The New York Times
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.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The New York Times