The Horrendous Cost of Incarceration



It may come as a surprise to many that the United States, the world’s leading democracy, has by far the greatest number of prisoners and the highest rate of incarceration of any country on our planet. At 715 per 100,000 population the incarceration rate is seven times the average rates for France, Germany, Italy and Spain, and is 22 percent higher even than second place Russia, home of the Gulag Archipelago. More alarming still, our total federal, state and local prison population at 2,019,234 is nearly five times the entire prison population of the European Union countries and the United Kingdom combined.

We are paying a heavy price for our definition of criminal acts and for mandatory sentencing. The average annual expense per prisoner in the U.S is estimated at $36,000 to $44,000, depending on how such costs are calculated. Even at the lower estimate, the total prison system may place a burden on taxpayers of as much as $72 billion annually. In Connecticut from 1985 to 2000, fueled by draconian drug laws our prison population tripled, reaching a high of 17,500. Though slightly lower today, still the annual cost of the criminal justice system is $2 billion and amounts to 11 percent of the state budget. And, only one-third of the prison population serves time due to violent crime. A quarter of all convictions are for drug offenses.

Adding to these hard numbers, the collateral human cost of lost productivity and the impact on the families of prisoners is incalculable. Inmates can contribute little or nothing in support of their families and children, who are often left destitute. According to research by the Pew Charitable Trust, there are 2.7 million children under eighteen nationwide growing up with a mother or father behind bars. The emotional and psychological trauma of this separation increases the risk of juvenile delinquency. It is a tragic fact that the children of jailed offenders are more likely to end up in jail themselves, creating a generational cycle of crime and incarceration.

Once released, offenders bear the stigma of an ex-con. Challenged to find work and even lodging, they are highly vulnerable to repeating the associations and actions that put them behind bars in the first place. Violation of parole is the No. 1 cause of offenders returning to prison. Within two years of release, 67 percent will be rearrested and 48 percent of these will go back to prison. Addressing and solving this problem of recidivism is a major mission of Family ReEntry, the Bridgeport based public/private organization dedicated to helping former offenders find their place with family and community and lead productive lives.

To this end Family ReEntry initiated Fresh Start, an ambitious program to help those ex-offenders who wished to change the pattern of their lives. Inmates were selected who were willing to accept mentoring, often from other ex-offenders who had successfully adopted a new path for their own lives. Fresh Start offers job training to former offenders and help in finding employment. According to Yale University research, the program was successful in reducing recidivism by 34 percent, saving taxpayers millions in prisoner expense at a modest cost of only $2,300 per client. These programs were enhanced by the launching of Fresh Start Enterprises with the initial support of a federal grant, and with the purpose of creating employment opportunities for ex-offenders by contracting out their services.  While its goal was to be self-supporting through labor contracts, the operation could not be sustained without the federal support that was no longer available. Family ReEntry is working to develop a new sustainable business model, and it is hoped that this important program can be reinstated with public and private funding.

Meanwhile, other essential Family ReEntry programs continue to mitigate the need as well as the effects of incarceration on families and children. The pervasive problem of domestic violence is a major basis for arrests and convictions. The FBI has reported it has taken the lives of an average of four women a day in this country. Family ReEntry handles as many as 1,100 domestic violence cases per year, steering offenders away from prison and into a mentoring system. Intervention has been responsible for a significant reduction in new sentences as well as a lower incidence of recidivism.

Some of the most critical programs are directed to children at risk. Mentoring and supportive services serve approximately 200 youths, including gang members, and have demonstrably improved children’s behavior, academic performance and reduced their involvement with the criminal justice system. All of these programs help create better and safer communities through crime prevention while reducing the economic and social costs of incarceration.

There are far too many in prison due to non-threatening, nonviolent crimes. It is interesting to note that New York State is selling off surplus prisons, its inmate population having fallen from a 1999 peak of over 71,000 to only 55,000 today. According to the New York Times, this is largely due to new programs allowing early release of nonviolent offenders and the dismantling of its strict drug laws. We believe it is time for Connecticut to follow suit.

 

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...

  • Isaia Fall Trunk Show

    2014.09.19
     @ Richards

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Aaron Henry Trunk Show & Personal Appearance

    2014.09.26
     @ Richards


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