Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Permanent Underclass

If you think it's tough getting a job during a recession, imagine what it's like for an ex-convict.

Gregory Headley, 29, knows exactly what it's like. The Harlem resident was released from prison in July after serving two years and eight months for the criminal sale of a firearm. Now that he's out, he said, the conviction is dogging his attempts to land a full-time job.

Read more... 

20 years ago, the U.S. had approximately 700,000 inmates in prison. This year, that number will be released. As the article points out, getting and keeping a job has become increasing difficult. The lack of educational opportunities, in and out of prison, continues to be problematic. It is a a virtual certainty that the recidivism rate will climb as prisons reduce programs and continue warehousing inmates.

Our crime control policies, buffeted by the effects of the recession, are creating a permanent underclass of people who cannot compete for good jobs in any economy. More needs to be done in the area of prisoner reentry in order to intervene in the revolving door of prison.

Many states have begun to reduce the effects of policies such as technical violations of probation and parole, drug-related crimes, and mandatory minimum sentences. We need other efforts, such as job training and education, tax credits for employers who hire convicted felons, and programs that work to promote successful transition into the free world instead of setting released inmates up for failure.

The cost of the permanent underclass that our current polices have created will have a significant and lasting impact on other parts of state and local budgets. Helping inmates stay out of jail and prison is the smart thing to do.

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