The United States spends roughly 80 billion dollars per year on its various federal, state and local, prison systems.  The return on that investment has been a recidivism rate of approximately seventy percent.  Newt Gingrich’s comment aptly summarizes the problem with those numbers:

“If two-thirds of public school students dropped out, or two-thirds of all bridges built collapsed within three years, would citizens tolerate it? But that is exactly what is happening all across the U.S. in our prison systems.”

Ninety-five percent of inmates will be released at some point, and effective reentry policy translates into safer communities, lower prison costs, and increased employment opportunities.  With today’s launch of Safe Streets & Second Chances (S3C) researchers and practitioners from the public and private sectors have come together to help identify and implement proven approaches driven by academic research.  This initiative marries research and policy to advance data-driven solutions.

The research component is led by Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis at Florida State University’s College of Social Work.  Dr. Pettus-Davis will begin her research with a four state, eight-site, randomized, controlled trial involving more than 1,000 participants from urban and rural communities.  This research will inform policy that promotes and helps implement effective reentry practices, including a comprehensive needs assessment at the beginning of an inmate’s sentence.  This will allow individualized reentry programming to be tailored to the person’s needs and help them address the root causes of their crimes.  For example, prisoners suffering from mental illness or addiction can be connected to treatment solutions.

By diagnosing and treating the underlying causes that led a person to prison, we can help prisoners become productive, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens who can pursue their own path to redemption.  The dignity of work cannot be overstated for those who seek to earn their second chance.  The results benefit all of society and include increased employment opportunities, sobriety, unified families, community involvement, and spirituality.

S3C is a project of the Right on Crime initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation with support from Koch Industries.  S3C has attracted multidisciplinary leaders, including Mark V. Holden (Koch Industries, Inc.), Brooke Rollins (Texas Public Policy Foundation), Doug Deason (The Deason Foundation), Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. SHRM-SCP (Society for Human Resource Management), Paula White-Cain (New Destiny Christian Center), Jenny Kim (Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC) and John Koufos (Right on Crime).