The average re-offender rate, also called recidivism, has gone down in the last two years. But consider this statistic by The Kentucky Department of Corrections. In the year 2000, there were 92 weapons offenders released. 32 of them wound up back in prison.
Carl Allen shot his friend eight times in a gang-related murder, yet he's not considered a "violent offender." He says he doesn't want to live life on the streets again. But how do you know your community is safe after offenders like him are released?
During social time for prisoners Carl doesn't participate. "I try not to make so many friends." That's because he's through with keeping bad company. "I've looked for love in the gang, done drugs. I took a life."
"You're exactly right; the majority of these inmates will be released back." Tom Simpson has been working in the correctional system for 27 years. He says some of them will re-offend. "Recidivism does occur. We can't cure them all. Sometimes they do come back, sometimes we're not quite shocked. We wonder what went wrong?"
Carl says he's different. "Basically, I understand what it means to take a life." He even apologized to the mother of the man he murdered. But does his behavior inside this prison prove he's ready for a possible parole in three years?
"I personally don't know that. I would assume. We make assumptions about people when they leave." Skyle Grief works closely with prisoners as they near their release. "That's the hard part I'm making sure I'm getting through to those inmates. Provide programming that will enable the prisoner to be successful once he gets out. Go over their individual needs: Will they need housing? Will they have a family to go to?"
She does this because she doesn't want to see any of them ever again. They come back into the system and you think, did they not listen to advice they were given? Some just don't know what to do without structure; others can't seem to pick up where they left off in life. Carl thinks he doesn't fit into those categories.
"All I can do is go one with my life."
And he will because even if the prison doesn’t feel like an inmate is rehabilitated, they have to let him go.
"When their sentence is complete, we cannot hold them past their maximum release date." All they can do is judge from their behavior now what they'll be like outside the prison yard. "We just hope everyone will listen and not come back."
The warden says they want to see prisoners successfully re-enter society. Signs like making contact with the people they've hurt, getting their education, and cooperating with prison rules are all good indications an inmate like Carl won't re-offend. But there's no way to tell.
Tuesday on WBKO.COM we asked: Do you think convicted murderers can be rehabilitated? 38 percent of you said yes. 62 percent of you said no.