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December 26, 2009

"Smart Answers to Recidivism"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable New York Times editorial.  Here are excerpts:

Faced with soaring prison costs, states are finally focusing on policies that would help former prisoners stay out of jail after they are released. Some legislatures are reshaping laws that land parolees back inside for technical violations that should be dealt with on the outside. More than a dozen cities and counties have taken steps that make it easier for qualified ex-offenders to land government jobs, except in education and law enforcement and other sensitive areas from which people with convictions are normally barred by law.

Still, the nation as a whole needs to do much more about laws that marginalize former offenders — and often drive them back to jail — by denying them voting rights, parental rights, drivers licenses and access to public housing, welfare and food stamps, even in cases where they have led blameless lives after prison.

New Jersey — a state with a terrible record of marginalizing former prisoners — could lead the way. Before the State Legislature in Trenton is a comprehensive package of reforms that would help ex-offenders rejoin society’s mainstream and lower the chances, and costs, of recidivism.

New Jersey lawmakers heard some depressing testimony in hearings leading up to the legislation. Deterred by barriers to jobs, housing and education, about two-thirds of the people released from prison in New Jersey end up back inside within three years. Since taxpayers spend about $48,000 per prison inmate per year, by some estimates, the state could reap significant savings from even a small decline in the return-to-prison rate....

The New Jersey Legislature has a chance to provide a new lease on life to thousands of families while offering a model for the rest of the nation.

December 26, 2009 at 10:43 AM | Permalink


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How does the denial of voting rights or parental rights "drive" people back to jail?

Posted by: federalist | Dec 26, 2009 11:24:09 AM

Another way to think about this is if there were no rehabilitation the prison population would never stop growing and there would be no conversion of prison inmates into taxpayers.

Posted by: John Neff | Dec 26, 2009 11:52:28 AM

Why beat around the bush; just get straight to your point: "everybody in prison is bad and deserves all the bad things that happen to bad people." Doesn't that feel better, now?

Posted by: Mark # 1 | Dec 26, 2009 12:41:02 PM

The word, deserve, is a Trojan Horse for rent seeking. It means, the person will get something, the taxpayer, nothing. Incapacitation is the sole mature goal of the criminal law of value to the public. Most of the folks in prison are incapacitation ready. If you are a lawyer, you live in a virtually crime free neighborhood. The well trained police deal the death penalty at the scene. Criminals know that, and avoid those areas. If you are a neighbor, the release of these lawyer clients is a personal catastrophe and tragedy. If you are a family member, it is unbearable toxic experience. It is like dumping radioactive infectious waste into your water supply. The harm will be immediate, huge, and often crippling.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 26, 2009 1:25:20 PM

There is almost no one who made a "mistake," in prison. Everyone has failed multiple levels of criminal justice, and no choice remains. The NY Times and those who quote it require a full time truth squad. The wives and daughters had better start running if that statute gets enacted. What is it that resocialization has to offer that compares in rewarding property to getting high and imposing one's sexual will on people who do not want to have sex? If the prisoners had any feeling for their families, they would not have committed their crimes.

Nor is it clear that release is less cruel than staying in prison. You keep the hours you want. You take advantage of all the educational and therapeutic activities. You can be busier than on a cruise. You have three catered meals and housing.

On the outside, you get hit with child support bill. You have to get drug rehab, a nightmare. You have to actually work, and earn a living, as opposed to being on permanent vacation. Work, means helping others, when the prisoner is ultra-selfish. Release can be quite cruel.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 26, 2009 2:05:08 PM

What about recidivism murderers and rapists, they are going to live a better life then their victims? They have commited this horrible acts against another human being with no mercy, why should they been given better opportunities? Put them in the ground just like their victims or their victims dignity or self worth. "It's not for vengeance or detterence but for Justice."-David Elmore

Posted by: CHryz | Jan 25, 2010 3:41:37 AM

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