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

  • Harvest Fair and Gift Show

    2014.11.01
     @ Second Congregational Church

    Event Will Include Hay Mazes, Games, Crafts, Food, Holiday Shopping The community is invited to a Harvest Fair and Gift Show on Saturday, Nov....

  • New Fitness Class: SalsaTone

    2014.11.01
     @ Latin Moves Dance Studio

    Starting November 1st ~ Every Saturday morning 10 to 11 AM Instructor: Melissa Lopez Start your weekend off right with this exciting cardio...

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • 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...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    FLINN GALLERY Opening Reception 'IN FOCUS' Thursday October 30, 6 - 8pm Seven artists share their visions - Carolyn Conrad,...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • Lynne Scalo Design Opening

    2014.11.05

    Please join Lynne Scalo, Greenwich Magazine and athome Magazine to celebrate the Greenwich showroom opening of Lynne Scalo Design Cocktails...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show

    2014.11.06
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Breast Cancer Alliance to Host Branching Out, Coming Together, Aspiring to a Cure 19th Annual Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show: November 6,...

  • Free Screening of Documentary ' Children of the Inquisition'

    2014.11.06
     @ Bush-Holley House

    Join filmmaker Joseph Lovett as he presents his documentary film and multi-platform project of personal exploration and...

  • P.A.L.S. 2nd Annual Soarin' Soiree~ November 7, 2014

    2014.11.07
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    You are invited to join our State Senator, L. Scott Frantz and our First Selectman, Peter J. Tesei, for an awe-inspiring evening to benefit Patient...

  • John Hardy Event

    2014.11.08
     @ Bloomingdale's

    John Hardy One of a kind. One at a time. Each by hand. Bloomingdale's is inviting YOU to meet the head designer Guy Bedarida as he presents...

  • Olivine Gabbro Opening

    2014.11.08

    Olivine Gabbro invites you to join them for their Opening Party! DJ | Cocktails | H'Orderves | Gift Bags Made to Measure Beautifully...

  • Meet Joshua Safran, Author of "Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid"

    2014.11.11
     @ YWCA Greenwich

    Meet the author of this powerful memoir. Joshua Safran is an author, attorney, occasional rabbi, and nationally recognized advocate for...

  • Markham Roberts: Decorating the Way I See It

    2014.11.13
     @ Belle Haven Club

    Join us as Interior Designer Markham Roberts shares coveted design insights, key to creating the perfect home. The program will include...

  • AGAPANTHUS RISING

    2014.11.18
     @ Greenwich Water Club

    Like the Agapanthus flower, which starts as just a seed, we all have something to share with the world.  Sadly, we don't always nurture...

  • The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Junior League of Greenwich presents 2014 Enchanted Forest! Holiday Boutiques Gingerbeard Workshops Santa's Breakfast...

  • Junior League of Greenwich The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Junior League of Greenwich

    The Junior League of Greenwich (JLG) will host its annual holiday fundraiser, The Enchanted Forest on Friday, November 21 through Sunday, November...


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