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Prisoner Reentry, Equity, Security, and Liberty Isaac Holloway PSC 714 October 26, 2012

When a person is found guilty of a crime our social order holds that the individual found guilty based upon the crime has their some of their privileges and rights as a citizen revoked as penalty for their violation of the social order. When this period of revocation is over the individual is often referred to as having paid their debt to society signifying a reentry into society as a productive, rehabilitated member. The reintegration of an ex offender and the idea that their debt to society is paid implies a construction of liberty and equity that suggests that an ex offender be allowed access to the opportunities and other resources that allow them to reintegrate with society and not commit further offenses; a phenomenon known as recidivism. However this popular ideal is undermined by the desires for security from ex-offenders. This overrepresentation of the security value in effect makes our society less secure at the expense of equity and liberty. According to Bushway and Sweeten (2007) 16 million United States citizens have been convicted of felony offenses and at least 14 million are out of prison with more and more returning home each day. Petersilla (2004) estimates the number of felons returning home at approximately 1,600 persons per day. Given the large volumes of or persons reentering society there has been much scholarship into what courses of action produce successful reentry. Petersilla (2004) defines reentry as anything that occurs to prepare a prisoner for reentry to society from sentencing through the end of state supervision. Citing Andrews et al. (1998) Petersilla (2004) notes that there are several principles that reduce recidivism and promote successful reentry. Among these principles were that treatment services should be behavior based focus on creating new behaviors and thought patterns, reinforcements in treatment programs should be positive, treatment should be intensive, targeted towards high risk offenders, and should match the learning styles of the offenders in the program. Petersilla (2004) also cites

Seiter and Kadelas (2003) work which suggested that treatment programs that included vocational training and work release programs, halfway houses, and drug treatment programs were also more successful in the reintegration of ex-offenders. The relevant scholarship shows that there is a way forward to improve the rate of reintegration however given the current economic stress many of these services are increasingly unavailable. Petersilla (2004) notes, Returning prisoners will have served longer prison sentences than in the past, be more disconnected from family and friends, have a higher prevalence of untreated substance abuse and mental illness, and be less educated and employable than their predecessors. Despite the scholarships guidelines on promoting reintegration our society has opted for a different response that in essence makes our society less safe though punitive measures many of which extend after an ex-offenders time is served. Petersilla (1999) provide an excellent example of this in her discussion of Parole and Prisoner reentry. In our country parole has become a symbol of leniency by the justice system. This public perception has caused some states to abolish parole. The logic being that by abolishing parole there is greater sentencing uniformity and longer sentences overall. Petersilla (1999) cites former Virginia governor George Allen as saying, easy-release rules prevented judges and juries from pre-empting the communitys judgment about proper punishment for illegal conductcriminals know they cannot beat the system. Crime victims and their families are finally seeing that justice is done. However, Petersilla (2005) notes that abolishing parole makes for bad policy and less public safety. Abolishing parole makes release not an earned privilege, but automatic after a particular period of time regardless of whether the person has been rehabilitated. Through the exercise of its discretion, parole boards can target more violent and dangerous offenders for longer periods of incarceration (Petersilla, 1999). Without parole boards providing this service there is

essentially no method in which to determine whether or not an individual is still a danger. In addition the various other roles parole boards such as making sentences reflect changes in prisoner behavior as well as alleviating overcrowding by releasing those who no longer a threat to the society at large. Upon release from prison most states have some sort of post-prison supervision. This post-prison supervision has also followed the trend away from rehabilitator y practices towards more punitive measures. Today this supervision is more surveillance oriented in their function. Their activities center mostly on drug testing, electronic monitoring and verifying curfews. This transition away from services has made the reintegration of ex-offenders more difficult and creates a revolving door of imprisonment Henderson (2005) provides another example in her discussion of criminal history factoring into decision of whether or not credit will be extended. According to Henderson (2005), under federal lawa lender may consider a small business loan applicants history of criminal arrests or convictions in a determination of that applicants credit worthiness. The logic being that ones status as an ex-offender has a relationship to how reliable one will be in terms of loan repayment. Henderson (2005) continues, holding that an applicants criminal record bears a manifest relationship to the ability to repay a loan...has serious implications for the ability of any ex-offender to reenter society effectively, and for the ability of receiving communities to effectuate crime prevention and community development initiatives. As noted by Henderson (2005) the lack of access to financial services as a result of ones criminal history is a stigmatizing force. That is to say it sets the person affected apart from the rest of society continuing the punishment that for a debt that was thought to be paid. In addition it is not only the ex-offender that may suffer as a result of lending discrimination. Given the overrepresentation of persons of color in the justice system many of those labeled ex-offenders

are members of minority groups who are returning to communities of color already suffering from lack of access to financial services that preclude them from accessing higher education, mortgages, and business loans thereby limiting their social mobility in addition to the access that comes with it. Lending discrimination on the basis of ones criminal history only serves to exacerbate these issues and limit the ability of ex-offenders to fold themselves back into society as productive members. With such lending barriers in addition to the other penalties endured by ex-offender like difficulty finding employment and exclusion from state and federal programs many ex-offenders will find their way back to crime out of a need for survival or frustration (Henderson, 2005). Bushway and Sweeten (2007) discuss the variety of lifetime bans that constrain the lives of ex-offender compounding the difficulty of societal reintegration. They do find that some post prisons restrictions are necessary as the recently released are statistically at more risk of re offending the imposition of lifetime bans might create a hopeless environment that can trap an ex-offender and provide little incentive to adopt a pro-social attitude. Some evidence exists that as the prevalence of lifetime bans has increased (Travis, 2002) so have recidivism rates, particularly among drug offenders who have been specifically targeted by legislative bans (Bushway & Sweeten, 2007). Lifetime bans bar ex-offenders from 800 different occupations irrespective of the nature of the offense. While these bans may prevent sex offenders from working in day cares blanket bans prevent from barbershop owners, commercial feed distributors, and emergency medical technicians as well as speechlanguage pathologists (Bushway & Sweeten, 2007). For drug offenses ex-offenders are banned from loans, grants, and work study assistance for a year up to an indefinite amount of time. These bans also include voting rights, public assistance and housing. Bushway & Sweeten (2007) note that there is a

balance between protecting public safety and preserving the rights of ex-offenders and propose that sunset clauses be placed on the bans so that ex-offenders have incentive to not engage in criminal behavior while allowing for the restoration of access to the resources they need for reintegration and promoting public safety. Implicit in the discussion of the fate of ex-offenders as they reintegrate with society are the underlying values of security, equity and liberty. Stone (1997) defines security as dimensions of particular needs to not only to survive but to thrive; equity as the goal of the different faction in conflict of the distribution of goods, and liberty as the degree by which a person is able to what they want. In the context of prisoner reentry as noted by Bushway and Sweeten (2007) the tension this issue creates is reflective of the conflict between these values. Le Grande (1990) in his discussion of trade-offs between equity and efficiency suggests that when our society contemplates such values they consider them in two ways. They determine based upon the context of the event or the decision to be made which value is primary, Le Grande refers to this as the value trade off. They also determine based upon the objectives to be achieved in a decision how these values are to be arranged in relationship to one another, Le Grande refers to this as the production trade off. These processes do not take place separate from each other they are simultaneous considerations. Presently in our society that collective calculation in reference to prisoner reentry has produced a collection of values that heavily favors security. This is not unreasonable. Bushway and Sweeten (2007) record that newly released ex-offenders are at high risk for recidivism and as a result there must be provisions to protect to public. However these efforts to safeguard the public are done at the expense of the values of equity and liberty. The valuing of security restrains the liberty of ex-offender primarily through lifetime bans after their prison term has been served. This creates a situation where ex-offenders do not by virtue of their

ex offender status do have access to choice, which is the essence of liberty. Stone (1997) notes that, without the security of having ones basic needs met, a person cannot make free choices. Where a choice involves taking some risk, it cannot be a true choice if the consequence of failure is starvation, injury, or death. With the weight of prisoner reentry practice behind surveillance and punitive measures including the elimination of access to public services and financial resources, how the security value has manifested in policy makes ex-offenders unable to make free choices. Ex-offenders make up a group second class in our society with all the responsibilities of a citizen but with few if any benefits (Alexander, 2010). The valuing of security has also compromised equity. Stone (1997) discusses that there are different dimensions of equity that fall under the recipients of a given distribution of a good, the processes in distributing a good, or the good itself in terms of the boundaries and value of the good. The equity issue involved is the recipient dimension. Alexander (2010) in her study of mass incarceration notes that communities of color specifically Blacks and Latinos are over represented in term arrests and convictions particularly for drug offenses. Henderson (2005) also notes the overrepresentation of communities of color in terms of the communities and individuals affected by the restrictions to financial services experienced by ex-offenders. Alexander (2010) also relays that for drug offense in particular there was some effort to present drug use as a problem unique to predominantly Black communities and as a result the war on drugs is waged in communities of colors as opposed to white ones irrespective of the research that says drug related activities occur in no greater frequency. Bushway and Sweeten (2007) also reference a concern about perceptions that connects race to criminality saying, a real possibility exists that employers and others who believe criminal history records are relevant will statistically discriminate on the basis of factors correlated with criminal history records (i.e.,

race)Such a policy would be especially harmful to the members of the group who did not have criminal records. Perceptions of criminality and policing policy have created an overrepresentation of persons of color in the justice system and as result and overrepresentation of persons of color who suffer from the current valuation of the security. As Henderson (2007) noted communities of color often lag behind their white counterparts and the post prison punishments further restrict the development and growth of these communities widening gaps. It is the purpose of prisoner reentry to foster and environment where and ex-offender can remain and ex-offender can become a productive member of his community. However our values as a society have not allowed for this and as the scholarship has shown have made our population less safe. Equity and liberty in societys collective calculation is undervalued producing a stigma and ever mounting list of restrictions and bans that prevent the reintegration of ex-offenders as members of the respective communities where they reside. This is not to suggest that security is not an important value but not the only value. Communities can be secure as well as provide for liberty and the equitable treatment of ex-offenders that live in them.

Works Cited Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York, New York: The New Press. Bushway, S. D., & Sweeten, G. (2007). Abolishing Lifetime Bans fo Ex-Felons. Criminology & Public Policy, 6(4), pp. 697-706. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2007.00466.x Grande, J. L. (1990). Equity Versus Efficiency: The Elusive Tradeoff. Ethics, 100(3), 554-568. doi: . Henderson, T.-N. Y. (2005). New Frontiers in Fair Lending: Confronting Lending Discrimination against Ex-Offenders. New York University Law Review, 80, pp. 12371271. doi: Petersilla, J. (1999). Parole and Prisoner Reentry in the United States. Crime and Justice, 26, pp. 479-529. doi: Petersilla, J. (2004). What Works in Prisoner Reentry? Reviewing and Questioning the Evidence. Federal Probatation, 68(2), pp. 4-8. doi: Stone, D. (1997). Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.