I returned to my office at Bud's Warehouse to a waiting phone message. One of our former program graduates was trying to get a hold of me. My heart sank because I had heard rumors that he was facing troubles in his life and I feared the worse.
The rumors were wrong. He shared some very good news. After close to 20 years in prison and 3 years on intense supervised parole, he shared that the parole board had released him from active monitoring. He no longer had to wear an ankel bracelet or check in daily with his parole officer.
Success! This results from combining employment, job-training, transitional housing and faith. Someone who statistics says should be the most likely to return to prison is on the path to a productive second half of life with built in support systems to rely on when life gets difficult. Ex-offenders are bound to face challenges, but with the support of the church, mentors and other faith programs they are equipped to make better choices and overcome common pitfalls.
A recent article, “Can Our Shameful Prisons be Reformed?” in the New York Review of Books argues that helping to prevent recidivism makes financial sense. In 2008, 700,000 prisoners were released. It’s estimated that 469,000 of them will return to prison in less than 3 years. At a minimum, the average annual cost of imprisoning someone is $20,000. Recidivism results in $9.38 billion in lost savings.
In an era of declining state and federal budgets, it pays off financially to develop programs to reduce recidivism. And in such an environment, it’s inexcusable to overlook the added value of faith-based employment job-training programs. It’s an opportunity for Christ-following entrepreneurs to impact their community with their business as mission talents.