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Improve Lives | Decrease First-Year Rate of Return to Institutions

State agencies are responsible for the development of strategic plans that include the mission of the agency and its programs, measurable goals, strategies, and performance measurement systems (RCW 43.88.090(3)).

Improving lives is a strategic goal (pdf) of the department, and one of the ways it is measured is the first-year rate of return to institutions.



During incarceration, programming is designed to address:

  • Education needs
  • Housing needs
  • Finances
  • Community resources
  • Custody care plans


Build individualized reentry plan, including:

  • Conference with classification counselors and community corrections
  • Peer to peer mentors
  • Connect with community programs
  • Community resources
  • Connect with benefits


Post-release continuum of care includes:

  • Partnerships
  • Peer-mentor programming
  • Resource and services navigation

In Washington State, 96% of incarcerated individuals will release back out into the community. In the Washington State Department of Corrections we believe that reentry begins at reception, and it is our goal to assist these releasing citizens to prepare for successful reentry. Approximately 8,000 individuals have released each year (pdf), for the past five years.

Though most individuals within the correctional system will return to their communities, successful transitions can be challenging. In recent years, the traditional recidivism rate has indicated that approximately 30% of those releasing have returned to prison within three years of their release. The likelihood of successful reentry can be improved with the utilization of reentry programs and evidence-based practices. The department is committed to providing reentry-focused resources for individuals currently within our system in order to assist in a safe and successful transition to the community. Seeing a reduction in the rate of recidivism for the first year after release may be an early indication of the success of these efforts.

The department also recognizes that we cannot only prepare individuals for reentry, but we must also provide guidance throughout the transition process and into stabilization in order to sustain lasting success. We work to align services and resources prior to release so that those that qualify for state, federal and/or community programs have the support and assistance needed upon release.

Our vision for creating an effective reentry culture in Washington is twofold:

  1. Seamless integration of state and local resources must continue to be a major focus of our work
  2. A shift in our cultural mindset that recognizes the importance of supporting people reentering into our communities must occur within the department, other state agencies, and within the communities themselves.

Transition resource programming begins 18-24 months prior to release. The department supports reentry programming/focus groups designed to address a variety of needs, including:

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Educational needs
  • Accessing services
  • Technology
  • Healthy relationships
  • Codependency
  • Family reunification
  • Personal responsibility
  • Finances
  • Employment
  • Voters' rights

How We Measure

The Department of Corrections aims to decrease the number of people who are released and then return to a state prison facility (i.e., reduce recidivism) within the first year after release from 12% to 10% by 2023.

Decrease Rate of Return

Percentage rate of return to institutions (2019)

Needs improvement

This statistic describes the number of individuals who are released from prison and then are re-incarcerated within one year as a percentage of the total number of individuals released in that calendar year.

Recidivism Rates

Factors that Support Reduced Recidivism

Evidence Based Programing

The department is focused on an integrated approach to reentry, supporting a variety of evidence-based programs that help prepare individuals for success.

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing remains a significant barrier with approximately 8% of incarcerated individuals releasing homeless. The Reentry Division has several programs which provide assistance with finding and securing housing.

Job Skills

Correctional Industries, which is a major subdivision within the Reentry Division, teaches marketable job skills in industries such as food service, furniture manufacturing, computer-aided drafting and many others. Correctional Industries also teaches participants valuable soft skills which will help them maintain employment upon release.

Actions Being Taken to Deliver Results