There was a time that a felony conviction would result in a lifetime of unemployment, low paying jobs and a very high likelihood of returning to prison at some time in the future. A felon conviction meant closed doors and lack of choices. The fact is that more than 90% of those individuals that are convicted of a felon and are sent to prison will be coming home. Fortunately, in the last couple of years, it seems that everyone has realized that if we cannot help these people reestablish themselves and put them on a fulfilling career path, they will continue the cycle and wind up back in jail.
Before I discuss some of the new trends around reducing recidivism, let me be clear. There are a percentage in our prisons that are in jail and they should never be let out. They are the few that are not fit or able to be a viable part of our society. In addition, there are many in our prisons that should never have been put tin jail. Addiction and desperation are not necessarily crimes. There are other options. The vast majority of those in jail did make a mistake, but that does not mean that with a bit of help and understanding, they cannot become a contributing member of society.
Everyone, regardless of polecat party, have come to realize that if we do not invest and support our returning citizens, they will continue to be a tax burden, not a tax contributor.
Our prison systems are gradually moving towards a view that their job is not to simply keep individuals in jail, but to rehabilitate. There are new programs being introduced that will give inmates the skills and experience to give them legitimate opportunities for gainful employment, even careers, upon release.
Another significant factor in this evolving view around reentry is that the economy is raging forward, and the unemployment rate is so low, there are millions of jobs that are gong unfilled because there are not enough people to fill those roles. There are millions of unemployed people sitting in prison hoping for another chance and a true desire for another chance. The opportunity is clear, use the time in prison to train and educate, to release not an ex-felon, but an employable asset.