The reentry movement is long overdue

Green, Robbie Switzer

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NO TITLE The reentry movement is long overdue. In fact, if you review the "prisoner" movies from James Cagney films to Shawshank Redemption, you will see the crucial need for providing help to released prisoners. For years, common sense dictated that this was a problem. However, we didn't have the political will to begin to address the solution that we now call "reentry." President George W. Bush, in his annual State of the Union message, said that people in prison should return to society better than when they went in. Thus, the name "second chance" originated with Bush's speech. Progress was made when Rep. Danny Davis (D) introduced The Second Chance Act (SCA) along with Rep. Rob Portman (R) in the House, and by Sen. Sam Brownback (R) and Sen. Joe Biden (D) in the Senate. The S.C.A. includes funding for services intended to help people coming out of prison. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 347 to 62, to pass The Second Chance Act in the 110th Congress. The Senate followed the House's lead and it was finally signed in to law by President Bush on April 9, 2008. He concluded by saying that "Government has a responsibility to help prisoners to return as contributing members of their community." "In other words, we're standing with you, not against you." The SCA is meant to address our urgent need to support men and women coming out of prison. Spending nearly $30,000 per year to keep one person in prison is simply too expensive. We need a national conversation to address ways to help formerly incarcerated people become productive citizens. As a nation, we cannot afford to fail. The United States has the largest population of prisoners in the world. When we take a look at statistics, the numbers are very high. Approximately 7 million people (juveniles and adults) are in some form of correctional custody. Of those people who are arrested each year and spend one or more days in jail. This means that hundreds of thousands of people are released from city and county jails each month, and over 600,000 men and women leave state and federal prisons each year. Recent estimates indicate that there are 33 million convicted felons living in the United States today. The criminal justice machinery depends upon a growing inmate population to guarantee continued funding and employment for correctional facilities and their staff. Criminal justice employees, including law enforcement officers, lawyers, judges, correctional officers and administrators, and probation and parole agents, depend upon a growing population of defendants and prisoners to maintain their employment, gain promotion, and advance their careers. Who didn't I mention? The more arrests, convictions, and inmates, the more job security for people employed by the system. The Assistant District Attorneys (A.D.A.) and the District Attorneys (D.A.)! The state governments are shifting funding from education and highways to pay for construction and operation of these penal facilities. This means that your local schools don't get repaired, potholes don't get fixed, and your community has to raise your property taxes to pay for the incarceration of more prisoners. The real horror of the system is that it is recycling the same people. The person goes to prison, gets out, comes home, and then eventually gets back. Some waste their early adult years, and others spend their whole lives caught in the system. Whatever their crimes, prisoners pay big-time for their transgressions. After years behind bars, they return home to live among us as our neighbors. People with a prison record, their lot is not easy. A felony conviction marks men and women for life. Still, like the rest of us, they need a place to call home, a job to pay their bills, somebody to care about, and a way to fit in and be accepted. If they fail, they return to prison, or end up derelict (abandoned) and destitute (without a home or reg. job and rejected by society) fed and clothed by either the taxpayers or charity. The human wreckage piles up on street corners and accumulates in homeless shelters. We need to focus on five (5) critical areas that have proven to deliver the best results: (1) education, (2) employment, (3) support, (4) resources, and (5) empathy. To truly change your life is, you have got to want it! Otherwise you want change your life. When you desire change and finally do, it will tear away the person you were before, and then builds you up to become the person you have to become to be successful in life. Makes you learn a lot of man skills. Being a grown man or woman means knowing you are responsible, even when you're not. It is difficult to face change, especially, when it means digging deep into ourselves and our past in order to look at our core beliefs which may be holding us stuck. I have learned to comm- unicate in a way that allows me to be accountable, responsible, and honest about my actions, relationships, and my life. These new behaviors gave me strength and courage, and to own ways to change my life for the better. This change has helped me to see life in a different view as to the importance of it and the value in which life brings to others. For that cause, it gave me a sense of direction and its worth. I see things now in a different view than I did before. I've changed my way of thinking, although I still have a ways to go, but what I've learned thus far, I believe that I'm on the right track! I've learned how to get to the root of the problems in my life rather than just letting them go unnoticed. And I've realized that change must start within me. There are so many ways that others have touched my life for the good. I have been blessed through encouraging words given at the right moment, through a kind act that met a pressing need, or through a heartfelt prayer that helped me through a difficult circumstance. Each one has been a signature of grace—a practical expression of the beautiful things that God is writing on the hearts of His people. These signatures have helped to bring light to my pathway, hope to my heart, faith to my footsteps, and joy to my journey. To understand the weight of how much it means that a simple word of kindness or encouragement can carry in a person's life is an incredible feeling. To look us in the eye and give a firm handshake. To know they have only one chance to make a first impression. And be smart and generous with their intellect. Discipline was something I needed help with. I've learned to hear what people are saying and not talk while they were talking so I wouldn't miss any of that message. There's a lot of people who, in the way that they've structured their lives or done certain things, have been influences on me. Not one drop of my self-worth depends on someone's acceptance of me. Mentors are to me: friends who care, and friends who will tell you right from wrong. Things that will give me a really good foundation. I've always believed in the power of influence—the importance of advice and guidance—people who care and have a heart. Criminal justice shouldn't end at incarceration. It should end at restoration. Through employment, our residents repay their debts to society and become responsible, indepen- dent citizens, taxpayers, parents, and contributors to the community. A critical and vital component of all our work and time is the focus on helping our residents obtain meaningful employment. Through employment, our residents repay their debts to society. It's crystal clear that to many halfway houses are run more with an eye on profit, than on the services and programs, resources and networks that offenders need to ensure a successful transition back into society—a process that should begin when offenders first enter the system, not just a short time before they get out. Other than North Carolina's recent efforts to tie halfway house contracts to reductions in recidivism rates, there has been little interest in ensuring that reentry facilities meet the many challenges faced by soon-to-be-released offenders. Government officials appear to be more interested in reducing expenses by placing offenders in halfway houses rather than investing in the resources and networks necessary to ensure stable post-release housing and employment—services that offenders/residents need to successfully transition back to their communities. As it now stands today offenders are being set up for failure and an eventual return to prison. There is no reform or systemic improvements to enforce rehabilitation and expose all ineffective policies. Overall, it is simple to comply, show and prove this with yourself if you want to be noticed that you're doing something very positive and rewarding. All you have to do is just care and have empathy in your heart! Thank you 1,500 words + 9 words __________ 1,509 words

Author: Green, Robbie Switzer

Author Location: North Carolina

Date: August 25, 2018

Genre: Essay

Extent: 12 pages

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