earned a Scholarly and Creative Activity Award from CSULB to fund qualitative interviews with participants in and out of prison.

Greene is responsible for writing quarterly and annual reports on the program’s success. “But I do more than just write reports,” he said. “I make recommendations on how the program can be improved. I work to keep the program on track.”

Greene feels a deep satisfaction in his fight to make a difference in recidivism. “I’ve spent my research life in special education trying to make a difference for those at risk and helping them make the transition from school to the outside world,” he said. “That prepared me to deal with the transition issues for parolees that parallel the challenges faced by the disabled,” he said. “They strive to make an independent living and to continue their post-secondary education. These are the same issues and problems that the disabled face and we hope to provide solutions for both groups.”