"The Ex-Con Next Door" [December 17] discussed the issue of inmates returning to society and recidivism.
Only when the larger business community understands its role and the potential benefits of employing convicts will the issue really be addressed. In our experience of giving people a second chance, we have seen well-meaning but misguided government agencies provide treatment programs and counseling instead of meaningful assistance to employers.These agencies spend large amounts of money to help a few individuals prepare for life outside prison walls but little to help them actually take that step. When employers are given the tools and understanding needed to employ these people, much will be accomplished.
John M. Elliott
President All-American Publishing L.L.C.
As a federal inmate serving a 20-year sentence for marijuana conspiracy, I can tell you what is one of the greatest obstacles to successful re-entry: overly long sentences, especially for nonviolent crimes. I came to prison at age 43. With good time, I will get out at age 60. What really are my chances of successfully re-entering society at that point?
I worked in the prison system doing prerelease evaluations. We found that inmates prior to their release had a much better chance of making it on the outside if they were hooked up with Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous members from the area where they were going to be placed. Outside aa members were encouraged to visit and to assure the soon-to-be-released inmate that he would be welcome at meetings and would be given help getting adjusted. Those who went to meetings on a regular basis generally did not return to prison.
John M. Jackson
It is important to draw attention to the plight of inmates re-entering society. It would be helpful, however, if Americans confronted the reasons for this phenomenon: harsher sentencing practices and the war on drugs, which produce many individuals incarcerated in jails and prisons who are nonviolent, first-time offenders. Moreover, thorough analysis must take into account that correctional facilities primarily and temporarily protect society from some criminals and punish lawbreakers but rarely rehabilitate those incarcerated.
Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Criminal Justice and Social Policy
University of Baltimore