Shannon Murphy can talk numbers.
The outgoing director who headed up the re-entry program for Sheriff Ken McGovern at the Douglas County Jail for four years has seen recidivism for program participants decrease 44 percent from 2008 to 2011.
The program has also grown from just her to now include three more case managers who work with inmates and help them successfully re-enter society as law-abiding citizens.
McGovern has also credited the program with reducing the jail’s population and saving the county money.
“The most important factor is improving public safety,” said Murphy during a Friday reception for her in the basement of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.
Murphy, a longtime Lawrence resident who has worked for the county for more than 16 years, is leaving to become the deputy chief of programs and services for the Montgomery County (Md.) Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
McGovern said his office was originally unsure four years ago to what extent the program could work when he brought in Murphy to head the new program.
“When she jumped in, it took off and grew further than our expectations were the first couple of years,” he said.
He’s looking for her replacement and will conduct interviews in the next couple of weeks, seeking to find a candidate who can build on Murphy’s success and take more steps in helping inmates once they leave the jail and the court system.
“We appreciate the community’s support for this program,” McGovern said. “We’re trying to help turn the tide.”
Murphy said she hoped that two of the caseworkers in Douglas County who work with inmates already sentenced could soon expand their roles to helping those in the pre-trial stages to line up opportunities once their cases are resolved. A third caseworker also helps inmates with mental health issues.
The program has brought together many social service agencies in the county seeking to close gaps in the process for individuals who have encountered problems, she said.
“It is an important program,” Murphy said, “that really is part of the community now.”