Prison Reforms Yield High Success Rates, Low Recidivism Rates

By · Sunday, January 25th, 2009

In the January 2009 issue of Inc. Magazine, I read Mike Hofman’s article that described the Prison Entrepreneurship Program sponsored by the Texas Department of Corrections. A former financial executive leads the program that teaches skills to prisoners that they’ll need to function in business. During the five years of the program’s operation, 440 prisoners have completed it. Of those 440, 335 of the graduates left prison to lead successful, law-abiding lives. That is an astonishing, 75 percent success rate.

The federal prison system could use prison reforms that encourage prisoners to participate in training that would help them emerge as law-abiding citizens. At Taft Federal Prison Camp, where I have been confined for the past 19 months, our Warden has an opposite philosophy of corrections. Instead of encouraging prisoners to prepare for law-abiding lives upon release, he shuts down programs.

For example, at Taft Camp, the Warden prohibits inmates from using the antiquated typewriters available in the library for anything besides correspondence with the courts. That order means that inmates may not type letters to prospective mentors or employers. They cannot even use the machines to practice typing skills or to type academic assignments.

We need prison reforms in the Federal Bureau of Prisons that will banish the dark-age policies of the Bush administration. Instead of ridiculous policies like banishing typewriter use, limiting inmate access to communicate with family, and blocking prisoners from building relationships with mentors, we need prison reforms that will usher us into the era of President Obama. We need openness and transparency. The dark ages ended at Noon on January 20, 2009. Let the light of prison reform shine in. When it does, we will see more success stories coming out of this system of so-called corrections.

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