Did you know that the US has just 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners?
Why is the ‘land of the free’ the world’s #1 jailer?
At Fair Shake we have been asking ourselves these sorts of questions about the criminal justice system as we develop our resource center and non-traditional personal growth documents and tools focused on responsibility, tenacity, positive & realistic thinking, and the importance of maintaining lasting relationships.
Have you ever wondered, ‘What do we gain from our investment in corrections?’ We house, feed, and care for 2.3 million incarcerated people at an average cost of nearly $30,000 per person, per year. Over 95% of all prisoners will be released, yet more than 75% of them return to prison within 5 years. Anticipated costs such as prisons, police, lawyers, judges, and parole are substantial on their own, but so too are the hidden externalized costs such as the deterioration of our cities, increased social anxiety, and expensive ‘welfare’ that could be better used in job creation, improved services, and supporting communities. The recidivism rate does not reflect the failings of the individuals coming home, it reflects our society’s lack of interest in demanding – and creating – better outcomes.
How does this make us safer or our communities more cohesive? At an average investment of roughly $100,000 per sentence, one trip to prison should be enough!
Incarceration gives individuals the opportunity to understand the gravity of their crime, reconsider their role as a member of our society, and plan their return to the community. While we feel that the system is working for us by keeping incarcerated individuals out of reach today, we must remember that the prison door will open for them tomorrow. Without proper information and preparation, formerly incarcerated individuals may come home with the same perspective that put them in prison in the first place.
When formerly incarcerated individuals return to our communities they often lack ways to prove pro-social ambitions and employers, property managers, and neighbors may be skeptical of their intent. They may then feel marginalized and stigmatized. Desperation leads to poor decisions, producing greater risk for us all. By increasing awareness, sharing statistics, dispelling myths, and offering opportunities, Fair Shake works to demystify the stereotype of the formerly incarcerated individual to help us all find ways to return our neighbors to their rightful status as free and accountable citizens.
Though the main focus of Fair Shake will be to prepare people for success, Fair Shake supports individuals to brace for the worst: rejection, set backs, obstacles, and negativity. This is where they will find some of their greatest challenges. On many fronts prison life is vastly different from public life, which is one of the many reasons the transition process is very difficult. To learn more about the differences between prison life and life in society, check out Culture Shock!
Fair Shake has developed and assembled references for all stakeholders. The Resource Directory is primarily focused on reintegration and support for formerly incarcerated individuals, but also contains valuable information for family members, correctional officers, employers, property managers, and community members to learn about and assist in their transition.
We have localized links to:
Hot meals, food pantries, and other food assistance Shelters, housing opportunities, and rent vouchers Employment training programs, licensing limitations, job opportunities, job discrimination laws, bonding, tax credit information, and much more.
are available for all stakeholders, as well as inspirational and replicable community programs from art to literacy to food production. Legislation plays a key role in transforming criminal justice, along with justice for all of us, so we have provided information to participate in this process as well.
Tough on Crime
Our strictly punitive approach to crime is tough on criminals and taxpayers, while the problems of crime and challenges to reentry are largely unabated. The broader reality is a symptom of a larger issue as John McKnight asserts in his book The Careless Society, “the most significant function of the criminal justice system is to compensate for the limits and failures of society’s other major systems”. Formerly incarcerated individuals, policy makers, corrections, and community members must all make positive shifts to shatter our disgraceful title as ‘the World’s # 1 Jailer’. We believe that a ‘fair shake’ for prisoners, and care for our own safety, starts with the opportunity for redemption after incarceration. When formerly incarcerated individuals return to society with a chance at success, we can slow the revolving door and cease to repeatedly warehouse so many of the same people. Economically, we will free dollars that can be spent in other areas of society such as education, healthcare, and programs that can repair and rejuvenate our communities. Only then we will we truly become tough on crime.