Where Crime Begins



Would you believe that our wonderful democracy has by far the greatest number of prisoners and the highest rate of incarceration in the world?

The size of our prison population today has become a physical and economic burden as well as a national embarrassment. The United States has over two million people in state and federal jails, seven times the prison population of the European Union and Great Britain combined; and our rate of incarceration is 22 percent higher than Russia’s notorious Gulag Archipelago. State budgets, already at the breaking point, are overburdened with the cost of maintaining this non-productive prison population, while the social cost is incalculable.

Connecticut is no exception. We spend $2 billion annually and 11 percent of our budget on the criminal justice system. Just our prison population of 18,000 costs us $79 million. Recidivism is a major problem. Over half of those released each year will be rearrested within two years, and half of those are returned to prison.

Family ReEntry (FRE), a Bridgeport-based nonprofit organization supported by state and private funds, addresses this problem with its Fresh Start program. Prerelease counseling of prisoners and post-release mentoring helps the ex-offenders reestablish themselves in the community and with their families in a healthy and productive way. A broad array of services, including skills training, behavior counseling plus housing and employment assistance, help the ex-offender face the daunting challenges of adjusting to the world outside and the temptation to backslide.

The organization also focuses on domestic violence, the reason many offenders land in prison in the first place. Through counseling coordinated with police, probation officers and the state’s Court Support System, Family ReEntry attempts to provide a safe alternative to incarceration. Its violence intervention, education and treatment programs have kept over 1,000 perpetrators a year out of prison, saving taxpayers many millions of dollars and diminishing the cycle of violence and abuse. Active throughout Fairfield County, its operations in Norwalk and Stamford have been named model programs by the state for their reduction of recidivism.

Efforts to reduce domestic violence bear directly on solving the most critical challenge of all: How to break the generational cycle of crime. Children who are raised in a chaotic and violent family environment are often psychologically and emotionally impaired and struggle in school with learning disabilities. Behavior problems are common and 78 percent end up in the criminal justice system. Equally devastating can be the incarceration of the family’s breadwinner, who leaves the family impoverished while in prison. The children are left without a father or a mother and faced with the stigma of a convict parent. There are an estimated 4,000 children with an incarcerated parent in Greater Bridgeport alone, and they are seven times more likely to go to prison themselves.

Family ReEntry’s Champions Program is specifically designed to serve children with one or both parents in prison. Meeting weekly with them at their schools and in the community, mentors serving as role models work to develop a child-adult relationship of trust and respect. Tina Banas, manager of FRE’s youth mentoring program, describes just one of many cases:

Josiah (not his real name) is a 14-year-old boy in Bridgeport currently in 8th grade. Both of his parents are in prison, and he is living with his grandmother. Two years ago FRE’s youth mentoring director matched him with a mentor, Bruce from Wilton, who has visited him at school weekly. Bruce became concerned when he discovered that Josiah couldn’t read. On Josiah’s birthday he had presented him with a typed letter praising his progress, only to find he had to read it to him. The school staff knew he had a learning disability and believed he was reading at the 3rd grade level but had attributed this to delayed development. The mentoring program director located a psychologist willing to do an evaluation at a reduced rate and a donor who would foot the bill. The diagnosis was severe dyslexia.

The mentor uncovered the problem, sought a solution and continues to maintain a close bond with Josiah, encouraging his interest in science and nature, and helping him gain self-confidence. Bruce knew that without a high school education, the boy’s future was dim.

The importance of education in breaking the generational cycle of crime and poverty was confirmed in a recent column by Nicholas Kristof in the Sunday New York Times entitled “Do we Invest in Preschools or Prisons?” In it he states, “…mountains of evidence suggest that the best way to address American economic inequality, poverty and crime is early education programs…,” then, “A rigorous study by David Deming of Harvard found that Head Start graduates were less likely to repeat grades or be diagnosed with a learning disability, and more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

“We’ll have to confront the pathologies of poverty at some point”, he concludes. “We can deal with them cheaply at the front end, in infancy. Or we can wait and jail a troubled adolescent at the tail end.”   

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • Isaia Fall Trunk Show

    2014.09.19
     @ Richards

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • SoulCycle GWCH for Make-A-Wish CT

    2014.09.20
     @ SoulCycle

    Make-A-Wish Connecticut is thrilled to be partnering with SoulCycle's Greenwich location for a charity ride on Saturday, September 20th!...

  • Wall Street Tennis Challenge

    2014.09.20
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The goal of The Wall Street Tennis Challenge is to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts while spreading awareness...

  • Nam Cho Trunk Show

    2014.09.20
     @ Richards

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...

  • Puttin’ On The Dog Festival

    2014.09.21
     @ Roger Sherman Baldwin Park

    Puttin’ On The Dog Festival Greenwich, Connecticut the place to be on September 21st for dogs and their owners...

  • Candy Fairies Book Reading

    2014.09.21
     @ Imagine Candy

    SCARSDALE, NY, Imagine Candy brings the acclaimed children's author Helen Perelman, the writer of the wickedly sweet Candy Fairies book...

  • Chizi's Tale Book Launch Party

    2014.09.21
     @ Tudor Investment Campus

    You and your family are invited to join Diane's Books of Greenwich and TUSK USA to celebrate the launch of Chizi's Tale: The True Story...

  • Chizi's Tale Book Launch Party

    2014.09.21
     @ Tudor Investment Campus

    You and your family are invited to join Diane's Books of Greenwich and TUSK USA to celebrate the launch of Chizi's Tale: The True Story...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • "Israel and the U.S."

    2014.09.22
     @ New Canaan Library

    The public is invited to attend a World Affairs Forum Great Decisions event featuring Seth Anziska, Columbia University. Mr. Anziska will speak...

  • Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese

    2014.09.24
     @ Meli-Melo

    Meet Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese & Take Home a Signed Copy of His New Book! Kevin is a holistic health practitioner,...

  • Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.25
     @ Milbrook Club

    Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon will be held at Milbrook Club. Registration 11:30am; start at...


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