The public and our legislators are not sympathetic to inmates. The majority of Americans are reluctant to spend any money on individuals who have committed crimes. It is an understandable response. On the other hand, the public and our legislators lament about the high costs of our overcrowded prison system. Many do not understand why the United States has 25% of the world’s inmates, but only 5% of the world’s population.
In 2012, the Vera Institute of Justice released an updated study, “The Price of Prisons,” about the costs of incarceration for the tax payers in forty of our states. The cost for the incarceration of an inmate ranged from the low of $17,285 for an inmate in Alabama to the high cost of $60, 076 for a prisoner in New York. The average annual cost for an American tax payer was $31,286 to imprison just one inmate.
The most alarming statistic—Approximately 60% of former inmates are re-arrested within 3 years of their release. Because of high recidivism, the United States will continue to have the most inmates in the world. WE can reduce our high rate of recidivism if jobs and housing is provided for released returning citizens. If an individual has a job and a safe place to stay, it is unlikely that he or she will commit another crime.
For an example of an effective re-entry program, The Hay House was founded in 1981 to help former inmates re-enter the community as responsible and productive citizens. The Hay House has a ninety percent success rate. Hay House Director, Dr. Chuck Walsh, stated that the Hay House, “Gives them a place to live, get treatment they need, medicine, get a job, pay their fines. It gives them at least a fighting chance.”
The federal government should declare our mass incarceration a national emergency. The federal government can implement a program comparable to what President Roosevelt did in the 1930’s during the depression. Released inmates will be employed by our federal government repairing our deteriorating infrastructure of roads and bridges. Subsidized housing would be provided to our returning citizens. This safety net would be available for two years upon release from prison. After 2 years, the former inmate would have a proven job record for new employment.
Within five years, we would reduce recidivism and have a safer and more productive society.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com