About half of the York County criminals released from state prison are arrested again within three years, and about 45 percent are sent back to state prison within that time.
A new report released by the state's Department of Corrections ranks York among the top 10 counties for repeat offenders in two categories: the highest re-arrest rates and the highest overall recidivism.
The recidivism report, the state's first in more than six years, looked at three areas of repeat violation: re-arrest; re-incarceration, in which an offender is taken back to state prison for reasons including a parole violation; and recidivism, which includes those who have been either re-arrested or re-incarcerated or both, said Bret Bucklen, top statistician for the Department of Corrections.
York was ninth on a list of 67 counties for the highest rate of re-arrest within three years, according to the report.
There were 1,297 Yorkers released from state prisons between 2006 and
2008. Of those, 641, or 49.4 percent, were re-arrested somewhere in Pennsylvania within three years, according to the report.
The average re-arrest rate statewide was 50.7 percent, higher than the York rate, but the report notes the statewide average was driven higher by counties with larger populations.
Bucklen said county numbers weren't included in the last report, six years ago, so he couldn't say whether York has improved its standing.
Recidivism: York also scored ninth for counties with the highest recidivism rates, with 60.1 percent of the 1,297 people released from jail between 2006-2008 re-offending. That's 780 people who were either arrested or sent back to jail within three years of being released.
The state average was 62 percent.
Yorkers are being sent back to state prison, or re-incarcerated, at a rate of 45 percent, higher than the state average of 43 percent but not high enough to make the top 10.
York County Vice President Commissioner Doug Hoke declined to comment on York's standing on lists, saying he's not versed in the rehabilitation programs the Department of Corrections is providing to Yorkers while they're in state prison.
"A big part of the prison system is to make sure when they're released that they have some sort of knowledge or skills that they don't get put back into prison or the system," he said.
County efforts: Hoke said the county has made numerous efforts to reduce the number of repeat offenders at York County Prison, which is not covered in the state report.
Those efforts include the formation of treatment courts in which offenders can avoid jail by participating in an intensive counseling and supervision program.
President Judge Stephen Linebaugh said last month that research shows the diversionary programs work. After completing treatment court, 70 percent to 90 percent of offenders don't re-offend.
Last year's 88 graduates of the treatment courts also saved the county more than 22,000 days in York County Prison, translating to a savings of more than $860,000 for taxpayers, according to the York County Treatment Courts 2012 Fiscal Report.
The numbers in the state report cover only state prison inmates.
York County Prison Warden Mary Sabol said the local prison doesn't keep recidivism statistics, though there have been several efforts to reduce the problem.
For example, the prison has an agreement with Harrisburg Area Community College to provide HVAC and culinary arts programs to inmates.
"Very few of the people who complete those courses come back," she said. "If you help someone find a job, they're less likely to commit a crime if they're working."
The prison has also added counselors in recent years, focusing on "re-entry" issues, she said.
Gender, race and age: Statewide, the recidivism rate is higher for males than females, with 63.2 percent of males re-offending and 46.9 percent of females, Bucklen said.
Blacks were more likely to re-offend, with a 66.8 percent rate compared to Hispanics and whites, who had nearly even rates of 57.4 percent and 57.8 percent respectively.
The older an inmate, the less likely he or she was to recidivate. People under 21 had the highest rate, 77.9 percent, and there was a declining rate pattern with age. The above-50 crowd had the lowest rate, 37.3 percent.
Type of crime: Those who committed fraud were most likely to recidivate, with 90.5 percent of offenders offending again. But there were only 38 prisoners statewide released from state prison for fraud, so Bucklen warned the numbers could be misleading because of the sample size.
People convicted of DUI had the lowest rate, with 38.4 percent re-offending statewide -- 256 people, he said.
"That was pretty surprising I think to us because you typically think of DUI offenders as having more entrenched substance abuse problems, especially those who got to state prison, because you don't end up there after your first offense ... it takes typically at least three," he said.
Bucklen said the report reflects a new effort to identify trends and reduce recidivism under a correctional reform initiative passed last year.
"This is the baseline for going forward," he said. "We also hope it'll start a conversation about what we need to do to change offender behavior."
The report noted that statewide, the cost of "bed days" in prison could be reduced if the one-year recidivism rate were reduced.
The state would save 475,035 bed days, or nights in jail, and $44.7 million per year if the rate were reduced by 10 percentage points.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.