Prison Administrators Resist Change

By · Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Through the Second Chance Act, Congress found that those who spent lengthy terms in prison lost touch with society. When prisoners released, they lacked sufficient support to establish themselves. Such weakness led many prisoners to recidivate, lifting the costs for society. In passing the Second Chance Act, Congress hoped to help lower recidivism rates. Prison administrators, however, continue to obstruct prisoners who strive to connect with society. They have yet to embrace the spirit of the legislation that was signed into law eleven months ago.

If a prisoner has a scheduled release date, society has an inherent interest in helping that individual find stability. The prisoner has a responsibility of course. He should work to educate himself, build a network of support, and prepare in every way possible. In light of the Act, administrators ought to encourage him by offering a clear pathway that would show the prisoner what steps he must take to earn maximum halfway house placement. Instead, administrators offer no such guidance. They do not offer a mechanism through which a prisoner can earn maximum placement. Ironically, those who educate themselves and build strong networks of support receive less halfway house, as administrators reason taht such prisoners will require less time to acclimate. Despite my having served more than 21 years, I would not qualify for maximum placement because I have educated myself and built a strong network of support.

I do not know a single prisoner whom administrators have granted 12-months halfway house. But that is only one element of the Act that administrators ignore. The Act also urged administrators to implement programs that would allow prisoners to nurture family ties during imprisonment. Instead, they limit telephone and visiting and correspondence access. Such actions suggest that administrators want to keep prisons humming with high recidivism rates.

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