Approximately 16 million United States citizens have been convicted of felony offenses. At least 14 million of these ex-felons are unconfined, and at least 9 million have completed the sanctions ordered by the criminal justice system and are under no official supervision.
Upon conviction for a felony offense and continuing past release from prison and parole, sometimes for life, ex-felons are subject to a wide array of limitations on work, education, family, and civic activities. These bans are sometimes used as explicit forms of additional punishment (i.e., voting bans) and sometimes invoked to protect vulnerable populations. Serious ethical concerns exist about these types of officially-sanctioned collateral consequences because they go beyond punishment within the criminal justice system. These ethical concerns are balanced against the fact that ex-offenders are undeniably at a higher risk for crime than non-offenders.
The exact calculus of this balance is outside the realm of social science. But social science research can calibrate the risk associated with a criminal history record, and we feel safe in concluding that explicit lifetime bans cannot be justified on the basis of safety or concerns about crime risk. Age and time since last offense can help predict current offending risk. Older offenders and individuals who stay arrest-free for 7 years or more simply have very little risk for future crime, and this risk is similar to that of non-offenders.
The issue of so many people being unemployed due to past records is causing a strain on the economic development of our community and nation at large. Because the number of re-entering citizens is so great, “10,000 to 12,000 adults and 500 juveniles are projected to be released from incarceration and returned to communities each year, an even greater number reenter communities from local jails and federal correctional centers,”(Services). We, the tax payers of America, are each carrying one to two additional people to our own families each year in the payment of our taxes, the cost of our goods, and the rise in the cost of housing. Studies show that due to the ex-offenders inability to find employment, recidivism is high, “Of the 7 million Americans (1 in 33) who were incarcerated, on probation or parole in 2010, more than 4 in 10 can be expected to return to prison within three years, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Center on the States.” (Lee), thus adding to our cost of living as we must continue to build institutions, hire more officers, and offset insurance rates by raising cost in preparation of the growing numbers of convicts. If employers were more forgiving, and ex-offenders were allowed this second chance many are fighting for, the ex-offender would be responsible for their own cost of living, and the expenses would not trickle down or spread wide, the families and small business of our immediate communities will no longer have to suffer so greatly by footing the bill.
Citizens returning to society from jails and/or institutions, known as the ex-offender, ex-felon, or ex- convict, are being denied quality employment, housing and social services due to their past mistakes although they have paid their debt to society. This is all a part of the “tough on crime” movement. Quantitative research shows “lifetime bans for ex-felons affect an estimated 1 in 19 adults.” It is estimated that our government spends about “$52 billion dollars a year on those incarcerated”, stated in The PEW Center on the States, (Trust). Not only are we spending money on incarceration, but we also are losing money not employing these individuals when they return home, “the United States had between 12 and 14 million ex-offenders of working age. Because a prison record or felony conviction greatly lowers ex-offenders’ prospects in the labor market, we estimate that this large population lowered the total male employment rate that year by 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points. In GDP terms, these reductions in employment cost the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.” Out of the thousands of jobs available, 90% of the job vacancies are vacant due to the rejection of ex-offenders and out of the 10% that is left, only 50% of those will accept someone who has been convicted of a violent or serious felony. This makes five percent of the available jobs in our nation open to anyone, contrasting the large numbers of those re-entering society after incarceration.
Who owns the responsibility of redeveloping the economic status of our communities, of society, of the world? Now that the government has put in place re-entry programs designed to assist those individuals wishing to turn their lives around, permitting study programs, certification, and grant options, sending prepared citizens out into society equipped and qualified, would it not be the responsibility of the corporations, organizations, and privately owned companies to take a chance and take advantage of the people who are desperate to show they can work hard and well, and also take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) offered for hiring such candidates as the ex-offender?
There is plenty of work to go around that ex-offenders can and are qualified to do but are not being hired for. “As many as 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs remained vacant across the U.S. due to shortages of skilled workers, according to the Manufacturing Institute’s most recent “skills gap” report.” (Sirkin) Such certificates as welding, water treatment, carpentry, mechanics, machine technician, and computer operations are offered within institutions today, followed up with experience utilizing the education received while incarcerated in areas of shipping and receiving, manufacturing and telephone operators. If our society continues on the path of refusing employment in most industries, the cost of taking care of the ex-offender will continue to be absorbed by us tax paying citizens, as these individuals continue to go in and out of jail, remaining unemployed, and re-offending to survive. Where there is crime, there is cost to the tax payers, and “The government and the nation suffer. In many countries the government has to pay the unemployed some benefits. The greater the number of the unemployed or the longer they are without work the more money the government has to shell out.” (Effects of Unemployment on Society and the Economy) Why are private industries choosing to fit the bill to keep these people unemployed rather than putting them to work? Hiring the ex-offender can put the money back into the governmental budget through our employment output rates and “can” stop the cuts to other programs like the Department of Defense, that are in desperate need of funding. In many states across this nation, the government is focusing on the effects ex-offenders are having on society and individual communities due to the numbers for the year 2010 being as large as “725,000 are released from correctional facilities each year across the country,” therefore, vocational skills and career geared certifications, which are cheaper in the prisons than offered at private institutions, are being offered inside the institutions. Skill sets such as plumbing, HVAC, IT, and basic administration, along with various needed resources and programs designed to set these citizens on the right path are being offered in these institutions, for example, the DMV is setting up satellite stations inside institutions for the issuance of state identification to be issued upon release. Proper identification for employment is just one of the barriers ex-offenders face, but it is an obstacle that has proven to be of major importance. These training programs alongside these essential pieces needed for success place the responsibility in the hands of the public and private industries to hire these individuals who will then pay taxes, in turn, lowering our deficit.
I don’t know how to get this across to anyone, I don’t know if I am networking with the right people to get this done, but I could use some help to fore-fill this vision. It is really needed in our community in Hemet and Riverside County. There are programs, but not like this Second Chance Alliance May & I have in our heart to birth. I need your help, not just money, but anything that you possess in line with knowledge or skills to offer please feel free to contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond because we are serious about getting this done and making a difference. It is noted and recognized by our government and others around the world that if, “they, the ex-offender, have a proper job, are encouraged to take personal responsibility and work hard, they will feel proud to be able to support their family and would even be happy to pay tax” .This idea is supported by Blue Sky, a social enterprise in the UK who only hires ex-offenders and the success rate has had a positive influence on their economy. In reading the supported research and text associated with the successful program offered in the UK, it is stated that, “The employee re-offending rate is only 15%: 48% obtain sustained employment on leaving.” (Jarvis). With the success rate of this particular program, which has had a total of 500 clients participate thus far, spreading the idealism and innovative ideas throughout the UK should speak volumes to the US. If the returning citizen honestly wishes to work hard and take care of their families, their productivity will aid in the redevelopment of our economy.
It is obvious a change needs to take place; otherwise we will continue to be victims of the convicted felons’ cycle. It is the belief of many that we can “…reduce the recidivism rate of offenders by reintegrating them into society instead of ostracizing them as criminals. If the community is not supportive, and/or receptive to giving out second chances, are not the government’s attempts to equip the ex-offender futile, the motivation of the ex-offender to turn their lives around and make good on giving back to a society that took care of them done in vain, and also are “we” not responsible for allowing the growth of the expenses that take care of the rising number of ex-offenders to affect our own lives?
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