Furloughs Reduce Recidivism

By · Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

All prisoners hope for furloughs, but not all prisoners qualify. I have never known a prisoner to deny a furlough. Though many prisoners recognize that they do not meet the criteria for furlough consideration and so do not apply. In federal prison, a prisoner must advance to within two years of his release date to qualify for a furlough. Besides that, his custody level must be within the appropriate range. Generally that means community custody, which is ordinarily reserved for those confined in prison camps.

Congress has authorized prison wardens to set their own criteria for determining which additional requirements a prisoner must meet for furlough consideration. Furloughs are a privilege, not a right, and many wardens refuse to grant them at all as a matter of policy. Those who do make use of the furlough program would certainly take into account the prisoner’s prior criminal history, his record of prison adjustment, and other factors besides the date of release.

All prisoners who are scheduled to return to society should benefit from furlough access. My position is that society has an inherent interest in helping prisoners build strong community ties. As Congress has found, those prisoners with strong community ties are the least likely to recidivate. Our punitive system, however, is stingy in making use of furlough programs. That is but one of many prison management decisions that contributes to high recidivism rates.

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