excon.jpgYet another prison population story, this one in the Wall Street Journal today, talks about how states are moving to push out inmates earlier in order to save money amid budgetary woes. But yet again, little thought or ink is given to what will happen to those ex-cons when they go out into one of the worst job markets in U.S. history.

About 700,000 prisoners are released every year from state and federal prisons, and nearly two-thirds will re-offend within three years. Many of the states mentioned in the WSJ article today that want to cut prison populations and shutter prisons, including New York and Indiana, have upwards of 30 percent recidivism rates.

One of the biggest factors contributing to ex-cons ending up back in jail, prison experts say, is their inability to find work. It’s tough enough for a law-abiding citizen to get a job in this economy so former inmates face even more of an uphill battle, with the jobless rate for the group said to be anywhere from 40 to 60 percent. Discrimination against ex-cons when it comes to employment is largely legal in this country. I wrote about this last year when states were implementing early release programs and many of the inmates they were freeing just ended up back in jail.

Programs to help ex offenders reenter society and the workforce — including the Second Chance Act, a federal program signed into law President Bush — have done little to help the problem.

With their recent efforts to curb prison costs, states are potentially just putting off an impending correctional spending crisis by pushing out inmates prematurely in order to make their state balance sheets look good, at least until many ex-cons end up jobless and back in jail.

I’m all for letting offenders get a second chance but aren’t we just dooming them to failure if we don’t have the programs in place to help them get jobs in this crummy job market?

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