Saturday, March 27, 2010

Prisons & Reentry

As the focus on reentry escalates—a good thing—the tendency to replicate the program failures of the past, hoping they will work this time, also increases.

Key among them is the assumption that a specific service like employment, housing, counseling, etc, are what cause the internal transformation leading to criminal reformation.

This article from the Wall Street Journal focuses on services, in contrast to the model reentry program developed by Lampstand which focuses on conversion to Catholicism.

An excerpt from the Journal article.

“BALTIMORE—Out of prison after serving 7 1/2 years for drug-dealing and armed robbery, Cedric Petteway is struggling to find a job in the worst economy in decades.

“The 32-year-old father of two says he has submitted more than 500 resumés for entry-level jobs in the past seven months, to no avail.

"There are times when I think about going back to selling narcotics," says Mr. Petteway, who estimates he used to earn more than $40,000 a month running a cocaine-dealing operation in West Baltimore. "It's going to take a lot of determination, but I can't resort back to that."

“Cash-strapped states from California to Maryland are releasing thousands of prisoners as they seek to trim ballooning prison budgets. But the same squeeze compelling them to free more inmates makes it tougher for those ex-convicts to start a new life, and is fueling a debate about how best to prevent them from returning to crime.

"Even in the best of times some of these prisoners don't do well when they get out," says David Pate, a social-work professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "Now they have even greater challenges to face."

“Some policy makers are pushing states to help ex-convicts assimilate. "The battle here and in other states has been whether money saved by reducing incarceration will then be reinvested into programs designed to keep people safely out of prison," says Michigan Republican state Sen. Alan Cropsey, who supports devoting more resources to counseling parolees.

“The U.S. ranks as the world's incarceration leader with 2.3 million people, or 0.8% of its population, in prisons and jails. In the past two decades, tough-on-crime laws have caused state corrections budgets to more than quadruple, to $52 billion in 2008. But recidivism remains high; about two of three people freed from state prisons are rearrested in three years, according to a 2002 study by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“Lately, some states have warmed to the idea that rehabilitation outside prison can be cheaper and more effective. The math on these sorts of initiatives is simple, says Adam Gelb, a public-safety specialist at the Pew Center on the States: A day in prison costs $79 on average; a day on probation costs $3.42. "States can substantially beef up supervision in the community and do it at a fraction of the cost of a prison cell," he says.”