Our Lord began his ministry by declaring “release to the captives…” (Luke 4:18 NRSV), and he distinguished those who would receive a blessing at the last judgment by saying, “I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36b NRSV) Jesus also declared that one cannot serve two masters and condemned the idolatry of mammon, or wealth. (Luke 16:13).The statement has further practical explanation of why this opposition: Continue reading
Christians, therefore, must have a special concern for those who are captive in any way, especially for those who are imprisoned, and for the human conditions under which persons are incarcerated. Individual Christians and churches must also oppose those policies and practices which reflect greater allegiance to the profit motive than to public safety and to restorative justice for offenders, crime victims, and local communities.
Therefore, The United Methodist Church declares its opposition to the privatization of prisons and jails and to profit making from the punishment of human beings.
A long prison sentence might be justified, but it also might be very expensive, and maybe it’s not the best way to deal with people with drug problems.He even recommends trying rehabilitation and drug treatment.
People do want to know that violent criminals are locked up for a good length of time. They’re not particularly interested in locking up in prison for $20,000 a year or in some places in California, $50,000 a year…. It’s not free to put someone in prison.
Texas is the state that’s moved out there, done some very serious analysis.Drug rehabilitiation, lower recidivism, lower costs.
In Lowndes County, Georgia, we have two hospitals, a drug treatment center, and many doctors and nurses. What if we invested in them instead of in a money-losing private prison?
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has said that violent offenders will remain behind bars, but the state needs to rethink the costs of locking up others, like nonviolent drug offenders.Last May we noted that Georgia spends a billion dollars a year to keep the fourth-largest number of prisoners of any state. Now that the state is cutting every other budget, including huge cuts in education, we just can’t afford to lock so many people up.
The number of people locked up has grown way faster than violent crime since 1980. The U.S., with 5% of the world’s populatioon now has 25% of the world’s prison population: more than any other country total and per capita: more than China, more than Russia, more than Cuba. As Sen. James Webb remarked in 2009: Continue reading
Prisoners have to be released from prison or the county jail into the same community, and can’t get a job because they’re ex-cons, and often not even an apartment. Result? Homeless ex-cons turning to crime.Female ex-cons in Lowndes County have some places they can turn to for housing. Male ex-cons have only the Salvation Army, and they have to leave there every morning early. In Atlanta they’ve examined their situation and determined that housing is the most central issue.
Which would we rather do? Pay as much per year to send them back to jail as it would cost to send them to college? Or find a way to provide housing for them?
How about helping ex-prisoners learn job-hunting skills and job-holding skills? Employment is the best preventative for crime. There are local organizations ready to work on that, such as CHANCE: Changing Homes and Neighborhoods, Challenging Everyone.
Local tax dollars need to be spent in a way that benefits the entire community, and not just a few. Maybe we can afford to do something about getting ex-prisoners a place to live and jobs so they stay out of crime and improve the local economy. Actually, can we afford not to do that to reduce incarceration expenditures?
Gaining employment was hindered by multiple obstacles: In addition to low levels of education and work experience, and the reluctance of employers to hire someone who has served time in prison, they also lacked the personal networks to help them identify and secure jobs. Those findings echoed the experiences of government and community-based reentry service providers.So it’s a difficult problem, but the first step is obvious.
However, “housing was identified as the most central issue and need people faced immediately upon their return or move to Atlanta,” said Owens. “For those released from prison without obtaining a guaranteed bed at a transitional house or shelter, and possessing only their $25 in ‘gate money,’ finding a place to stay that was secure, decent and accessible was often impossible.”
And there’s a basic reason for doing something:
“In many ways, the success or recidivism of former inmates has a tremendous impact on the communities where they settle, but given the stigma attached, it hasn’t exactly been a cause championed by many. But, positive reentry is a necessity, not an option, when it comes to public safety, preserving families and the development and stability of neighborhoods,” said assistant professor of political science Michael Leo Owens, coauthor of the study “Prisoner Reentry in Atlanta: Understanding the Challenges of Transition from Prison to Community.” View the prisoner reentry study (PDF).Helping prisoners re-enter the community reduces crime and increases employment, so it would seem like something everyone would want.
Faced with soaring prison costs, states are finally focusing on policies that would help former prisoners stay out of jail after they are released. Some legislatures are reshaping laws that land parolees back inside for technical violations that should be dealt with on the outside. More than a dozen cities and counties have taken steps that make it easier for qualified ex-offenders to land government jobs, except in education and law enforcement and other sensitive areas from which people with convictions are normally barred by law.The specific example they consider is New Jersey, but Texas has also led in throwing people into jail and now is starting to try to do something about ex-prisoners once they get out. Paying as much per prisoner as would cost to send them to college, in a time of chronic budget shortfalls, is not very attractive. Georgia could also make changes to reduce recidivism, and reduce its prison population.
Still, the nation as a whole needs to do much more about laws that marginalize former offenders — and often drive them back to jail — by denying them voting rights, parental rights, drivers licenses and access to public housing, welfare and food stamps, even in cases where they have led blameless lives after prison.