Grits writes today of the counterproductive nature of policies that bar felons from gaining employment upon release. He points to this press release by the CEO of a security camera surveillance company lamenting the foolishness of such policies. I agree with both of them, but I don’t think any shift in policy will happen any time soon. Rehabilitation and re-integration into society have long been abandoned as goals of the correctional institutions and the penal system in this country (and many others).
Think about it. What is the last thing you want a just released inmate to be doing? Nothing. That’s right. You don’t want him to be sitting around on street corners wondering where the next meal is going to come from or where he’s going to sleep. That is not a good formula for re-integration. More often than not, he will resort to the only thing he knows: How to make quick money. More often than not, that will not involve legitimate means. Crime will continue to occur.
If we are to make our streets safer and to reduce the burden on taxpayers, then we need to focus on re-entry programs and in assisting recently released inmates obtain lawful employment. The money we spend on these programs will be quickly offset by the savings from reduced incarceration costs, law enforcement costs and will only help local economies.
So what is standing in the way? Are we that invested in the idea that “criminals” are “monsters” and “evil” and cannot be salvaged? Are we that invested in our moral highground that we cannot see beyond our own nose?
No one is better off with these policies. Which is why I was extremely glad when Connecticut introduced a proposal to provide gate pay to inmates earlier this year. We need more steps like these to ensure that when inmates are released, they aren’t forced back into a life of crime.