America needs to significantly improve opportunities for inmates released from prison, three university professors and authors have stated.
“Reform should go beyond shrinking prisons to providing those whose lives have been impacted by mass incarceration with real opportunities that lead into society after release,” the authors wrote in an opinion piece for the The Hill on March 15. Education is one of the most important elements for successful reentry, they said.
The writers are David J Harding, UC Berkeley; Jeffery D. Morenoff, University of Michigan; and Jessica J. Wyse, Portland State University. They are the authors of On the Outside: Prisoner Reentry and Reintegration, University of Organ Press, 2019.
They praised the federal First Step Act for reforms and encouraged passage of the Next Step Act to reduce mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses.
The Next Step Act “contains worthy provisions for removing barriers to employment, including certain occupational licensing barriers for those with criminal records.”
They noted it costs $32,000 to $80,000 to keep a prisoner incarcerated. Some of that money should be reinvested in programs to keep formerly incarcerated people out of prison, they urged.
The authors’ three year study also found that these formally incarcerated individuals suffered from homelessness, hunger, chronic physical and mental problems.
Time in prison can be better spent so that an inmate is prepared to enter society and has learned the basic tools to help him or her stay out of prison. The Next Step Act improves family reunification by reducing the cost of prison phone calls and would make former prisoners eligible for existing programs such as Earned Income Tax Credit, housing assistance programs and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program.
The Next Step Act is sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ.