The After Life: Something Worth Investing In

By:  Nicole Nazari

With a system that hosts about 2.3 million people, our corrections system does not correct. [1] At least 95% of all state prisoners will be released, and at least two-thirds of those released prisoners are rearrested. Many of whom are re-arrested for committing felonies and other serious crimes. [2] However, the statistics do not highlight that each of those numbers represents a person. A person who might have parents who love them. Children who need them. And a spouse who misses them. If the point of prison is to punish every offender, then it does an excellent job. However, if the point of prison is to rehabilitate and encourage these individuals to re-engage with society – then our policy of shackles and 6×8 cells is failing. 

In fact, research shows that inmates who participate in correctional educational programs have 43% lower odds of returning to prison than those who do not. [3] One such program is the Prison Education Project (PEP), the largest based prison education program. PEP aims to prepare the incarcerated with academic preparation for college, career searches, develop a marketable resume, how to effectively search for a job, how to effectively manage stress and anger, and how to manage one’s life effectively. These success rates prove after the 10-week course period, the incarcerated are likely capable of a life outside of prison. They become more vulnerable and open, speak about their remorse for their past transgressions, and express their plans for the future. PEP tracked the rehabilitation outcomes of six cohorts and 160 graduates in 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017 by measuring success of alumni through the variables of: employment, college attendance, and recidivism rates over the span of three years. The data presented the following success rate: 2009: 75%, 2012: 86%, 2013: 88%, 2014: 88%, 2015: 89%, 2017: 92% (at two-year mark). [3]

In addition, there are economic incentives to implement more rehabilitation programs. One study found high-risk youth who become chronic offenders cost society between $4.2 and $7.2 million. [4] During the mid-1990s, implementation of similar programs for probationers reduced recidivism saving the state of Georgia the equivalent of building two new prisons. [5] In Nevada, a 1.6% decrease in the prison population saved the state $38 million and prevented Nevada from spending $1.2 billion on construction costs. [6] Moreover, it costs California prisons $72 a day to incarcerate one prisoner, on average. With less people in prison, correctional facilities need less money to operate. Ex-convicts no longer burden taxpayers, contribute to society, and boost the economy.

The consensus among other programs is the same: spend money on rehabilitation programs to avoid the larger cost to society.  It is an investment worth making. People can change if they are given the right resources and opportunities.

[1]https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2018.html.

[2]https://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/reentry.cfm

[3]https://www.justice.gov/archives/prison-reform

[4] http://www.reintegrationacademy.org/OutcomeData.html

[5] https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=248822

[6] http://www.jstor.org/stable/23282764

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