Coming home after completing a prison sentence can feel as futile as leaping out of a lions’ den only to land in quicksand.
Each year, 8,000 men and women are released from Minnesota’s prisons to face the daunting challenges of reconnecting with their families and finding employment, housing, transportation, medical care, and education. Many are unable to succeed and allow themselves to be sucked down again into criminal lifestyles. More than one-third of released prisoners are convicted of felonies within three years. One-fourth end up back behind prison bars.
Given the difficulties of re-entry, this rate of failure is not shocking. But it is certainly unacceptable. Every time an offender commits a crime and returns to prison, another life is wasted, another victim is harmed, another family is broken apart. And, the productivity and safety of our communities are threatened. Because it costs Minnesota taxpayers more than $32,700 per year to keep someone behind bars, making sure offenders are able to stay out of prison is especially important right now. Our budget deficit has left us no money to pay for failure.
Thankfully, Minnesota is already showing its commitment to helping returning prisoners succeed. Wonderful organizations such as the Central Minnesota Reentry Project and Stream of Life Ministry’s Mentor Corp are working heroically to provide counseling and other practical help for ex-offenders. The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) has launched the Minnesota Comprehensive Offender Reentry Plan, which draws resources from a broad range of agencies to meet returning prisoners’ needs. And the DOC is eagerly welcoming the Out4Life movement, which will kick off in Minnesota with a conference today through Wednesday in Minneapolis.