More than 100 people attended a Nov. 30 conference hosted by Co-Occurring Collaborative Servicing Maine on how mentoring can reduce future criminality.

Diverting former inmates from crime to becoming responsible and contributing citizens, is a worthy goal. Estimates of recidivism, between those who access mentoring versus those who do not, illustrate the effectiveness of the re-entry programs.

Preventing future crime is cost-effective and allows focus on needs that currently remain unaddressed. The total cost of a crime is not captured and generally we are unable to determine true expenditures. However, it is substantial.

Leadership to bring about sustainable system changes remains elusive. Considerable holes exist in the system, funding is inadequate and seemingly about to get worse.

A discussion remains pending about victims, loss to families and society, the cost of crime and justice systems, public/private engagement needs and the dysfunction of adequately dealing with crime and disorder. We hold tight to a reactionary model of crime control and an overreliance on punishment as the single prevention model.

For example, billions of dollars have been spent on the “War on Drugs” (1971 law), and in the intervening 42 years the problem actually appears to have worsened. Police make many arrests, but without community change efforts, the reduction goal cannot succeed.

Can we make use of successful programs, such as mentoring, for individuals returning to society to help them avoid re-criminalizing? And will it cost less than the current silo system? Absolutely.

If we accept the benefits of post-incarceration mentoring to reduce future crime by former inmates, we can change the “what is” with “what can be,” thereby reducing recidivism.

Richard Lumb

Wilton