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Our Prison System Is Broken; Here's a Fix

Essayists say 'graduated re-entry' is worth trying
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2015 2:39 PM CDT
Our Prison System Is Broken; Here's a Fix
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(Newser) – Our prison system is broken in all the important ways, write three essayists at Vox: It's expensive, and it's not rehabilitating our ever-growing number of inmates, who tend to return to the streets only to commit more crimes. Their solution? Something called "graduated re-entry." The idea is to move prisoners from jail before their release date into closely monitored efficiency apartments. At first, the apartment functions essentially as a cell, with cameras and GPS devices making sure the prisoner leaves only for permitted activities, such as job interviews. He can have no visitors and no cash, just a debit card to be used for approved purchases only. "But he doesn't need guards, and doesn't have to worry about prison gangs or inmate-on-inmate assault."

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Freedom is expanded gradually over time, as a reward for following the rules, an approach that allows the inmate to re-enter society in small steps rather than being bused out of prison with $40 and little support. Sound expensive? Yes, it would be—but it would still be far cheaper than the cost of keeping the inmate in a cellbock, which runs an average of $2,600 a month, write Mark Kleiman, Angela Hawken, and Ross Halperin. However, "budget savings aren't the main goal: The greatest benefits would flow to the offenders, to their families, to their neighborhoods, and to those who otherwise would have been the victims of their future crimes." It's not a sure-thing, they acknowledge, but it's worth trying, because the status quo makes no sense at all. Click for the full post. (Read more prison system stories.)

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