Too often, people who have a criminal record are dismissed and shunned by the community from where they once lived. Returning citizens might be the most marginalized group in our society. But we know our community can make a difference when we all join together— and that’s why we need YOUR help this week.
As an engaged Grand Rapidian, we hope you will share these five facts about reentry with five people you know. Help us spread the word to reduce recidivism, because reentry matters.
- Kids who have an incarcerated parent are more likely to go to jail than finish high school. We owe it to our community’s children to break this cycle. Having a parent in jail or prison creates many challenges in a child’s life, perpetuating the cycle of crime. “According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, children of prisoners are seven times more likely themselves to go to prison,” said Sharon Caldwell-Newton, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center, “Reentry programs break the cycle of generational crime and incarceration.”
- Incarcerating people is expensive and doesn’t break the cycle of crime. “We spend an average of $31,000 per prisoner per year. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2005 over two-thirds of offenders released from prison were arrested again within three years,” Sharon Caldwell-Newton points out. If incarceration alone isn’t breaking the cycle, we need to determine what does.
- Reentry programs in our own community are successfully helping people stay out of jail and prison. Laurie Craft, Grand Rapids Community Foundation program director suggests, “It’s much more cost-effective to provide community-based housing and employment supports to help keep people out of prison.” For example, women who complete the Women’s Resource Center’s New Beginnings program we recently funded experience a less than 20% rate of recidivism versus a 71% recidivism rate in the target population.
- More people than you think have been, or will be, a returning citizen. The United States has more prisoners than any other country in the world. Theresa Vickers, Program Director of Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids says, “Nearly one out of four working age adults has a criminal record. We as a society cannot afford to relegate one-quarter of our citizens to second-class status. We need them to work, parent, pay taxes and mow their lawns. We need to stop legislating consequences that extend people’s sentences long after their prison sentence is done and their fines have been paid off.”
- At the national level, reentry is an issue that Republicans and Democrats can agree upon. “Not only do reentry programs save tax payers dollars, but they also rebuild family and community relationships,” points out Yvonne Jackson, Kent County Community Coordinator for the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative. Reducing recidivism makes sense for everybody—that’s why last week when President Obama became the first President in history to visit a prison and discuss reentry, he received strong bipartisan support.
We have several reentry programs in Grand Rapids with strong track records of success in reducing recidivism, saving tax payers’ dollars and helping people successfully navigate their return to our community. Stay tuned later this week for more on these programs and ways you can be involved.