Friday, May 2, 2008


An article on page 5 of the local/state section in today’s paper touts a prisoner release program that “gets inmates ready to live in the outside world”. The program, established in 2002, links “state agencies, employers, nonprofit groups and drug and mental health counselors” in an effort to keep ex-cons from returning to prison. (i.e. reduce recidivism). Today’s usual recidivism rate is 50%, but this program has succeeded in reducing it to 33%. Seems like a fine accomplishment, doesn’t it?

In 1972, I served as counselor here in Springfield on a group known as Team 6. Under a Department of Labor grant to the Concentrated Employment Program, we worked with the MO Division of Employment Security and a wide range of local businesses. Also on the team were an ex-felon first contact person, a job developer and a secretary.

At that time, the usual recidivism rate was 33%. Team 6 reduced that rate to just under 9%. The program was only good for a couple of years, though. At that point, the DOL quit funding it on the grounds that although it had proven to be effective, it was not a program they could sustain. The group that ought to pick it up, they said, was the Department of Corrections, but they never even considered it. Why not? Because they saw their role as providing cells.

In the ensuing thirty years, we’ve seen the expansion of prison space, increased emphasis on heavy handed sentencing like the three strikes laws, and a societal bent toward punishment rather than rehabilitation. The recidivism rate has risen to 50%, and little has been done to figure out how to help released prisoners to avoid re-incarceration.
Now this program comes along, but is it too little too late?

Knowing what good a program like this can do, it has been frustrating for me to watch our society jail more and more people while doing less and less to help them overcome the obstacles that landed them in jail in the first place. Treat people like the potentially valuable people are and they often turn out to be. Hopefully Corrections will come to understand that, but it has been a painfully long journey to get to that point.

Only recently I learned that the state of Colorado has implemented several programs that provide intervention and training for young families in hopes of avoiding future incidents like the Columbine School massacre. Their efforts might be seen by many as “big brother” sticking its nose in where it doesn’t belong, but Colorado has seen a reduction in violent crime along with a return on investment of $10 to $1.

By expanding programs like this, Missouri could see the same. Encourage it. We could really benefit from some intervention programs to curb child abuse. Though it seems improbable, even our state legislators are capable of learning, so let’s lean on them about it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

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