The Mayor’s Case for Criminal Justice Reform
Look, right or left, we all have to agree that we waste billions of dollars in our economy warehousing human potential in the “Land of the Free” in places called jails. We have to agree that this is a profound waste that is costing states like New Jersey billions of dollars and unless we change this, we will be an affront to everything that we claim to the world that we are.
— Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., speech to the American Constitution Society, Washington, D.C., June 19, 2010. To help ex-offenders avoid “legal entanglements” like parole violations and find employment, Booker created the Newark Prisoner Reentry Initiative, which has slashed recidivism rates among participants to below 10%. (That’s the program he’s discussing in the YouTube video above.)
UPDATE: In similar news, USA Today has this report on the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative, a four-year-old experimental program that connects prisoners with mentors, job leads, housing assistance, addiction and mental health treatment, etc., beginning in their final months behind bars and extending after their release. The state Department of Corrections says the program has cut recidivism from 55% to 38% in the Wolverine State — and to as low as 11% in some counties. Says John Cordell, the head of Michigan’s prison system: “After years of just warehousing humans, it was time to go in a new direction.”