BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — New numbers show Virginia has the lowest recidivism rate in the country. This means fewer people are going back to prison once released.

The Virginia Department of Corrections believes it’s because of the various programs that they offer and how they view individuals who are incarcerated.

Once someone gets incarcerated in Virginia, Reentry Services Administrator, Jessica Lee explains it’s one thing for a prison system to look at a person as just an inmate.

“It’s another to make sure that we’re providing opportunities for people to be well, and to go out into our communities more successful,” said Lee.

She says the cohesive movement within correctional centers, probation, and parole districts truly leads to their success.

“It is impossible for us to do this just in silos. And so I’m so grateful that we have a continuum of care and services. That’s pretty seamless. But with that being said, it’s really critical to note that our security systems are our security team,” said Lee.

That’s why the Department of Corrections offers vocational and education classes, along with dozens of programs.

“We are about to launch a brand new CDL program. We will have a mobile CDL training venue, and that’s going to go to different sites. And the reason for that is because we want to be able to train individuals that are incarcerated at different locations,” said Lee.

They even allow families to visit a reunification home instead of a correctional facility.

“It’s a place where families can heal. It’s a space where a mother can be a mother to her children,” said Lee.

They also have a number of other things, including intervention interviews during incarceration.

“Many people may not realize this, but that can be a barrier because it’s another hurdle, sometimes for individuals to work towards getting their license. So we have that we have, we’re piloting a DMV knowledge test pilot.”

She says it’s important for incarcerated individuals to secure their birth certificates or Social Security cards.

Communications Specialist with the Department of Corrections, George Sisson says so far, the numbers show the programs are working.

The data collected is over a three-year time period, and the latest data is from 2018 to 2021.

“In FY18, we released 12,499 state-responsible inmates. Of those that had the opportunity to recidivate, 2,576 returned,” said Sisson.

He goes on to say that work on incarcerated individuals starts on the day they enter a facility.
The goal for all is to decrease crime victimization.

“We truly believe in and recognize that we’re interrupting generational cycles of crime,” said Lee.

She says the department no longer wants to see individuals be violated by what someone else in their family may have done that lead them to be incarcerated.

“We want to make sure that those individuals have everything they need to be successful, and feel supported. So, every time we’re sewing into these efforts, right, every time we are helping individuals to secure it, education, helping individuals to think differently, helping individuals to maintain their mental health, their medical needs, those individuals will be able to be more confident, they’re gonna be able to have more of a successful transition,” said Lee.

This leads to safer communities. That’s why the department believes in creating a steady set of skills, and why employment is so important when it comes to getting them ready for life on the outside.

For example, the department offers the federal bonding program and tax credits that are available to employers for hiring individuals coming out of incarceration.

Anyone who wants to learn more is encouraged to reach out to the Virginia Department of Corrections.