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January 25, 2011

States figuring out that helping ex-cons find jobs can be a budget boon

This New York Times piece, headlined "States Help Ex-Inmates Find Jobs," spotlights another benefit of states trying to get smarter on crime in the face of budget crunches.  Here is how the piece begins:

Faced with yawning budget gaps and high unemployment, California, Michigan, New York and several other states are attacking both problems with a surprising strategy: helping ex-convicts find jobs to keep them from ending up back in prison.

The approach is backed by prisoner advocates as well as liberal and conservative government officials, who say it pays off in cold, hard numbers.  Michigan, for example, spends $35,000 a year to keep someone in prison — more than the cost of educating a University of Michigan student.  Through vigorous job placement programs and prudent use of parole, state officials say they have cut the prison population by 7,500, or about 15 percent, over the last four years, yielding more than $200 million in annual savings. Michigan spends $56 million a year on various re-entry programs, including substance abuse treatment and job training.

“We had a $2 billion prison budget, and if you look at the costs saved by not having the system the size it was, we save a lot of money,” said Patricia Caruso, who was Michigan’s corrections commissioner from 2003 through 2010.  “If we spend some of that $2 billion on something else — like re-entry programs — and that results in success, that’s a better approach.”

All told, the 50 states and the federal government spend $69 billion a year to house two million prisoners, prompting many budget cutters to see billions in potential savings by trimming the prison population.  Each year, more than 600,000 inmates are released nationwide, but studies show that two-thirds are re-arrested within three years.

“An exorbitant amount of money is dedicated to incarcerating people,” said Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute.  “There are ways you can go about reducing the number of people incarcerated.  The best way to help them successfully integrate into society and become independent, law-abiding citizens is to make sure they get a job.”

Pushed by faith-based organizations and helped by federal stimulus money, California, Michigan, New York and other states expanded jobs programs in recent years to give prisoners a second chance and to reduce recidivism.  The nation’s overall jobless rate is 9.4 percent, but various studies have found unemployment rates of 50 percent or higher for former prisoners nine months or a year after their release.

Many states remain enthusiastic about the re-entry programs, but in a few states facing deficits, like Kansas, officials are cutting them back, partly because of the curtailment of federal stimulus dollars that helped finance them.

January 25, 2011 at 09:02 AM | Permalink


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well here's a silly ideal that might save 100's of millions if not BILLIONS of dollars....Make individuals records PRIVATE AGAIN..... You know the only ones who legally once had a right to know about criminal convictions...was the police. Take em off the friggin internet where anyone can find em.

It would certainly be LEGAL...I've yet to find the page in the U.S. Constution showing the public and the press's RIGHT TO KNOW!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 26, 2011 1:30:57 AM

Thank you very much for keeping me up to date.

Posted by: Health Blog | Jan 26, 2011 7:07:02 AM


Right you are on all counts. This is exactly the reason that supporters have pushed for passage of Rangel's HR1529 "Second Chance Act" and Cohens HR5492 "Fresh Start Act" allowing first time non-violent offenders to apply for expungement of their records. If a person is given a second chance and has legitimate, meaningful employment, they are much less likely to blow the opportunity than someone constantly beaten down by the system.

Word is that Cohen is going to re-introduce his bill. However it is sad that he has pretty much shot himself in the foot with his stupid comments comparing Repubs to Nazi's. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Posted by: Thomas | Jan 26, 2011 11:03:41 AM

sorry thomas but that bill was a joke. the way the legal system is setup now.... just about everying is considered a violent crime...... just take a look at the 10,000 plus lawsuits in ohio where the state with a wave of a pen recassified 10,000 people from no paperwork...no probation no registration NO NOTHING to THE WORSE OF THE WORSE being requried to registery every 30 days the REST OF THEIR LIFE....

what the govt needs to be doing is passing a law that is pretty simple actualy. wording would be easy.

"Since it is not enumarated in the constution hincefort the Public NOR the Press have a legal RIGHT TO KNOW ANYTHING that is not at that time considered a crime."

example the fact that john q. public robbed a store last nite...would be a crime and a legal news story at the time it occured as well as any follow up criminal prosecution and conviction.

That john q. public comitted a crime 20 years ago and sucessfuly completed his court ordered sentence WOULD NOT!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 26, 2011 3:40:51 PM

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