Could reducing recidivism fix California’s chronic prison overcrowding?

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To comply with the Supreme Court’s order to reduce California’s prison population by 46,000 inmates in two years, state officials are scrambling to build more prisons, transfer thousands of inmates out of state, and move low-level offenders to local facilities. Instead of focusing only on expanding incarceration capacities, shouldn’t state official pay more attention to reducing California’s high recidivism rate?

The statistics are sobering: Returning parolees make up 37% of the California’s inmate population, and 7 out of 10 parolees will end up back in state prison within the first three years of their release.  That’s not surprising considering “inmates often leave prison with nothing more than $200 minus the cost of a bus ticket, and have no prospects for success once they return home,” according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

What can be done to break this vicious cycle? Devote more resources to prison rehabilitation programs to help inmates prepare for re-entry into society? Support community non-profit organizations that provide mental health, drug counseling, and job training assistance to parolees? Publicize federal tax credits and fidelity bonds to encourage businesses to hire ex-convicts? We invite you to share your comments below.
 

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