The implementation of gender awareness trainings—now part of the curriculum for all new employees—was just one step in a series of policy changes made by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to address how transgender, gender-variant, and non-binary (TGN) people are arrested and housed at the local county jail.
“If a person commits a crime, and they pay their debt to society, when does that debt end?” asked Jeff Robinson, director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality, of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Does it end when you come out of prison? Because apparently it’s just beginning when you come out of prison. And that makes no sense.”
Researchers at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law studied data on approximately 250,000 applicants for sales and customer service jobs in the U.S. and found that ex-offenders who secured jobs were no more likely to be fired than non-offenders in the same positions. We’re also less likely to quit, making turnover amongst people with criminal records lower than typical employees.
Last September, Rob and Diane Perez opened DV8 Kitchen, a restaurant that not only hires people in treatment for addiction to opioids or other substances, but also focuses its entire business model on recovery, using the restaurant setting as a tool for rehabilitation.
Sending someone to prison in Pennsylvania costs around $42,000 a year by conservative estimates. So if a prosecutor is requesting a five-year sentence, they would have to justify not only an approximate $210,000 cost to taxpayers but also the decision to interrupt the convicted person’s connection to family, employment, and access to public benefits.
Too many county jails either have no standard screenings for mental illness or screenings that are subpar—turning institutions of incarceration into de facto psychiatric units.
“Employers can provide a real second chance to those who’ve paid their debt to society,” said Tim Roemer, Deputy Director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security and Public Safety Advisor to the governor. “It makes our communities safer, it’s a better deal for our taxpayers and it is the right thing to do.”
At the prison there was a program called Musicambia that brings teachers in every week for music theory and performance classes. I went to one of their concerts, and was struck dumb. I saw guys I knew talking and living it up.
Vermont recently became the first state in the 119-year history of America’s youth court to allow 18- and 19-year-olds to be treated in the juvenile justice system. The goal is to increase public safety and the evidence from research indicates that this approach has the potential to be a game-changer in a field in desperate need of innovation.
In jail, reading can be a lifeline to the world outside of the cell, a connection to normalcy — or an escape to complete fantasy. In the insular, barred world of a county lockup, it’s a way to keep the days full and the tensions low.