Released Prisoners Need Help Adjusting To Community
A landmark report that offers hundreds of bipartisan recommendations to help make prisoners’ transition from a correctional facility to the community safe and successful has been released by the Re-Entry Policy Council (RPC).
“Nearly 650,000 people will be released from prison this year, and 7 million will be released from jails. Every policymaker should be concerned about the public safety and fiscal implications of these extraordinary numbers,” said Timothy Ryan, chief of the Orange County, Florida Corrections Department, and past president of the American Jail Association.
More than 100 leading policymakers–Republicans and Democrats, as well as officials representing law enforcement, corrections, and health and social service systems across the country–have developed the consensus-based recommendations that describe how to overhaul prisoner re-entry nationwide. The RPC is a partnership among 11 national organizations and is spearheaded by The Council of State Governments (CSG).
Spending on corrections has increased from $9 billion a year in 1982 to $60 billion in 2002. Yet, two-thirds of those released from prison are arrested again within three years of their release, a rate that has not improved in the past 30 years.
“This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democrat issue,” said State Sen. Eric Bogue of South Dakota (R, Majority Leader), who co-chairs RPC. “It’s about keeping our communities safe and saving money–and those are things both parties want to see happen.”
New York State Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry (D, Chair of the Assembly Correction Committee), co-chair of the RPC added, “This issue affects not just those who are coming out of incarceration but also the neighborhoods to which they return, which are often the most disadvantaged and the most ill-equipped to handle this population. Nineteen percent of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods are home to more than half of all the probationers and parolees in that borough.”
“The Report of the Re-Entry Policy Council is encyclopedic,” said Reginald A. Wilkinson, Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and past president, Association of State Correctional Administrators. Wilkinson, who was a member of the Policy Council, added, “The report provides hundreds of detailed recommendations dedicated to health care, education, substance abuse, housing, employment, supportive relationships, victims, mental health, and behaviors and attitudes.” The report also features dozens of examples of programs shown to make a difference in the lives of those leaving prison or jail, their families and their communities.
Legislators from across the country have noted that re-entry will be a hot topic in their states during the upcoming year. State Rep. John A. Loredo of Arizona was also a co-chair of the RPC. Term-limited after serving 10 years in the House, Loredo has been appointed chair of a blue ribbon committee established by the Governor to address prisoner re-entry. “We’ll be drawing heavily on the recommendations provided in the report, as we know that they have been prepared by Republicans and Democrats alike and benefit from the expertise of national leaders in public safety as well as other systems.”
At the federal level, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas signaled that Congress would be acting on the recommendations of the report. “We’ve got a broken corrections system. It needs to be reinvented, much as we found with welfare in the 1990’s. Recidivism rates are too high and create too much of a financial burden on states without protecting public safety. The Second Chance Act, which I will be reintroducing in 2005, acts on many of the recommendations in the Report of the Re-Entry Policy Council to transform not only individual lives but our nation as a whole.”
The report is available for order and download on the RPC website, www.reentrypolicy.org. The Re-Entry Policy Council is a national project coordinated by the Criminal Justice Program of the C ouncil of State Government’s (CSG) Eastern Regional Office, the only CSG regional office that focuses on criminal justice policy.
The Re-Entry Policy Council is a partnership that includes CSG, American Probation and Parole Association, Association of State Correctional Administrators, Corporation for Supportive Housing, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, National Association of State Alcohol/Drug Abuse Directors, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Association of Workforce Boards, National Center for State Courts, Police Executive Research Forum, and Urban Institute.
The project received generous support from the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and U.S. Department of Labor, as well as the JEHT Foundation, Open Society Institute, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.