One aspect of sentencing and punishment we far too often forget is on the back-end of sentencing: what to do with released prisoners. Although lately there has been more focus on the prisoner re-entry problem, there is still far to go. Which is why I was happy to see that the federal government is holding hearings this week to look at at inmate and prisoner re-entry problems. As noted by the website The Crime Report:
The U.S. House subcommittee overseeing appropriations for the Justice Department and anticrime programs will hold an unusual set of hearings on three days [this] week focusing on prisoners and inmate re-entry issues. One reason for the sessions is to assess appropriations levels for the new Second Chance Act, a federal law providing aid to prisoner re-entry programs. Testifying Tuesday before the panel, which is headed by Democrat Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, is federal Bureau of Prisons director Harley Lappin. The committee also will hear from two representatives of the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals. Criminologist Faye Taxman of George Mason University in Virginia will talk later about drug treatment for convicts.
On Wednesday, the committee will hear from criminologists Pamela Lattimore of RTI International and Christy Visher of the University of Delaware and Urban Institute, who oversee an evaluation of a national prisoner re-entry project. Other witnesses on prisoner re-entry will be Deputy Director Dennis Schrantz of the Michigan Department of Corrections, George McDonald of the Doe Fund, Inc., Pat Nolan of the Prison Fellowship, Jennie Amison of the Gemeinschaft Home, and Judge Stephen Manley of the Santa Clara County, Ca., Superior Court. On Thursday, witnesses will be Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former Director of the National Institute of Justice, and Prof. James Byrne of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
It's an impressive, all star cast who will be testifying at the hearings, and I am glad to see it. Next step would be for the states to take up a similar initiative--although in this dire fiscal climate, my sense is that all criminal justice programs that are not critical (i.e., that can be cut) will suffer. I hope to be proven wrong, however....