When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry

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Oxford University Press, 2003 - Law - 278 pages
2 Reviews
Every year, hundreds of thousands of jailed Americans leave prison and return to society. Largely uneducated, unskilled, often without family support, and with the stigma of a prison record hanging over them, many if not most will experience serious social and psychological problems after release. Fewer than one in three prisoners receive substance abuse or mental health treatment while incarcerated, and each year fewer and fewer participate in the dwindling number of vocational or educational pre-release programs, leaving many all but unemployable. Not surprisingly, the great majority is rearrested, most within six months of their release. What happens when all those sent down the river come back up--and out?

As long as there have been prisons, society has struggled with how best to help prisoners reintegrate once released. But the current situation is unprecedented. As a result of the quadrupling of the American prison population in the last quarter century, the number of returning offenders dwarfs anything in America's history. What happens when a large percentage of inner-city men, mostly Black and Hispanic, are regularly extracted, imprisoned, and then returned a few years later in worse shape and with dimmer prospects than when they committed the crime resulting in their imprisonment? What toll does this constant "churning" exact on a community? And what do these trends portend for public safety? A crisis looms, and the criminal justice and social welfare system is wholly unprepared to confront it.

Drawing on dozens of interviews with inmates, former prisoners, and prison officials, Joan Petersilia convincingly shows us how the current system is failing, and failing badly. Unwilling merely to sound the alarm, Petersilia explores the harsh realities of prisoner reentry and offers specific solutions to prepare inmates for release, reduce recidivism, and restore them to full citizenship, while never losing sight of the demands of public safety.

As the number of ex-convicts in America continues to grow, their systemic marginalization threatens the very society their imprisonment was meant to protect. America spent the last decade debating who should go to prison and for how long. Now it's time to decide what to do when prisoners come home.

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I can say that the abuse of the inmates by the prison guards is a big factor in low-esteem and many inmates not getting a fair chance. Many times the officers get away with the abuse in the prison and everyone seems to turn their backs on the complaints made. Hiring a lawyer does not bring about a change because their hands are tied. We spend money and the lawyers are getting paid knowing that they can't do anything. The inmates are moved from one prison to another with a negative record following them so when they go before the parole board they have already made up their minds that they are not releasing the inmate because of their records. Investigations are done after the fact and many prisoners do not want to complain because they have to live their with these officers. Upstate New York, many of the correction officers are family members and friends. Fathers and sons, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews working in the same facility. These are the jobs that are making the most money in those rural areas so they send our sons and daughters away from the city to be looked over by prejudice people who only have the job because this is where the money is. When will someone take the time to listen to the complaints of the inmates before it becomes another Alcatracz or some other person having to be killed because of the mistreatment. If the inmate is doing what he or she is suppose to do why then do they have to suffer abuse. Yes, they committed and crime and are doing their time. I don't care if they have been in the system 2 or 3 times; some of them have no where to turn and no one to look out for them. Where is the help that those in higher authority can give them and won't reach out to see that these inmates are being truthful. Whenever you see the same officers, lieutenant, superintendents name constantly coming up for the same inmate, you know there is a problem. The C.O.'s know that their fellow workers are wrong and sit back and watch or join because they don't won't to be singled out, messed with or lose their jobs for speaking out. Someone needs to listen and justice need to be brought to those officers that are violating the inmates rights as well as causing more problems. 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

There is nothing new about the prospects facing those released from jail/prison. It just keeps getting worse because all the blame falls on the helpless, those incarcerated. There is no consideration given to the fact that guards who are called deputies seem to get away with abuse, mistreatment, and denial of rights that are part of a sentence, etc. Why? Because inmates have lost their voice and feel no one cares. It seems a waste of time to even try. As a result, they are made much worse than when they came in, not because of fellow inmates, but also because of guards being paid to kick people already down.  


Introduction and Overview The Emerging Importance of Prisoner Reentry to Crime and Community
Whos Coming Home? A Profile of Returning Prisoners
The Origins and Evolution of Modern Parole
The Changing Nature of Parole Supervision and Services
How We Help Preparing Inmates for Release
How We Hinder Legal and Practical Barriers to Reintegration
Revolving Door justice Inmate Release and Recidivism
The Victims Role in Prisoner Reentry
What to Do? Reforming Parole and Reentry Practices
Conclusions When Punitive Policies Backfire

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About the author (2003)

Joan Petersilia is Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. The author of numerous books and a former president of the American Society of Criminology, she is a consultant to the United States Department of Justice and to many state and local agencies.

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