Conservatives are known for being tough on crime, but we must also be tough on criminal justice spending. That means demanding more cost-effective approaches that enhance public safety. A clear example is our reliance on prisons, which serve a critical role by incapacitating dangerous offenders and career criminals but are not the solution for every type of offender. And in some instances, they have the unintended consequence of hardening nonviolent, low-risk offenders—making them a greater risk to the public than when they entered
BusinessNewDaily featured five reasons to hire ex-offenders by John Shegerian. As Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International, Mr. Shegerian has employed hundreds of ex-offenders and has seen the value of giving people a second chance.
Here are Shegerian’s five reasons to consider hiring an ex-offender:
1. Their work ethic, Shegerian said, is bar none and provides a great example to all employees of how hard they should be working.
"These people give 120 percent every day," he said. "They appreciate the chance to have a job."
2. They have great transferable skills, according to Shegerian which usually translate very effectively in the workplace.
"If you take the skills that got them into trouble in the first place, and use them for a legitimate business venture, everyone wins," he said. "I have seen scores of people with transferable skills put these skills to work in the business world."
3. Ex-offenders, Shegerian said, have turnover rates that are lower than the general population. They know this is their last chance, which he says provides them extra motivation to keep their job.
"They try harder to and take their job very seriously," he said.
4. It is the right thing to do for local communities. Shegerian said business, big and small, can play a huge role in hiring ex-offenders.
"Imagine what would happen to our recidivism rates, gang participation rates, crime rates and drug abuse rates if every business in the US opened their doors and their hearts to hire just one ex offender," he said
"We would change our communities for the better forever."
5. Hiring an ex-offender gives small business owners the chance to do something great and impactful, according to Shegerian. He quotes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in saying "everyone can be great because everyone can serve."
"It is no longer smart to wait for politicians to fix all the problems in our society," Shegerian said. "Big and small businesses have a great role in doing their part."
A new nation-wide study found that only 6 percent of inmates are able to participate in post-secondary or vocational programs.
This is unacceptable. There is no better way to prevent prisoners from committing new crimes after they are released than to educate them while they are incarcerated. Education protects people from crime.
In 2010, JHA did a study of post-secondary and vocational education in the state's adult prisons and found similar results. This short video highlights our findings:
American Prospects' Adam Sewer pulls out some gems from a recent Pew Center study on the cost of corrections.
The prison population has grown by more than 700 percent since 1973, while costs over the last 20 years alone have grown more than 300 percent. According to Pew, about 40 percent of ex-offenders return to prison within three years -- cutting that rate by 10 percent would save $645 million.
While Sewer highlights the extreme cost of incarceration, he also points to some bright spots.
There are two states in the survey that bear looking at as starkly contrasting examples. The first is Oregon, which has done an incredible job of reducing its recidivism rate through policies like graduated sanctions. Oregon cut its recidivism rate to 22.8 percent, an almost 32 percent drop according to Pew.
That's incredible. If you want to know how Oregon decreased its recidivism rate, it was all about reforming probation and parole.
The change in the handling of offenders who violate terms of their supervision was striking. In the past, parole and probation violators filled more than a quarter of Oregon’s prison beds. Today violators are rarely reincarcerated. Instead, they face an array of graduated sanctions in the community, including a short jail stay as needed to hold violators accountable. Results of the Pew/ASCA survey confirmed this—only 5.9 percent of offenders released in 1999 and 3.3 percent of the 2004 cohort were returned to prison on technical violations.
In Illinois, more than 50 percent of inmates return to prison within three years of their release. About half of that number comes from the kind of technical parole violations that Oregon no longer punishes with incarceration. Policy makers would be wise to see if we can use Oregon's model to safely decrease our growing prison population and save taxpayer money.
As longtime abolitionists, JHA is thrilled that Governor Quinn not only abolished the death penalty, but also commuted the sentences of the 15 inmates currently on death row to natural life.
From JHA's statement on the death penalty: "the death penalty demonstrates disrespect for human life and does not make society safer. We recognize that society deserves protection against the threat posed by convicted and potential killers, but other sentences serve that purpose as well or better."
Today, Governor Quinn and the General Assembly has put Illinois on the path of having a more humane and cost-effective justice system.
Because of the distractions over the holidays, many of us miss the news. So, we at JHA thought it important to bring your attention to a few of these stories relating to youth in conflict with the law.
Judge Michael Toomin has been named the presiding judge over the Cook County Juvenile Justice Division. Judge Toomin has served on the bench for the past three decades, most recently on the appellate court. Informing Judge Toomin’s approach to running the Juvenile Justice Division is his belief that the kids in the juvenile system have potential and can become productive citizens. One of his goals is to reduce the number of juveniles held in detention. To read more about his appointment, click here.
Successful Alternative to Incarceration
Started two years ago as a pilot program in three counties, Redeploy Illinois has started to show positive results. The Redeploy program is part of a statewide effort to find effective alternatives to incarceration. As part of the program, youth participate in anger management programming, have a strict curfew, submit to drug testing, work closely with probation officers, and their parents are counseled as well. Last week the first youth graduated from the Redeploy program in Marion County. To read more about the program’s progress, click here.
Children with Incarcerated Parents
Approximately 30,000 children in Illinois had a parent serving either a state or federal sentence in 2010. Children with incarcerated parents face an uphill battle to becoming productive citizens. Not only do they have a parent who is physically absent, but they must also deal with the trauma related to the parent being taken away. Sadly, many children with incarcerated parents similarly end up in the criminal justice system at some point in their life. To read more about the effects of having an incarcerated parent, click here.
This is a must-read article by Jessica Pupovac on Illinois' growing elderly prisoner population.
While you should definitely check out the whole piece, here are a couple key paragraphs:
All told, the Illinois Department of Corrections spends roughly $428 million a year—about a third of its annual budget—keeping elderly inmates behind bars.
The number of older prisoners has expanded sixfold over the past 20 years, to 5,868 today. That segment of the prison population is growing faster than others, too. Inmates over 50 used to represent 5 percent of the state's prison population. In a decade that's grown to nearly 13 percent. If the trend continues, the number of prisoners over 50 will double by 2020. National numbers mirror the Illinois trend . . . .
State statistics show older inmates are much less likely to commit new offenses when released. Nearly 30 percent of IDOC prisoners under 50 return there within three years of release. That number falls to just 3.6 percent for those between 70 and 79. None of the 13 individuals over the age of 80 released from Illinois prisons in 2006 have committed crimes since . . . .
"We have many offenders who would probably do better outside of the system," says Dr. Louis Shicker, medical director for the corrections department. "If they are terminal or incapacitated and not at risk to commit a crime, the IDOC is not the place for them. We need to be concentrating on people who are dangerous to the community and need to be locked up."
It's critical that we hold people accountable for crimes they have committed. But we also need to hold ourselves accountable for the money and resources we spend in doing so.
Once an inmate no longer poses a threat to public safety, we need to ask ourselves if there are other ways we can ensure accountability without spending the scarce resources it takes to incarcerate them.