WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. - The recidivism rate at the Washington County Detention Center is higher than expected, officials said.
Michael Cooper's transition back into society was long in the making. He had been incarcerated more than five times within a ten-year time frame.
"I had only ever done a couple of months and this time I had done 18, and it was a big blow," said Michael Cooper, ex-offender.
Cooper's story is like many others. Last year more than 70 percent of the inmates in the Washington County Detention Center were re-offenders.
"We just know that 70 percent is a shame and you are not ever going to get down to zero percent; but if you could drop that down to 20 or [a] low 30 percent, that right there would be tremendous," said Major Craig Rowe, warden of the Washington County Detention Center.
The new organization, Gatekeepers, is working to lower that number. It has helped about 40 ex-offenders, including Cooper, get jobs through meetings and mentoring.
"Everything is in this county to help ex-offenders, we just have to put it all together, and we are doing that," said Bill Gaertner, founder of Gatekeepers.
"It's not worth all of this stuff that happens but then when you get out, it's up to you to do the right thing, and that's what these guys are helping us do," said Cooper.
The county is taking notes from Howard County for an identification program, and they are working on other plans.
"One of the key components is whether or not the day reporting system actually comes to fruition," said Major Rowe. "One of the components of that is when people leave here some people still need some type of supervision, classes, assistance and that is a program that would really fit right in to that."
All entities hope the recidivism rate will decrease, and hope to help those like Michael Cooper reach their goals outside of the prison walls.
"My most important goal is to become a good father," said Cooper. "Learn to become a good father for the time when i'm able to see my son again, and be there for him."
Gatekeepers has already seen about 80 ex-offenders and hopes to grow in the future. The Washington County Detention Center has applied for a grant to fund the Day Reporting System.
Cooper attributes his success to many programs in Washington County that have helped him get back on his feet.