Monday, March 23, 2015

How “prisons without bars” could cut the cost of prison and keep people from coming back

You probably already know the jaw-dropping stats about American prisons: that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. That we're home to 5 percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. That more than one in every 10 American men has a felony conviction. That more than 60 percent of people released from prison are back again within three years.

"Prison is horrible for the prisoner and expensive for the state," write Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken and Ross Halperin over at Vox. It doesn't have to be. Kleiman, Hawken and Halperin study criminal justice policy, and they've recently proposed an innovative solution to help cut America's incarcerated population, and ensure that those who are released don't come back. It's called "graduated re-entry." The idea is to let convicts out of prison early -- real early. Three-years-into-a-ten-year-sentence-early.

But here's the catch. Parolees wouldn't simply be dumped on the street with 40 bucks in their pocket and no clear path toward re-entering society, the way they are now. "If someone needed to be locked up yesterday, he shouldn't be completely at liberty today," the researchers write. "And he shouldn't be asked to go from utter dependency to total self-sufficiency in one flying leap."


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