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EDITORIAL: Outside the prison walls

For too many Nevada inmates, the prison system has become a revolving door. A state Department of Corrections report issued in June found that the recidivism rate jumped by more than 30 percent between 1998 and 2012.

The study revealed that 30.24 percent of inmates released from a Nevada facility were back in state hands within 36 months. That’s up from 23.12 percent in 1998.

Nevada actually fared far better than many other states — the national recidivism average was 43 percent, the New York Times reported in 2011. And the coast-to-coast cost of this treadmill is in the hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars.

Innovative efforts intended to help transition ex-prisoners back into society must be part of any successful recipe to rein in prison costs. That’s why taxpayers should be rooting for the success of a new program in Southern Nevada designed to do precisely that.

Offered through FirstMed Health and Wellness Center and the nonprofit Hope for Prisoners, the endeavor helps newly released offenders address their health issues, strengthening the support structure necessary for them to become productive citizens.

The initiative looks to build on progress that Hope for Prisoners has made since its inception in 2009. The group works to help ex-prisoners “overcome the many barriers to successful living that the incarceration experience can create.” It’s a mission worth supporting.

The FirstMed program dovetails nicely with the philosophy of James Dzurenda, the new head of the state prison system. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval in April named Mr. Dzurenda to the post and he has since been outspoken in his desire to emphasize rehabilitation over warehousing as a means to keep prisoners from cycling through the system.

“If I can reduce our population,” he told the Review-Journal earlier this year, “I could save millions of dollars to be able to fund a lot more in the schools because I can get our populations down.”

Make no mistake, violent felons deserve serious prison time. But a system that fails to offer avenues for those who have paid their debt to society to become self sufficient and productive will inevitably burden taxpayers and create more victims.

The renewed emphasis on this perspective is a welcome development.

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