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How do you keep ex-offenders on the straight and narrow?

Since reintegration officer Bart Reedijk started work in Dordrecht three years ago, ex-convicts in that municipality have reoffended a lot less often. There is much interest in Reedijk's method throughout the Netherlands, but experts have reservations.

The position of reintegration officer (rio) was created in the Netherlands to help deal with offenders of High Impact Crime: crimes with a high impact on victims, such as armed robbery, theft, and mugging. Of released robbers, 36 percent re-offend within two years, 45 percent of all muggers, and 56 percent of home burglars. In Reedijk's group, the recidivism rate is 21 percent, based on 50 ex-offenders he counselled over the past three years.

An important part of his method is that he personally counsels ex-prisoners. Normally they have to deal with up to 15 different agencies. This often leads to confusion, says criminology professor Miranda Boone on NOS Dutch national news. 'There are so many organisations involved that there's no complete picture. The youngsters themselves certainly lose track, but it also happens within the probation service itself. And that certainly applies to this complex target group. Boone does, however, have a comment about Reedijk's low recidivism rates. 'To have certainty about these figures, scientific research is needed.'

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