Making jails part of the community

The Urban Institute’s recent work on jails and recidivism in the US shows that integrating jails with other community life reduces the liklihood of reoffending and lowers the costs of incaceration.

This report from the Futurist:

Local jails in the United States handle 9 million individuals a year, far more than state and federal prisons handle, including many repeat offenders. Preparing them to return to their communities successfully—and to reduce recidivism—is a challenge for which most jails have limited resources to meet. A new report from the Urban Institute offers help for improving that jail-to-community transition.

Unlike prisons and penitentiaries, jails have high population turnover, with 81% of inmates incarcerated for less than a month and only 4% staying longer than six months. While this means less time that inmates are separated from families and communities, it also means less time for jails to help them overcome the problems that brought them to prison in the first place, such as drug or alcohol addiction or lack of education.

The solution, according to the Urban Institute’s report, is to strengthen the partnerships between jails and their communities, such as bringing in health providers to treat the chronically ill and encouraging workforce development agencies to offer employment services and help in dealing with red tape.

“Imagine the headway against the cycle of crime and incarceration if we shifted from just processing people locally to linking ex-inmates to services and programs that already exist in the community,” says Arthur Wallenstein, director of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, one of the reports’ sponsors.

Life after Lockup: Improving Reentry from Jail to the Community by Amy L. Solomon et al. of the Urban Institute

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