8 Reasons Why We Should Invest in People, Not Prisons

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Earlier this month, the New Haven Register reported that the city’s Board of Alders is considering approving more than $100,000 in funding for a new position at a pilot program at the New Haven Correctional Center that would offer on-site job training for inmates.

The pilot program is part of the city’s redeveloped prison reentry program, Project Fresh Start, which aims to reduce recidivism within New Haven’s criminal justice system.

The $103,755 sought in the approval will go toward 18 months of salary and benefits for a new pre-employment and case management position and a pre-release initiative being developed with American Job Corps. The program hopes to provide “vocational, educational and skills training” that will prepare inmates for work upon their release.

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It sounds like a no-brainer: invest in opportunity, right? Regardless of the fact that these inmates have broken the law and landed themselves behind bars through their own fault, it makes no sense for them to do nothing productive while incarcerated, because then what happens when they get out?

It is important to help rehab these inmates back into society—not just for them. It’s important for me, for you, and for society in general. Here are eight reasons why.

Job training fights crime.

Nearly half of all inmates, as of Sept. 2015, are incarcerated due to some type of drug charge. Whether it be possession, dealing, trafficking, manufacturing—it’s many times in an attempt to come up on a quick buck. Drug dealing is an effort many jobless resort to for financial sustainability in troubled times. This is also true for crimes such as burglary, robbery, fraud, and embezzlement, which make up for an additional 14.5 percent of offenses. With proper job training, these offenders can find a legal source of income, which can help to deter these types of crimes.

Inmates are capable.

Many inmates are just people who have been dealt a difficult hand and did what they felt they had to in order to survive. The fact that they have been convicted of crimes doesn’t negate any future potential to be productive members of society.

It’s also a misconception that jobs for former inmates are only going to be hard labor and other jobs that nobody may otherwise want. A recent initiative in California has been working to train inmates to code. Convicts can be programmers, too.

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We need more skilled workers.

A report released earlier his year states that “over the next decade, nearly three and a half million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled, and the skills gap is expected to result in two million of those jobs going unfilled.”

Approximately nine million men and women are released from jail each year. Investing in their potential as skilled workers rather than releasing them back into the streets without rehabilitation does far more to fight the impending crisis.

It will help the homeless problem.

More than 10 percent of those entering prisons and jails are homeless in the months before their incarceration. Released prisoners with a history of shelter use were almost five times as likely to have a post-release shelter stay. Furthermore, ex-prisoners who end up in a shelter are seven times more likely to end up in prison. It’s one of those vicious cycles which, once you get into, is hard to escape.  Making useful time of their stay in jail can help give that extra push toward the right track and, hopefully, shelter.

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A stronger workforce builds the business scene.

One of the most prominent factors in a thriving business and startup scene for a city is human capital. The more dedicated workers a city has, the better it’s businesses do, and the stronger its economy becomes.

It can ultimately reduce taxes.

Prison is not cheap. According to a study in 2010, the cost of prisons for taxpayers that year was $39 billion. Per year, it costs approximately $31,286 per inmate. So essentially when these offenders become incarcerated, we are footing the bill. I, personally, would like to see to it that my dollar is going to good use and ensuring they won’t be back. Help them make their own money and stop living off of yours.

A lot of inmates are in jail in the first place due to a lack of these types of resources.

Two-fifths of inmates lack a high school diploma. Many of them enter the criminal justice system with very low skill levels which often leads to them resorting to their particular crime as a means for surviving or coping. Productive incarcerated time can level the playing field in this regard.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

This is self-explanatory.

Approval of this program can make a huge difference in hundred of lives. Look to see the 18-month pilot period begin Dec. 15 and lasts until June 17, 2017—extending pending positive results.

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