Within six months, the inmates will have the opportunity to participate in two hours a week of out-of-cell computer time or educational classes, including GED programs. They also get to keep prison-issued tablets in their cells at all times.
Reentry Media Clips
The First Step Act ostensibly acknowledges the difficulties with maintaining economic stability that many, if not most, of those who come into contact with the criminal justice system face. However, the depth and persistence of these difficulties demands more robust reentry measures than those currently provided by the First Step Act.
While overall crime in California increased slightly after 2011, San Joaquin County’s dropped 20 percent and hit a decades-old low last year. The county’s jail, which had been under court-ordered monitoring because of dangerous overcrowding, now has empty beds. Participation in specialized drug courts has increased and recidivism among newly released offenders has dropped.
To Idaho Department of Correction Reentry Program Manager, a newly released prisoner transitioning back into society must have three aspects met in order to be successful: social support, a safe place to live and meaningful employment. IDOC’s new One-Stop Reentry Center for newly released offenders can potentially help with all of that, said Tim Leigh, the reentry manager.
A growing demand for clean energy employees led the Minnesota Department of Corrections earlier this year to offer a solar installation course to two classes of inmates prior to their release dates. Held last spring and summer, 30 men took the 48-hour solar installer training course from instructors working with the Wisconsin-based Midwest Renewable Energy Association. The nonprofit used the same course it offers members of the general public.
“People that are healthy are more likely to be able to find work,” said Tom Betti, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Medicaid. “In the long run that saves taxpayer dollars. They are healthier, employed and not reincarcerated.”
“Essentially what we’re doing is reducing prison recidivism and increasing the likelihood of a more productive, healthier lifestyle for returning citizens,” said Aris Mangasarian, who is majoring in psychology. “We’re using higher education as a bridge between incarceration and successful reentry into the community.”
In this recent study, the National Reentry Resource Center and the Council of State Governments Justice Center study looked at New Jersey and 10 other states with significant declines in their three-year return-to-prison rates. New Jersey’s rate dropped from a high of 37 percent in 2007 to 29.8 percent in 2013, according to the most current data available.
Wisconsin officials gathered at Oakhill prison for a press conference to celebrate the first job center located inside a state correctional facility. The job center, a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Department of Workforce Development, will allow inmates to post resumes, find job openings, and learn from workshops.
Other prisons in the state offer better opportunities for inmates to learn much-needed trades such as welding and auto mechanics so they have better opportunities to get jobs when they are released. But the job center at Oakhill, a fenced minimum-security facility in Fitchburg with 765 inmates, is being touted as the first of its kind within the prison system that teaches people how to find and apply for jobs and then gives them the tools to put what they learned to good use.