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Gov. Patrick Launches Initiative To Reduce Recidivism

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday unveiled what his administration is calling a “landmark” initiative to reduce recidivism rates among young male offenders.

The initiative is a partnership with Chelsea social service agency Roca, which works across Massachusetts to keep convicts from returning to jail, and several funders.

The investment in a Pay for Success (PFS) initiative, as it’s called, is the largest such investment in the nation, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Goldman Sachs and five other entities have financed the project to the tune of $18 million. The state has committed up to $27 million for repayments for the seven-year project. And the federal government has also awarded the state a $11.7 million grant.

According to the release: “PFS contracts allow governments with limited resources to expand innovative social programs and only pay for those that actually make a difference.”

“By working with our partners at Roca, the Pay for Success initiative will allow us to marry smart financial solutions with programs proven successful in helping high-risk youth become employed, stay employed, and break the cycle of violence,” Patrick said in the release.

According to Roca founder and CEO Molly Baldwin, the investment will allow the agency to strengthen its outreach — and help reduce financial constraints on the state.

“We will have the privilege of meeting with about 300 young people a year over three years,” Baldwin told WBUR’s Bob Oakes in a Morning Edition interview. “We pay for the programming upfront and then we’ll look at outcomes over time. So, the long-term outcomes are about five years out, like reducing incarceration in the future. In the short-term it’s about engaging them in programming, going to employment, and helping them change their criminal behavior and their attitudes so they can succeed in their families.”

Sixty-four percent of young male ex-offenders in Massachusetts re-offend within five years, according to the release, and just 35 percent find work within a year of being release.

“The program’s success will be determined based on reductions in the number of days young men served by Roca spend in jail, and improvements in their employment and job readiness,” the release said.

If successful, Goldman Sachs and the other investors will be repaid by the state and turn a profit. If the nonprofit fails, investors will lose their principal.

“Success payments will get repaid five years down the road after looking at incarceration,” Baldwin said. “There is really rigorous analysis about the rate that these young men go back to prison and how many days of incarceration and how much it costs. There are targets to hit so we can save the state money, and then there’s a breakeven point in the project and then there’s a point where we’re saving more money and there will be a return on investment.”

With such a large financial investment, Roca is feeling the pressure to succeed.

“Yes, there’s a lot of pressure,” Baldwin said, “but there should be so we that can help these young men do something other than go to prison.”

Click the player above to listen to the full interview with Baldwin.

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