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Prisoner Reentry, Equity, Security, and Liberty Isaac Holloway PSC 714 October 26, 2012

According to Bushway and Sweeten (2007) 16 million United States citizens have been convicted of felony offenses and at least 14 million are out of prison with more and more returning home each day.600 persons per day. treatment should be intensive. rehabilitated member. (1998) Petersilla (2004) notes that there are several principles that reduce recidivism and promote successful reentry. Given the large volumes of or persons reentering society there has been much scholarship into what courses of action produce successful reentry. Petersilla (2004) defines reentry as anything that occurs to prepare a prisoner for reentry to society from sentencing through the end of state supervision. a phenomenon known as recidivism. Among these principles were that treatment services should be behavior based focus on creating new behaviors and thought patterns. However this popular ideal is undermined by the desires for security from ex-offenders. Citing Andrews et al. This overrepresentation of the security value in effect makes our society less secure at the expense of equity and liberty. targeted towards high risk offenders. Petersilla (2004) estimates the number of felons returning home at approximately 1. and should match the learning styles of the offenders in the program. reinforcements in treatment programs should be positive. The reintegration of an ex offender and the idea that their debt to society is paid implies a construction of liberty and equity that suggests that an ex offender be allowed access to the opportunities and other resources that allow them to reintegrate with society and not commit further offenses. Petersilla (2004) also cites . When this period of revocation is over the individual is often referred to as having paid their debt to society signifying a reentry into society as a productive.When a person is found guilty of a crime our social order holds that the individual found guilty based upon the crime has their some of their privileges and rights as a citizen revoked as penalty for their violation of the social order.

Petersilla (2004) notes. In our country parole has become a symbol of leniency by the justice system. Petersilla (2005) notes that abolishing parole makes for bad policy and less public safety. The relevant scholarship shows that there is a way forward to improve the rate of reintegration however given the current economic stress many of these services are increasingly unavailable. be more disconnected from family and friends. Despite the scholarship‟s guidelines on promoting reintegration our society has opted for a different response that in essence makes our society less safe though punitive measures many of which extend after an ex-offenders time is served. have a higher prevalence of untreated substance abuse and mental illness. 1999).” However. Petersilla (1999) provide an excellent example of this in her discussion of Parole and Prisoner reentry. This public perception has caused some states to abolish parole. “Through the exercise of its discretion. and be less educated and employable than their predecessors”. Crime victims and their families are finally seeing that justice is done. Abolishing parole makes release not an earned privilege.Seiter and Kadela‟s (2003) work which suggested that treatment programs that included vocational training and work release programs. Petersilla (1999) cites former Virginia governor George Allen as saying. parole boards can target more violent and dangerous offenders for longer periods of incarceration (Petersilla. Without parole boards providing this service there is . but automatic after a particular period of time regardless of whether the person has been rehabilitated. “easy-release rules prevented judges and juries from pre-empting the community‟s judgment about proper punishment for illegal conduct…criminals know they cannot beat the system. “Returning prisoners will have served longer prison sentences than in the past. halfway houses. and drug treatment programs were also more successful in the reintegration of ex-offenders. The logic being that by abolishing parole there is greater sentencing uniformity and longer sentences overall.

has serious implications for the ability of any ex-offender to reenter society effectively.. “holding that an applicant‟s criminal record bears a „manifest relationship‟ to the ability to repay a loan. This transition away from services has made the reintegration of ex-offenders more difficult and creates a revolving door of imprisonment Henderson (2005) provides another example in her discussion of criminal history factoring into decision of whether or not credit will be extended.. Today this supervision is more surveillance oriented in their function. In addition the various other roles parole boards such as making sentences reflect changes in prisoner behavior as well as alleviating overcrowding by releasing those who no longer a threat to the society at large. Given the overrepresentation of persons of color in the justice system many of those labeled ex-offenders . As noted by Henderson (2005) the lack of access to financial services as a result of one‟s criminal history is a stigmatizing force.essentially no method in which to determine whether or not an individual is still a danger. Their activities center mostly on drug testing. In addition it is not only the ex-offender that may suffer as a result of lending discrimination. “under federal law…a lender may consider a small business loan applicant‟s history of criminal arrests or convictions in a determination of that applicant‟s credit worthiness. Henderson (2005) continues. This post-prison supervision has also followed the trend away from rehabilitator y practices towards more punitive measures.” The logic being that one‟s status as an ex-offender has a relationship to how reliable one will be in terms of loan repayment. Upon release from prison most states have some sort of post-prison supervision. electronic monitoring and verifying curfews. That is to say it sets the person affected apart from the rest of society continuing the punishment that for a debt that was thought to be paid. According to Henderson (2005). and for the ability of receiving communities to effectuate crime prevention and community development initiatives”.

Some evidence exists that as the prevalence of lifetime bans has increased (Travis.are members of minority groups who are returning to communities of color already suffering from lack of access to financial services that preclude them from accessing higher education. grants. commercial feed distributors. 2007)”. 2002) so have recidivism rates. With such lending barriers in addition to the other penalties endured by ex-offender like difficulty finding employment and exclusion from state and federal programs many ex-offenders will find their way back to crime out of a need for survival or frustration (Henderson. particularly among drug offenders who have been specifically targeted by legislative bans (Bushway & Sweeten. mortgages. Lending discrimination on the basis of one‟s criminal history only serves to exacerbate these issues and limit the ability of ex-offenders to fold themselves back into society as productive members. They do find that some post prisons restrictions are necessary as the recently released are statistically at more risk of re offending the imposition of lifetime bans “…might create a hopeless environment that can trap an ex-offender and provide little incentive to adopt a pro-social attitude. These bans also include voting rights. For drug offenses ex-offenders are banned from loans. 2005). Bushway & Sweeten (2007) note that there is a . and work study assistance for a year up to an indefinite amount of time. Lifetime bans bar ex-offenders from 800 different occupations irrespective of the nature of the offense. and emergency medical technicians… as well as speech–language pathologists… (Bushway & Sweeten. 2007)”. While these bans may prevent sex offenders from working in day cares blanket bans prevent from barbershop owners. public assistance and housing. Bushway and Sweeten (2007) discuss the variety of lifetime bans that constrain the lives of ex-offender compounding the difficulty of societal reintegration. and business loans thereby limiting their social mobility in addition to the access that comes with it.

Le Grande refers to this as the value trade off. Bushway and Sweeten (2007) record that newly released ex-offenders are at high risk for recidivism and as a result there must be provisions to protect to public. Implicit in the discussion of the fate of ex-offenders as they reintegrate with society are the underlying values of security. However these efforts to safeguard the public are done at the expense of the values of equity and liberty. In the context of prisoner reentry as noted by Bushway and Sweeten (2007) the tension this issue creates is reflective of the conflict between these values. equity as the goal of the different faction in conflict of the distribution of goods.balance between protecting public safety and preserving the rights of ex-offenders and propose that sunset clauses be placed on the bans so that ex-offenders have incentive to not engage in criminal behavior while allowing for the restoration of access to the resources they need for reintegration and promoting public safety. This creates a situation where ex-offenders do not by virtue of their . equity and liberty. and liberty as the degree by which a person is able to what they want. The valuing of security restrains the liberty of ex-offender primarily through lifetime bans after their prison term has been served. Le Grande refers to this as the production trade off. They determine based upon the context of the event or the decision to be made which value is primary. Presently in our society that collective calculation in reference to prisoner reentry has produced a collection of values that heavily favors security. Stone (1997) defines security as dimensions of particular needs to not only to survive but to thrive. These processes do not take place separate from each other they are simultaneous considerations. They also determine based upon the objectives to be achieved in a decision how these values are to be arranged in relationship to one another. Le Grande (1990) in his discussion of trade-offs between equity and efficiency suggests that when our society contemplates such values they consider them in two ways. This is not unreasonable.

a person cannot make free choices. injury. it cannot be a true choice if the consequence of failure is starvation. “…a real possibility exists that employers and others who believe criminal history records are relevant will statistically discriminate on the basis of factors correlated with criminal history records (i. or the good itself in terms of the boundaries and value of the good. Ex-offenders make up a group second class in our society with all the responsibilities of a citizen but with few if any benefits (Alexander. The equity issue involved is the recipient dimension.e.ex offender status do have access to choice. Stone (1997) notes that. The valuing of security has also compromised equity. . which is the essence of liberty. 2010). the processes in distributing a good. Where a choice involves taking some risk. Stone (1997) discusses that there are different dimensions of equity that fall under the recipients of a given distribution of a good.. Henderson (2005) also notes the overrepresentation of communities of color in terms of the communities and individuals affected by the restrictions to financial services experienced by ex-offenders. Alexander (2010) also relays that for drug offense in particular there was some effort to present drug use as a problem unique to predominantly Black communities and as a result the war on drugs is waged in communities of colors as opposed to white ones irrespective of the research that says drug related activities occur in no greater frequency. “without the security of having one‟s basic needs met. Alexander (2010) in her study of mass incarceration notes that communities of color specifically Blacks and Latinos are over represented in term arrests and convictions particularly for drug offenses. how the security value has manifested in policy makes ex-offenders unable to make free choices. or death”. With the weight of prisoner reentry practice behind surveillance and punitive measures including the elimination of access to public services and financial resources. Bushway and Sweeten (2007) also reference a concern about perceptions that connects race to criminality saying.

This is not to suggest that security is not an important value but not the only value.race)…Such a policy would be especially harmful to the members of the group who did not have criminal records”. . Equity and liberty in society‟s collective calculation is undervalued producing a stigma and ever mounting list of restrictions and bans that prevent the reintegration of ex-offenders as members of the respective communities where they reside. However our values as a society have not allowed for this and as the scholarship has shown have made our population less safe. Communities can be secure as well as provide for liberty and the equitable treatment of ex-offenders that live in them. It is the purpose of prisoner reentry to foster and environment where and ex-offender can remain and ex-offender can become a productive member of his community. Perceptions of criminality and policing policy have created an overrepresentation of persons of color in the justice system and as result and overrepresentation of persons of color who suffer from the current valuation of the security. As Henderson (2007) noted communities of color often lag behind their white counterparts and the post prison punishments further restrict the development and growth of these communities widening gaps.

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