Is Prison Reform On Hold?

How will the President-elect respond to incarceration and prison reform? The nation’s jail and prisons have become the country’s largest psychiatric hospitals. There are now more severely mentally ill individuals in Los Angeles County Jail, Chicago’s Cook County Jail, and New York’s Riker’s Island Jail than there are in any single psychiatric hospital in the country. A 2006 U.S. Department of Justice study showed that approximately 45 percent of people in federal prison, 56 percent of people in state prison, and 64 percent of people in jail displayed symptoms or had a history of mental disorder. An estimated 181,500 US Veterans (8% of all inmates in state and federal prison and local jail excluding military-operated facilities) are serving time in correctional facilities. About half of all Veterans in prison (48%) and jail (55%) have been told by a mental health professional they have a mental disorder. You say, so what? Well, there are currently over 2.2 million people serving time in federal and state prisons, and millions of others who cycle through local jails every year and 97 percent of all persons incarcerated today will eventually be released and return to communities. How they return and what they do when they get out matters. It is estimated that nearly three quarters (76.6%) of all released prisoners will be rearrested within five years, about two-thirds (67.8%) are arrested for a new crime within 3 years and about 6 in 10 will be reconvicted. America must begin to reform and change it’s thinking about incarceration. What we have seen is that locking people behind bars has not reduced crime! Unless America invests in the rehabilitation of the people we put behind bars through employment, training programs, education, counseling, and housing assistance once released the re-entry cycle will continue. I am not sure what the President-elect will do, but I know something must be done. Don’t you?

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