"The sad reality is that many children born in minority communities today are ... on a 'cradle to prison pipeline'. When we see how simple it is to get them on a 'cradle to college pipeline', it is tragic, and much more costly to society, economically and socially if we don't do so." -Episcopal Congressman Robert Scott (D-VA)
The United States has the largest prison population in the world - 2.2 million in state and federal prisons and millions more in local jails. Incarceration without effective re-entry programs is inhumane for the prisoner, unsafe for communities, and expensive to the taxpayer. According to recent testimony before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, prison costs are estimated at $200 billion each year.
S. 1060, the Second Chance Act of 2007, which passed the House this Fall by an overwhelming vote of 347-62, would invest in prisoner reentry programs that have helped released prisoners learn how to lead productive lives and reduced the likelihood that they will return to prison. More and more states are trying this approach, but they need federal assistance. Your voice is needed to urge the Senate to take up this important piece of legislation.
650,000 ex-offenders will be released this year. Two-thirds of them will commit new crimes within three years and go back to prison. The Second Chance Act will coordinate federal, local, state and faith-based efforts to help ex-offenders return to their communities. Unfortunately today most ex-offenders do so with few job skills, inadequate drug treatment, insufficient housing, a lack of positive influences and few mental or physical health services.
Investing in re-entry and training programs is a wise use of public funds. The Episcopal Church and other communities of faith have a long history of ministering to prisoners both during and after incarceration, and we have seen the benefit that training and services provide.