Let me ask you a question. Do you think anybody who is in their right mind could disagree with the following:
For the transition from prison to life outside to be successful, it needs to be gradual. If someone needed to be locked up yesterday, he shouldn’t be completely at liberty today. And he shouldn’t be asked to go from utter dependency to total self-sufficiency in one flying leap. He needs both more control and more support. Neither alone is likely to do the job.
Let’s look at some facts. Our incarceration rate is five times higher than it was in 1975. It’s seven times higher than the rate in Canada and Western Europe. Half of all black men who don’t have a high school diploma do time in prison before they reach the age of 30. Our homicide rate is by far the highest among countries with advanced economies. Prisons are astronomically expensive and paying for them is crowding out more promising investments, including in higher education.
We can’t reduce our prison population to anything close to what it was forty years ago unless we’re willing to flood our streets with violent criminals because more than half of the people in our prison system have committed violent crimes, and even more have violent histories. More still entered prison without a history of violence but have learned violence or gang life while serving time.
We need a new way of transitioning people from prison to society. Roughly 50% of the people we release from prison are back behind bars within three years.
When you look at these numbers, a graduated re-entry program is just common sense. Inmates should be given their freedom in stages, and they should have a lot more support while they’re going through the process.
Check out Mark Kleiman, Angela Hawken, and Ross Halperin’s proposals at Vox. They’re trying to start a conversation that we all need to have.