Making a Second Chance Work

For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison, according to a new report, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008, by Pew's Public Safety Performance Project.

One group in philanthropy trying to do something about this is a top venture philanthropy organization based in Philadelphia, Public/Private Ventures, with the help of the Bloomberg Administration in New York.

According to P/PV, "at national, state and local levels, leaders are beginning to recognize that helping ex-prisoners successfully reintegrate into society is critically important for a multitude of reasons (public safety, economics, community well-being, not to mention the eponymous notion of a second chance)."

Frederick A. Davie, President of P/PV, recently announced that on February 28, "P/PV joined The United States Conference of Mayors, New York University's Wagner School of Public Service and The City of New York to convene a groundbreaking national summit designed to promote effective strategies for connecting formerly incarcerated individuals to the labor market." Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg gave the keynote address. On what New York City has done to address the issue over the past five years, he said:

"Now, instead of simply opening the cell doors and letting people fend for themselves, we work with them beforehand to assess their needs and create a plan for where they will go and what they will do after they're discharged. If they don't have a plan, then they don't have a chance. And that's why, on the day of their release, we also provide them with transportation from Rikers Island directly to the housing or community-based provider that's detailed in their plan. The program's participants then continue to receive case management and support for up to 90 days after their release.

So far, the program has provided assistance to about 31,000 men and women, arming them with the tools and skills they need to begin leading honest, productive, and fulfilling lives. And our efforts are clearly paying off: A study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice discovered that the participants who completed the full program were 30 percent less likely than other participants to return to jail within the year after their release."

With the Second Chance Act pending in Congress, we need to share more information about what works to reduce the still shockinly high rates of incarceration and recidivism in the country. We hope our readers will share resources and thoughts.

Carla E. Dearing

Posted at 1:00 AM, Mar 17, 2008 in Peace and Justice | Permalink | Comment