We need to stop the cycle of recidivism. The cost of incarceration is both emotional and fiscal; both personal and community-wide. Ending the poverty-to-prison cycle of recidivism will strengthen communities, improve the lives of released prisoners, and redirect tax dollars wasted on endless incarceration back into the community. Endless incarceration is fiscally unsustainable and offers little in the way of actual rehabilitation.
A person doesn’t have to be a murderer to end up in prison. Of the over 50,000 Missouri residents currently incarcerated, roughly half have been charged with a non-violent offense. These include people with substance abuse issues, mental health issues, and probation/parole violations. Upon release, the challenges of incarceration do not end. People released from prison face the same circumstances that led them to prison: little to no education, unemployment, poverty, and a lack of self-worth. These problems are only exacerbated by time in prison and a felony criminal record. While the Missouri State Prison system does have rehabilitation programs in place to help those incarcerated, educational programs aside, they only have affected a 4% drop in the rate of recidivism. This is a concern for us all, because the person who is incarcerated doesn’t pay the bill, you do.
The average cost to warehouse a person in the Missouri Department of Corrections is approximately $21,000 a year. Compare this to the cost of community supervision/probation/parole; which is roughly $2,000 a year. Clearly, the numbers indicate a substantial savings and the positive benefits go beyond a smarter budget. In 2021, Missouri will spend over 800 million dollars on Corrections, with 80% being allocated to funding state prisons. Reducing the number of people who return to prison will clearly result in substantial savings to the taxpayer. These savings will also have a tremendous impact on the community at large as well. Money currently spent on incarceration could be used to improve schools, lower taxes, fix roads and other critical infrastructure, and fund community-based treatment programs. A person in a community pays taxes and contributes to the growth of said community. A person in prison does not. Helping justice involved people find employment is a critical part of reducing instances of recidivism, ultimately benefiting everyone.
The mission of Reentry Saint Louis is Education, Empowerment, and Employment. Reentry Saint Louis will provide resources for safer and stronger communities through direct services to justice-involved people and training and collaboration with reentry partner organizations, the business community, and other agencies. The Education component of our mission is a priority in the effort to reduce recidivism. Our on-site program will provide a computer lab to assist with completion of HiSET, post-secondary education training, certifications, licensing or college coursework. Qualified professionals will deliver programming in the areas of academics, finance, technology use, interpersonal, and job skills. The Empowerment component will include mandatory attendance in support groups; referrals for individual therapy/treatment; career and personality assessments; a personal learning lab where clients independently investigate career opportunities; mandatory completion of self-paced personalized modules for self-advocacy, self-worth, and societal success; and guest speakers from the community. These initiatives will increase the likelihood of a person overcoming their past mistakes and decrease the likelihood of returning to incarceration. The Employment component of our mission includes résumé building and cover letter writing, job skill development, networking, job placement, interview skills, and a job board listing companies that are interested in hiring people regardless of their criminal record. Employment is critical to providing an escape from the negative feedback loop of recidivism.
Reentry St. Louis is happy to assist anyone in need of reentry assistance.