prison.jpegCalifornia’s prisons are seriously crowded, but this week the state got a two-year reprieve from being forced to do something about the problem.

That state’s Governor Jerry Brown asked the courts to give him an extension, “arguing that some reforms require the extra two years to provide a permanent solution,” according to a story in the San Jose Mercury News.

Two years isn’t a lot of time to provide a solution, even if you know what the solution is.

About 700,000 prisoners are released every year from state and federal prisons, and nearly two-thirds will re-offend within three years.

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 a few years ago when states were implementing early release programs and many of the inmates they were freeing just ended up back in jail.

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.

Many inmates just keep going through revolving doors back into the prison system, a process referred to as the recidivism rate. That rate is nagging problem for politicians like Gov. Brown trying to take a bite out of the prison population.

Programs to help ex offenders reenter society and the workforce — including the Second Chance Act, a federal program signed into law President Bush — have been shrinking for years.

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act 2013 is stuck in committee and its chances of passing aren’t great, despite bipartisan backing.

Until there’s a groundswell of support beyond governors and inmate advocacy groups to do more to integrate excons back into society, little will change. It’s not a topic that gets a lot of sympathy I know, but what’s the alternative, and more importantly, what will the revolving door mean for society at large?

“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country.”
~ Winston Churchill

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