Making our neighborhoods safer is one of City government’s most important jobs. And it is a job that engages almost every City department and agency.
We are adding 80 more police officers to one of the largest per capita police forces in the country; we have recently added 450 spaces in our jail, and created a career criminal unit in the Circuit Attorneys Office. The police department has created an anti-crime unit to target repeat offenders and is using cutting edge techniques and technologies to catch the bad guys.
We have also rolled out a series of positive initiatives to prevent crime, including more after school and recreation programs for kids, summer jobs for young people, and expanded job training. Every effort to engage kids in thinking, learning, playing, exercising, and working is a true public safety program.
Today, I am going to make an announcement about the results of a program that falls halfway between our law enforcement programs and our positive initiatives.
Each year, thousands of prisoners leave the state correctional system and return to their communities. Too many of them end up committing crimes again. So, two years ago, I asked the Missouri General Assembly for a special appropriation of $1-million to create a prisoner re-entry program in St. Louis. We took it a step further. Project Re-Connect, as we call it, focuses on inmates whose behavior in prison was so bad that they received no time off for good behavior. They are known as flat-timers.
Through Project Re-Connect, 221 individuals released from the state correctional system who returned to St. Louis after maxing out their sentences have either completed the program or are receiving support services. The services include mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, rental assistance, employment assistance, job training and other services needed to re-enter the community in a productive way.
Comparing the results of ex-convicts in our program to those who are not in the program shows it is working. After the first 13 months, the recidivism rate among Project Re-Connect participants has been 2.7%. The recidivism rate among the rest of the flat-timers returning to St. Louis was 23.8%. To put it another way, the ex-offenders in our program committed six crimes. The ex-offenders not in the program committed 140 crimes, including robbery, assault, burglary, sexual assault, stealing and trafficking in drugs.
In addition to our effort to reduce crime, Project Re-Connect is an important part of our ten-year plan to end chronic homelessness. Many of these individuals coming out of prison have no place to live and practically no resources to support themselves. As a result they ended up in homeless shelters or the street.
Not only do the early results show we are reducing crime and homelessness, we are also saving the taxpayers money by reducing the number of inmates who go back to prison on the taxpayers’ dime.