Thursday, July 15, 2010

Holder: Prisons Do Little to Prepare Inmates for the Streets

This week U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed a Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) conference in New Orleans. He focused his attention on two issues--reentry and evidence based practices. Here are some excerpts from Attorney General Holder's speech:

Although PSN has helped to secure many important convictions, it’s also shown that we can’t simply arrest our way out of the problem of violent crime. Of course, incarceration is necessary for public safety. But it’s only partially responsible for the declining crime rates we’ve seen. It’s not a sole, economically sustainable, solution.

Over the last few decades, state spending on corrections has risen faster than nearly any other budget item. Yet, at a cost of $60 billion a year, our prisons and jails do little to prepare prisoners to get jobs and “go straight” after they’re released. People who have been incarcerated are often barred from housing, shunned by potential employers and surrounded by others in similar circumstances. This is a recipe for high recidivism. And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years. It’s time for a new approach.

Effective reentry programs provide our best chance for safeguarding our neighborhoods and supporting people who have served their time and are also resolved to improve their lives.

I’m proud that, last year, the Justice Department distributed $28 million in reentry awards under the Second Chance Act. And I’m pleased that we have another $100 million available for reentry programs this year.

Finally, we must meet this problem with all the resources that sound science can bring to bear. Restoring scientific decision-making at the Justice Department is one of my highest priorities. And while research has told us much about the incidence and impact of violence, it hasn’t yet told us everything. We need more information about what works – and what doesn’t – so that we can make informed funding decisions and identify community-specific strategies.

For entire speech:

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