Posts Tagged ‘prisoner re-entry’
Earlier, I linked to The Nation‘s list of ten ways you can help fight mass incarceration. Here’s another top ten list, courtesy of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. As always, readers are invited to contribute additional suggestions (just click “Leave a Comment” above). Highlights from the LSPC list:
5. Become informed about conditions of confinement and the movement against the prison industrial complex. Challenge those around you who subscribe to stereotypes about prisoners.
6. If you are an employer, consider hiring former prisoners for job vacancies.
NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice has published an important new report, Jim Crow in New York, tracing the history and ongoing impact of New York’s racially-motivated felon disenfranchisement laws. The report demonstrates that “Jim Crow was not confined to the South” (p. 4) and that he is not dead. The upshot (p. 14):
The mandatory criminal disenfranchisement provision put in place in 1874 is nearly identical to the provision that remains the law in New York today, and it continues to have its intended effects. The current law in New York denies the right to vote to any citizen in prison or on parole. Nearly 80% of those who have lost their right to vote under New York’s law are African-American and Hispanic. Almost half of those disenfranchised are out of prison, living in the community.
Restoring voting rights to those who are in the community increases public safety. Many law enforcement and criminal justice officials are speaking out against disenfranchisement because they recognize that bringing people into the political process makes them stakeholders, which helps steer former offenders away from future crimes.
Criminal disenfranchisement laws also harm families and entire communities. Studies show that denying the vote to one person has a ripple effect across families, dramatically decreasing the political power of urban and minority communities.
The New York Times covers the Brennan Center report here; earlier, I blogged here about ongoing litigation over felon disenfranchisement in Washington State. For comparative context, an interesting scholarly article on Southern felon disenfranchisement laws is available for download here, entitled “‘A Chicken-Stealer Shall Lose His Vote': Disfranchisement for Larceny in the South, 1874-1890,” by Pippa Holloway. And finally, for a broader version of the argument that collateral consequences for felony convictions add up to a new form of legal segregation, see Michelle Alexander’s new book The New Jim Crow.
It’s time to face facts about our current approach to incarceration. It’s not sustainable. It’s not affordable. And we’ve seen that it isn’t always as effective as we think in reducing crime and keeping Americans safe.
Over the last few decades, state spending on corrections has risen faster than nearly any other budget item. Yet our best research suggests that there are other, more effective ways to invest taxpayer dollars and ensure public safety.
At a cost of $60 billion a year, our prisons and jails do very little to prepare prisoners to get jobs and “go straight” after they’re released. Former offenders are often barred from housing, shunned by potential employers, and surrounded by other ex-offenders in their neighborhoods. This is a recipe for high recidivism. And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years.
It’s time for a new approach.