NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Legions Of Ex-Cons To Descend On Communities

February 10, 2000

More people are being discharged from prison after completing their sentences than at any time in history -- a trend that will continue for at least another two years. Many of them lack even the most basic skills and have no plans for life on the outside.

But they will wind up in cities, suburbs and rural areas throughout the country. How will they affect law-abiding residents where they settle?

  • Some 520,200 inmates were released in 1998 -- 28 percent more than in 1990.
  • Over the next two years, more than 500,000 will be discharged each year.
  • Eighty percent will remain under the supervision of parole or probation officers -- leaving 100,000 exiting with no strings attached.
  • Experts warn that many people coming straight out of prison are totally incapable of managing themselves.

The wave of releases stems from longer prison sentences imposed during the 1990s and an increase in the number of inmates forced to serve their entire sentences.

The Justice Department projects that 62 percent of those leaving prison will be re-arrested on felony or major-misdemeanor charges within three years and 40 percent will find themselves back inside prison walls.

The Clinton administration wants $60 million provided in the 2001 budget to establish so-called "re-entry courts" which would link inmates with housing, jobs and mental health services before their release.

Source: Kevin Johnson, "Unready, Unrehabilitated and Up for Release," USA Today, February 10, 2000.


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