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Friday, June 12, 2015

A Modest Proposal: Let's Do All We Can To Help Offenders Maintain Employment

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One of the more negative effects of incarceration is having workers lose the jobs they need to support themselves and their families. Whenever the link between someone's employment and those who depend on it is shredded, a host of social problems result that impact us all. In addition, offenders are almost sure to experience difficulties in getting employment for the rest of their lives.
     So for non-violent offenders with steady jobs or who are in school full time, everything possible should be done to enable them to maintain their employment or their studies, uninterrupted, while they make restitution for their wrongs.
     This means, in the first place, that unless offenders are clearly a danger to others, they should be granted immediate bail while awaiting trial. Their flight risk, after all, is greatly reduced by the fact that they have to report to work or school every day.
     Then, if convicted of a crime, they could be given a fine and/or a restitution plan and be assigned to probation. Other options are to be granted work release, placed under house arrest with GPS monitoring, or be allowed to serve their time on weekends or on their days off. In that way they could fulfill their responsibility to society while continuing to provide for their families--and all at greatly reduced costs to the taxpayer.
     The difference this approach would make in keeping families intact and self-supporting would be huge. It would require far fewer of the social programs and children and family services that typically come into play when someone is incarcerated, and avoid the problem of having to again find employment upon reentry.
     Christopher C. Thompson, in an article in the March 2015 Ministry magazine, writes, "The irony of inmates not being able to find jobs after they have been released is evident in that all of them work while they are imprisoned. They are forced to work for pennies. So basically, the prison system denies them the right to provide for their families while the prison benefits from their labor. That is de facto slavery. Or, at the very least, it is a revamped form of convict leasing."
     In Virginia we are paying some $26,000 a year per inmate to keep people locked up and provided for in veritable schools for crime, more than enough to provide each of them with tuition for a good college education.
     Does that really make sense?

Here's a link to other posts on criminal justice reforms.
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