California gives newly released prisoners $200 to help them make a new life, clearly nowhere enough for a realistic new life. The $200 is the same as it was in 1973, which would equal $1,200 if inflation were considered.
“I have been incarcerated 14 years. I feel that giving me $200 after all these years is an insult,” said Clenard “Akeem” Wade, San Quentin resident. “If I’ve given myself over to the idea of rehabilitation, I should be afforded an opportunity to be put in a position to succeed once released; $200 does not do that at all.”
A release allowance (gate money, as it’s known in the prison community) is intended to help a former inmate/parolee’s reintegration into society, according to Title 15, the state’s prison rules and regulations.
In 1973, a loaf of bread cost 27 cents, milk $1.36, gas 65 cents a gallon, and the median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment was around $800 dollars a month, according to InflationTool.
“There should be serious legislative talks on this issue,” said SQ resident Ed “EC” Carlevato. “There should at least be supplemental gate money for those without family or resources.
“After a bus ticket and a meal, I can’t imagine there being enough money for a person … being able to survive on what’s leftover,” added Carlevato.
“To reintegrate back into society, a person needs a support system, which a lot of us do not have,” said SQ resident Kevin “Legal Man” Shrubb. “When you don’t have that, $200 becomes an invitation to committing crime, especially for those who aren’t prepared for life after prison.”
Approximately 10,000 ex-offenders are released from federal and state prisons every week, according to the Office of Justice Programs.
In 2004, former President George W. Bush recognized that there were re-entry problems for parolees.
“This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society,” said Bush, in his 2004 State of the Union address. “We know from long experience that if they can’t find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison….
“America is the land of the second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life,” Bush added.
CDCR expenditures rose from $9.7 billion in 2010-11 to an estimated $13.3 billion in 2019-20, said a February 2020 report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
“With the kind of figures that CDCR is working with, why isn’t anything being done to provide more assistance to the demographics of people who would benefit from CDCR support?” asked Shrubb.
“Programs that assist the formerly incarcerated find success after paroles are being made available for those who seek them out,” said SQ resident Albert King.
The “Returning Home Well” program in California was given $30 million to help parolees with finding housing, jobs, health care, transportation, and treatment, reported Don Thompson of the Associated Press in August 2020.
Providing community services “is a well-researched and proven model for reducing recidivism and helping people achieve success,” said Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice.
The state, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and nearly 20 philanthropies and nonprofit groups joined together on the project, with California putting up half the funding, reported AP.
The state is “committed to providing essential services to those who are returning home to their families and communities,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
“What the state is supposedly doing is OK, but they continue to put money into programs and not the pockets of people who have spent decades behind bars, or even short-termers, the guys that spend one to five years in prison,” said SQ resident Jemain “Hunn” Hunter.
Reentry consultant Daniel Munczek Edelman had this suggestion: “By addressing head-on the financial troubles of people leaving incarceration, we may be able to accelerate their reintegration and transition to stable employment, reduce recidivism, and meaningfully improve the United States’ criminal justice system.” His suggestion was in a 2017 article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
“While a man exiting prison today might receive job training and see a clinician for mental health needs, an additional cash transfer could enable him to secure a place to live, a mass transit fare, and groceries for his family. Cash — or a restricted, EBT-styled debit card — would provide for immediate needs and ease the stressful reentry process,” said Edelman.
He noted providing 500 individuals with $500 a month for a year would cost $3 million, but could reduce criminal activity and might be funded by private foundations.