More than 95 percent of those currently incarcerated will be released back into our communities. The Department of Justice estimates that nearly two-thirds of these individuals will be rearrested within three years. This statistic should set off alarms for every community and citizen.
The American Correctional Association's Declaration of Principles states, "Corrections is responsible for providing programs and constructive activities that promote positive change for responsible citizenship." ACA believes that the opportunity for positive change or rehabilitation is basic to the concept of corrections, as punishment without the opportunity for redemption is unjust and ineffective. This belief is also reflected in the mission statements of correctional departments across the country. If corrections cannot address the recidivism rates, we are not adequately doing our job. As President Bush said in his 2004 State of the Union address, "America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life." I wish everyone in the country and world believed what the president said, and I hope his administration will follow through on that statement in the coming term.
A large percentage of those leaving U.S. prisons and jails face substance abuse disorders, chronic health issues, low levels of education and job training, and a general lack of resources that, when taken together, make it hard for these people to have a real chance at a "normal" life upon their release.
Studies show that 15 percent to 27 percent of inmates expect to go to homeless shelters upon release from prison. Ex-offenders often return to communities where persistent poverty and lack of jobs and affordable housing make finding a permanent home difficult. Without transitional housing, it is almost impossible for an offender to obtain the credit and rent-payment history necessary to live independently and maintain permanent housing. Affordable housing--and for some, supportive housing that is drug, alcohol and crime free--is critical if treatment and services are to successfully re-integrate the individual into the community.
In addition, statistics show that an individual with a job is less likely to commit another crime following his or her release from prison, but ex-offenders face numerous barriers to obtaining employment. Those released from correctional facilities are entering a competitive labor...