by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
When a person commits a crime he or she goes to prison. We all know that. If you commit a crime that takes another person's life, you stand a pretty good chance of getting the death penalty, although some states are now re-evaluating their stance on capital punishment in lieu of some dramatic and tragic events recently. For those who are on “death row”, there’s not much of a future to look forward to, and the years of appeals is a slow death sentence in itself. But for the criminal who stands a pretty good chance of one day getting out of prison, what is there for them to come home to? Across the United States, when a prisoner is released and they can’t find a legal way to support themselves or their families, they usually wind up back in prison. That’s because when they try to integrate back into society he or she has the label “ex-con” stamped on their forehead, and it’s like a plague with no known cure that will never go away. Once an employer finds out they have a criminal record, their employment chances go from zero to nothing pretty fast.
More than 40% of all inmates who are released eventually go back to prison and to the taxpayer, that’s an expensive revolving door. It cost taxpayers anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000 a year to house an inmate, and that’s why there’s talk of privatizing prisons. While you might think this would be a good idea, let me clue you in on some facts. Those who want to turn the prisons into a corporation have lobbyists who will prod state houses across the country to make stiffer laws. If a corporation buys a company, in this case a prison, then they must have product, prisoners, in which to make money. The "Death Race" movies was the privatization of prisons on steroids, and though just a movie, it's not hard to imagine the same thing happening in real life in the near future. The rich investors in such a "business" will lobby for stricter laws because stricter laws means more people breaking them, and then they go to prisons and that means more product hence, more money. For instance, as an example, a Texas man stole a candy bar (that's right, a candy bar) was convicted, and got a 16 year prison sentence and was sent to a privately run prison. This comes from a reliable news source and I for one believe the story to be true.
That is why there must be a way for ex-offenders to obtain meaningful employment so they don’t go back into a penal institution. When an inmate is released and they are successful in finding work, they pay taxes and contributes to society and they have no desire to go back and be institutionalized.. That’s why back in January 2012, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took steps to reduce some of the barriers that stood in the way of ex-inmates who were trying to make the transition back into society. They established guidelines that prohibit employers from denying people jobs based solely on their criminal records. Now while these guidelines do not eliminate background checks, they do urge employers to consider how long ago the crime was committed, the nature of the crime, and whether or not it has a bearing on the type of job the ex-inmate will be doing.
The American Civil Liberties Union has said that people with criminal records must have access to jobs to ensure that they can succeed in living a normal life because when they are able to do that, it will be a burden lifted off the taxpayer and a blessing for all of us and in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do. Don’t you think?
Photo courtesy of Associated Press