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Tim Burke: Nye effort seeks to reduce repeat offenders

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office has started a new program to help reduce recidivism.

Recidivism is when someone has a relapse into criminal behavior.

The cause of recidivism is complex and generally due to a combination of personal, sociological, economic, and lifestyle factors. Often those who commit crimes continue to do so when released from confinement because they are unable to obtain employment after their release and they revert to their past behaviors.

The most effective programs to prevent recidivism are programs that address cognitive behavior counseling and job-readiness skills training. Cognitive behavioral programs help people who have committed crimes identify how their thinking patterns influence their feelings, which in turn influence their actions. These programs include structured social learning components where new skills, behaviors, and attitudes are consistently reinforced.

Cognitive behavioral programs that target areas such as attitudes, values, and beliefs have a high likelihood of positively influencing future behavior, including a person’s choice of peers, whether he or she abuses substances, and his or her interactions with family.

There are very few programs nationally that address recidivism but there is a growing awareness of how these programs can be effective in preventing repeat offenders and returning them to society as productive citizens.

In Las Vegas, the Hope for Prisoners Organization is a faith-based nonprofit that incorporates both cognitive behavior classes and job skills training into a comprehensive program that has reduced recidivism from the national average of 67 percent to less than 10 percent for program participants. Partnering with Las Vegas Metro, the program has had more than 1,800 participants since its inception in 2012.

In an effort to reduce recidivism locally, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office has begun to implement programs that assist with education and job-readiness skills, so inmates are more employable upon release. Studies have shown that preparing inmates to go to work while in prison or jail is far more effective than sending them out for training after they have been released because there is less of a time lag before they could potentially start earning an income.

The first step by the sheriff’s office has been to identify inmates that do not have a GED or high school diploma. Starting in September, those inmates will be able to obtain their GED through a program with the Nye County School District.

For inmates who have their GED or high school diploma, the sheriff’s office is partnering with the Nye County Coalition for job skills training and certification in career fields that are most likely to lead to employment for someone convicted of a crime.

When you have served time, your job options are limited, depending on the type of crime you committed. Much of the crimes committed in the United States are drug-related. Drug use may not be what they were convicted of; it could be theft, violence, driving under the influence, trafficking, or some other crime but that crime can generally be traced back to drugs.

For example, if you have been convicted of theft, it’s not likely you will get a job that handles money. If you have been convicted of multiple DUI’s or caused a serious accident, you probably are not going to get hired as a CDL driver.

The Nye County Coalition is skilled at reviewing someone’s previous work experience, their criminal record, and the current job market and matching that person with the job skills training that has the best prospects for their employment.

Eventually, the sheriff’s office would like to add cognitive behavior programs and will be seeking grants and community partnerships to fund those classes.

Reducing recidivism through education not only saves the county money by reducing the jail population, it enables the inmate to become a productive member of society that pays taxes and provides for their families reducing the burden on other taxpayers.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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